Dems to Colleges: Police Copyright or Lose Funding

Two Democratic chairs of key House committees introduced a bill yesterday that would require colleges to police copyright and pay off the entertainment industry.

Buried on pages 411 and 412 of the 747-page bill, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007 (pdf), is the following:

Each eligible institution participating in any program under this title shall to the extent practicable—
(1) make publicly available to their students and employees, the policies and procedures related to the illegal downloading and distribution of copyrighted materials required to be disclosed under section 485(a)(1)(P); and
(2) develop a plan for offering alternatives to illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution of intellectual property as well as a plan to explore technology-based deterrents to prevent such illegal activity.

In other words, if a university does not offer some sort of “alternative” (read: paid subscription) to students and move toward actively filtering copyrighted content, all students would lose federal student aid.

This bill is sponsored by George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, and Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX), chairman of the Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness. These are the representatives who are, in principle, supposed to stand up on behalf of universities.

The entertainment industry will never be satisfied until colleges actively:

1. Actively pay the entertainment industry via some form of subscription service, e.g. the new Napster, and
2. Block or monitor all other peer-to-peer traffic.

I’ve been trying to tone down my blogging rhetoric, but I’ll make an exception here: This disgusts me. The bill doesn’t even have a number yet, and Miller’s already promising a markup next week. What representative even has time to read this tome by then?

Nobody in Congress bats an eye that Verizon enables enormous amounts of infringment on their networks, but every college and university in the country is now under the gun to amend a juggernaut act despite the express-lane push from the chairmen-authors.

Miller and Hinojosa are happy to throw academic values like the free circulation of ideas, not to mention the scarce resources of educational institutions, in the toilet. Even worse, they’re railroading it through. Shame on them.