The U.S. House of Representatives' latest higher education bill includes nasty requirements for "Campus-Based Digital Theft Prevention," mandating that schools plan to provide legal downloading alternatives and that campuses consider policing copyrights on their networks. Campuses that fail to comply stand to lose massive amounts of federal financial aid funds that go to straight to students. The bill, H.R. 4137, will be marked up by the House Committee on Education and Labor early Wednesday, November 13.
The first requirement -- that schools offer legal downloading alternatives -- could wind up requiring students to pay for services whether they use them or not. The second requirement -- that schools must explore technology-based deterrents to infringement -- basically translates into network filtering or network surveillance, which opens the door for infringement on students' fair use and privacy rights. Finally, the potential penalties are extremely disproportionate. Campuses that "fail to prevent illegal file sharing" are subject to lose all federal financial aid funding -- money that helps countless students get through school.
Several organizations, including EFF, are running grassroots campaigns to stop this mandate from being included in the final bill.
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