Don’t let Big Content control access to education

Holy cow how did this get this far?! A headline at ArsTechnica tonight proclaims Bill tying financial aid to antipiracy efforts passes House committee

“The House Education and Labor Committee unanimously passed the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007. Among other things, the COAA would require colleges and universities to adopt strict antipiracy policies and possibly offer students access to subscription-based music services like Napster.”

This could effectively place the RIAA and others in bed with them in control of college access to those who need it most. It is no secret that the majority of RIAA accusations and demands have been made to individuals who are more likely to settle or cave in to the demands rather than fight in out in court due to financial stature.

An earlier post at ArsTechnica states:

“A massive education bill (747-page PDF) introduced into Congress contains a provision that would force colleges and universities to offer “technology-based deterrents” to file-sharing under the pain of losing all federal financial aid. Section 494 of the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007 is entitled “Campus-Based Digital Theft Prevention” that could have just as easily been called “Motion Picture and Recording Industry Subsidies,” as it could force schools into signing up for subscription-based services like Napster and Rhapsody.”

This bill represents several problems:

  1. Even with special grants, preventing file sharing on a college network will involve large expenses for the purchase of technology and additional staffing. Students frequently use their own personal devices on wired and wifi college networks. Scanning traffic for digital signatures should not be the responsibility of the college.
  2. Education is the number one priority of an educational institution. Safeguards for health and safety on campus are services that ensure access to education. Preventing file sharing does not fall under services that ensure access to education. Implementing technology to prevent file sharing on college owned equipment is already in place in most, if not all colleges. Policing student devices crosses that line. Holding a college to student’s personal devices and/or personal activities is similar to revoking financial aid to a college if a student is caught shoplifting.
  3. College costs are rising and federal financial aid assists financially deserving students in their pursuit of higher education that might be unattainable otherwise.
  4. Forcing an educational institution to purchase access to a subscription based commercial media service to avoid penalties is unacceptable.
  5. To take education away from any person because of the possibility of sharing material that is protected under copyright is unacceptable.

This is a threat to revoke funding if an institution of higher education does not take enough precautions to prevent the possibility of illegal file sharing. Who will be the organization policing the policies and precautions in place at the colleges? The RIAA? Contact your congress person today and take action. This poses a dangerous precedent.

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