Senator Drops Campus P2P Filter Mandate

Quietly replaces with more education and discussion instead.

Last Tuesday I discussed how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had inserted an amendment into the latest reauthorization of the Higher Education Act that would require the Secretary of Education to annually monitor and review campus anti-piracy efforts of the country’s top 25 notice of copyright violation recipients, or the “Top 25” piracy schools.

Among other things, the amendment’s most controversial plan included a mandate that these “Top 25” piracy schools “Provide evidence to the Secretary that the institution has developed a plan for implementing a technology-based deterrent to prevent the illegal downloading or P2P distribution of intellectual property.” In other words, that they begin filtering P2P and file-sharing networks on campus.

MPAA head Dan Glickman was quick to jump on the Reid bandwagon, commending him for his “leadership on this critical issue.”

He furthered:

“Some college students are abusing powerful taxpayer funded computer networks to download and distribute movies and other copyrighted material which is why we are committed to working with universities to develop and implement plans to address this problem. We commend Senator Reid for his leadership in getting this important legislation passed through the Senate which will help encourage universities to do more.”

The news quickly angered educators, students, and campus IT professionals alike, with one group, Educause, a group that represents universities and related organizations, even sending out an “URGENT CALL TO ACTION” labeling Reid’s amendment as “…yet another attempt by the federal government to dictate the day-to-day operations of colleges and universities.” It urged recipients to phone Congress immediately “and tell them how much higher education opposes this amendment.”

Well, no doubt in response to the firestorm that ensued, Sen Reid quietly replaced the amendment late last week with a much more modest requirement that the “Top 25” piracy schools simply engage in more education and discussion of the problem on campus.

Its requirements now read:

  • An annual disclosure that explicitly informs students that unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized P2P file-sharing, may subject the students to civil and criminal liabilities.
  • A summary of the the penalties for violation of Federal copyright laws.
  • A description of the institution’s policies with respect to unauthorized P2P file-sharing, including disciplinary actions that are taken against students who engage in unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials using the institution’s information technology system.
  • A description of actions the institution takes to prevent and detect unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material on the institution’s information technology system.

So instead of requiring the implementation of a “technology-based deterrent to prevent the illegal downloading or P2P distribution of intellectual property,” i.e. a “P2P filter,” it now simply requires that the “Top 25” simply requires to say what it does to “prevent and detect ” instead.

.I think the best approach for campuses to in regards to copyright infringement is to take the examples set forth by both Harvard University and the University of Kansas that basically told the RIAA and others to take a hike.

In each case the campuses simply asked that the RIAA simply followed the letter of the law, no more no less, and that it wouldn’t be a party to submitting unsubstantiated and nonbinding “settlement” letters that did little more than scare poor students into paying up and moving on.

Now with the watering down of Sen Reid’s amendment, it looks as though Congress has decided not to be the RIAA or MPAA’s lackey either. At least for now anyways.