HR 2669 is a bill designed to make college more affordable by doing things like adjusting rates on student loans and providing incentives for lowering tuition. So why do we suddenly see the ugly head of the RIAA poking its way into educational and budget issues?
EDUCAUSE points us to this amendment, to be proposed by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV). (EDUCAUSE's take on the measure is posted below.) It conditions federal money for colleges on colleges putting DRM on their networks and compiling reports on these measures for the Secretary of Education. It also calls for the Secretary to report on which colleges get the most accusations of infringement from copyright holders.
This is yet another egregious attempt by the content industries to draft anyone and everyone into service as copyright enforcers. The resources of colleges' IT departments already have their hands full providing students and faculty with the necessary high-speed connections for education and research; they were never intended nor designed to be an infringement intelligence agency. And clearly, it doesn't matter that such attempts at filtering are often fatally flawed.
And the “shaming” provision makes a mockery of disclosure. The report called for my the amendment is supposed to name the 25 colleges and universities that received the most written notices of alleged copyright infringement by users on the schools' networks. Never mind that infringement notices have a long history of being sent willy-nilly by people who turn out not to have valid copyrights, often to people who haven't actually infringed anything. Compiling lists of the colleges that receive the most notices doesn't tell anyone anything at all–it's just another transparent tactic to make some noise about infringement.
Meanwhile, tacking this amendment on to an important educational spending bill shows the content industry's willingness to ram its policies down the public's throats, regardless of time, place, or subject matter of the legislation at hand.
URGENT, ACT TODAY: AMENDMENT HARMFUL TO HIGHER EDUCATION
I am writing to ask your help in a matter of urgency to higher education in general and the IT community in particular: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) intends to offer a very harmful amendment, involving illegal file sharing, to the Higher Education Reauthorization Act when the Senate turns to this issue on July 22-23. The amendment can be found at http://tinyurl.com/2x45d2. The amendment:
- Makes the Secretary of Education an agent of the entertainment industry;
- Requires the Secretary to take action using data given to her by the entertainment industry that is terribly inaccurate;
- Requires targeted colleges and universities to plan for implementing a “technical solution” to illegal file sharing that does not yet exist for many campus environments;
- Is aimed only at colleges and universities, and NOT other Internet service providers;
- Ignores the fact that the higher education and entertainment communities are working together to develop a mutually acceptable technological solution to illegal file sharing, a process that should be allowed to continue without interference from the Federal government;
- Ignores the fact that the bill already contains a provision that requires all colleges and universities to submit an annual report to the Secretary of Education providing details of the education and enforcement strategies being used on campus to reducing illegal file-sharing; and
- Is yet another attempt by the Federal government to dictate the day-to-day operations of colleges and universities.
It is important that your institution (CEO, government relations official, and yourself) CALL today, not write, your state's U.S. senators' staff members for higher education issues and tell them how much higher education opposes this amendment. Please also call Senator Reid's office (202-224-3542), Senator Edward Kennedy's office (202-224-4543), and Senator Michael Enzi's office (202-224-3424). Thank you for your help.
EDUCAUSE will provide you with further information when it is available, but please do not wait to make your calls.