Democrats Demand Colleges Stop File Sharing
House Democrats want to blackmail universities into spying for the music industry or paying them protection money.
New federal legislation says universities must agree to provide not just deterrents but also “alternatives” to peer-to-peer piracy, such as paying monthly subscription fees to the music industry for their students, on penalty of losing all financial aid for their students.
The U.S. House of Representatives bill (PDF), which was introduced late Friday by top Democratic politicians, could give the movie and music industries a new revenue stream by pressuring schools into signing up for monthly subscription services such as Ruckus and Napster. Ruckus is advertising-supported, and Napster charges a monthly fee per student.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) applauded the proposal, which is embedded in a 747-page spending and financial aid bill. “We very much support the language in the bill, which requires universities to provide evidence that they have a plan for implementing a technology to address illegal file sharing,” said Angela Martinez, a spokeswoman for the MPAA.
According to the bill, if universities did not agree to test “technology-based deterrents to prevent such illegal activity,” all of their students–even ones who don’t own a computer–would lose federal financial aid.
I can understand the music industry’s frustrations over file sharing, since their business model has long revolved around packaging songs people want with nine others that they don’t. Ditto the movie studios, who want to control the release dates of DVDs so as to make it more likely people will pay $9 each to watch flicks in crowded theaters while consuming ridiculously overpriced snacks. I can even understand why Congress, which is empowered to protect intellectual property rights, would pass legislation making it illegal to “share” copyrighted music. But why on earth is it the responsibility of universities to monitor how students are using the Internet?
Further, the idea that Democrats are willing to strong-arm universities into paying protection money to the mega-corporations who own the record companies and movie studies — and strip financial aid from poor students if they don’t — simply boggles the mind.