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Monday
Nov122007

Bill Would Force Colleges to be Copyright Cops or Lose Federal Aid

By Dennis D. McDonald

According to Eric Bangeman at Arts Technica, a New bill would punish colleges and students who don’t become copyright cops.

Here’s Bangeman’s lead paragraph:

A massive education bill (747-page PDF) introduced into Congress contains a provision that would force colleges and universities to offer “technology-based deterrents” to file-sharing under the pain of losing all federal financial aid. Section 494 of the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007 is entitled “Campus-Based Digital Theft Prevention” that could have just as easily been called “Motion Picture and Recording Industry Subsidies,” as it could force schools into signing up for subscription-based services like Napster and Rhapsody.

This is not only nuts, it’s insane. I say that not because I support piracy but because I want universities to spend their money on promoting education in a safe environment. Being forced by the Federal government to spend tuition and taxpayer money subsidizing the business models of politically strong industries is NOT something I want universities doing.

Why do I feel so strongly about this? Here’s why. Back in August I published School Communications & Emergency Response: What are the Implications for Social Media? In the wake of the massacre at Virginia Tech (my daughter is a student there) I have been studying what colleges and universities are doing about beefing up campus security, and this article reported on that research.

My particular interest is in making sure that schools take advantage of the communication opportunities made available by increasingly popular social media ands social networking systems. But the use of social media has to be part of an overall campus plan that integrates planning and coordination with a wide variety of communication channels.

Colleges and universities are actively involved in developing and implementing such plans and technologies, and that’s good.  Technology is an important component of this and schools are starting to putting serious dollars into making sure students and faculty are made aware of emergency situations when they arise.

Now along comes a bill like this “College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007” with its “Campus-Based Digital Theft Prevention” section.

Here’s the message this bill sends to colleges and universities:

  • Stop spending money on security related technologies.
  • Start spending money on figuring out ways to trap students using your networks for unauthorized file sharing. 
  • If you have to transfer money from educational programs or campus security initiatives to pay for your new enforcement responsibilities, that’s ok with the corporate sponsors of this bill.
  • If you don’t do as we say, we’ll take away your Federal funding.

Don’t lecture me about copyright, intellectual property, or artist rights.  This proposal has nothing to do with those things. This is all about propping up obsolete business models and providing corporate welfare — at the expense of educating our children and keeping them safe.

 

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