Intellectual Property

We Don't Need No P2P

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Tired of suing deceased West Virginia grandmas and 12-year-old girls one at a time, Hollywood copyright hawks are looking into wholesale options, including rewriting higher education legislation:

A U.S. House of Representatives committee plans to vote Wednesday afternoon on a Hollywood-backed higher education bill that would deprive colleges and universities of their financial aid funding if they don't agree to provide deterrents and "alternatives" to peer-to-peer piracy.

A provision buried in the 747-page College Opportunity and Affordability Act (PDF) requires schools to devise a plan for providing "alternatives" to unlawful downloading–as well as "a plan to explore technology-based deterrents to prevent such illegal activity." Those requirements would be added to an existing list of conditions for receiving federal student financial aid.

Universities full of little copyright criminals are nervous:

University officials have voiced alarm at the prospect of losing a combined total of some $100 billion in federal financial aid if their plans don't pass muster. The Association of American Universities has voiced its disapproval to committee leaders through a letter last week, and Educause, a non-profit organization that focuses on technology use in education, has issued an action alert urging the requirements to be dropped.

More on the perils of stolen music here and here.

NEXT: The Ghost of Garet Garrett

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  1. I’m not against copyright per se, but I don’t feel guilty downloading an MP3 that is merely a copy of a song that I already bought on vinyl, on 8-track, and on CD. How many times should the record company get paid for the same fargin’ song?

  2. Looks like that writers strike has made for at least one set too many of idle hands.

  3. I don’t get it. How would universities stop p2p piracy? are they just talking about on-campus piracy?

  4. I’m awaiting the lawsuits that’s gonna come when the recipe publishing industry discovers that my grandma’s been making copies of her recipe box for years.

  5. I think this is a devious plan by the government to extend its reach over “the children”. They pretty much have kids dead-to-rights all through public school, but start to lose day-to-day control once they hit college. They’re working to correct that. So…be involved in drugs, lose your financial aid, download mp3s, lose your financial aid, have sex out of wedlock…well, I’m sure they’re working on that.

    On the other hand, if you take the government’s money, you’re the government’s beeyach. Deal with it.

  6. Hollywood-backed higher education bill

    Am I alone in thinking that phrase is funny as hell?

    Am I alone in thinking peer to peer file sharing just ain’t gonna go away?

    Lastly, am I alone in thinking that this would grant a passel of otherwise unemployable bureaucrats lifetime sinecure?

  7. I don’t get it. How would universities stop p2p piracy? are they just talking about on-campus piracy?

    Many campuses are the ISP for the vast majority of students, basically for every student on-campus or in university housing.

    They’d have to get very, very involved in monitoring what students were doing. The kind of involved that makes people very, very angry, is invasive as hell, and takes lots of money and effort.

    In other words, Hollywood wants to outsource enforcement to the universities.

  8. I’m against federal funds going to collages period.

  9. What happened to the Conservative chick and the one who survived roe v. wade?

    My Reason experience is being degraded.

  10. How many times should the record company get paid for the same fargin’ song?

    The question is: why don’t you continue to listen to the track on scratchy vinyl? Because digital sounds better? And it’s convenient and transportable? Aren’t you willing to pay a few cents for a far better listening experience? Seems fair to me.

  11. I’m against federal funds going to collages period.

    Me too. Only individual pictures should get federal funds.

  12. I’m down with P2P–yeah you know me!

  13. I’m against federal funds going to collages period.

    What about montages?

  14. I’m down with OPP cuz they never harassed me once on the many Buffalo-Toronto trips I took in college.

  15. 747-page PDF? Lame. Read the 110th Congress’s H.R.4137 here. Or here. Or here.

    SEC. 487. INSTITUTIONAL AND FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE INFORMATION FOR STUDENTS.
    (a) Disclosure of Policies and Sanctions Related to Copyright Infringement- Section 485(a)(1) (20 U.S.C. 1092(a)(1)) is amended–
    (3) by adding at the end the following new subparagraph:
    `(P) institutional policies and sanctions related to copyright infringement, including–
    `(i) an annual disclosure that explicitly informs students that unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject the students to civil and criminal liabilities;
    `(ii) a summary of the penalties for violation of Federal copyright laws;
    `(iii) a description of the institution’s policies with respect to unauthorized peer-to-peer 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; and
    `(iv) a description of actions that the institution takes to prevent and detect unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material on the institution’s information technology system.’.

    `SEC. 494. CAMPUS-BASED DIGITAL THEFT PREVENTION.
    `(a) In General- Each eligible institution participating in any program under this title shall to the extent practicable–
    `(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.

    There you go. 110th Congress, H.R.4137, an amendment to the 1965 Higher Education Act (and for other purposes), “College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007”, SEC.494.(a)(2). Is this too long of a comment?

  16. This…is going to fail miserably.

  17. If this bill passes, it won’t be long before a student is kicked off campus for whistling or humming a favorite tune.

  18. All it does is require universities to develop a plan. If that means requiring them to end file-sharing, then that means the Congress has also “required” Bush to end the war, a couple of times now.

  19. All it does is require universities to develop a plan.

    Sorry, I should’ve gone on to quote SEC.494.(b)

    `(b) Grants-
    `(1) PROGRAM AUTHORITY- The Secretary may make grants to institutions of higher education, […], and other organizations, to develop, implement, operate, improve, and disseminate programs of prevention, education, and cost-effective technological solutions, to reduce and eliminate the illegal downloading and distribution of intellectual property. […]
    `(2) AWARDS- Grants and contracts shall be awarded under paragraph (1) on a competitive basis.
    `(4) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS- There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this subsection such sums as may be necessary for fiscal year 2009 and for each of the 4 succeeding fiscal years.’.

    I’ve no idea what (2) means, but I bet it doesn’t involve a market.

  20. if you read all the articles on this, you will find that while the RIAA/MPAA is “offering” the opportunity to use the blocking software, what they are really pushing is the “alternative”, namely, forcing all universities to sign up for one of the massive napster/rhapsody plans that gives students access to these services for a huge price – essentially telling the universities that if they don’t pay the RIAA, lobbyists will see to it that the federal funding dries up. the federal government shouldn’t be pumping money into schools anyway, but the RIAA/MPAA shouldn’t get away with extortion either. i should lobby to make sure that if universities don’t exclusively use my brand of notebook paper, all of their funding will disappear. that’s fair, right?

  21. What happened to the Conservative chick and the one who survived roe v. wade?

    Guy, I fucked them to smithereens. Sorry.

  22. “”””They’d have to get very, very involved in monitoring what students were doing. The kind of involved that makes people very, very angry, is invasive as hell, and takes lots of money and effort.””””

    People don’t get that angry with “monitoring” these days. It’s becoming more accepted. The feds have taps that suck up the Internet, so an ex-AT&T employee says. Few people seem upset about it and seem not to care that Congress is looking to give the telcos immunity for doing it.

    Big Brother is growing, few care.

  23. This is essentially requiring that universities sell candy bars because some students have been caught shoplifting. The fact that (for example at Wayne State) most students don’t live on campus, and do their P2P filesharing through Comcast or some such is irrelevant.
    The RIAA/MPAA doesn’t go after commercial ISP’s because Comcast and AT&T have deep pockets and a large and powerful lobbying operation of their own. While universities do have lobbyists and some clout, it’s nothing compared to Rep. Berman and Hollywood. And besides, by going after university students they can ‘encourager les autres’.
    I attempted to get my university to do some lobbying against this, and if you follow the links you can find information about who to call and what to say. And they do listen–they count the number of calls for and against.
    This will cost universities, both public and private, plenty, and will screw up their networks, just to allow Hollywood to enforce civil infractions. Grrrr

  24. They’d have to get very, very involved in monitoring what students were doing.

    My knowlege of the inner workings of the inter-tubes is limited, but since the University is the gateway to the wider internet, couldn’t they block the port(s) the P2P software uses at their gateway?

  25. They could block those ports, but there are legitimate uses for peer to peer software (including just doing research on the software itself, which is what Computer Scientists do). And I am quite frightened by the idea of universities being required by federal law to use or not use particular protocols, just to enforce private contracts. Shades of Kelo etc.

  26. a plan for providing “alternatives” to unlawful downloading

    Doesn’t any decent internet access provide such an alternative but letting you log onto iTunes and pay for songs?

  27. > On the other hand, if you take the government’s money, you’re the government’s beeyach. Deal with it.

    Too bad it doesn’t work the other way around…

  28. Let the legal battles begin!

    U.of Oregon Says No to RIAA

  29. The question is: why don’t you continue to listen to the track on scratchy vinyl? Because digital sounds better? And it’s convenient and transportable? Aren’t you willing to pay a few cents for a far better listening experience? Seems fair to me.

    Please go back and re-read what I said. I paid more than a few cents for a better listening experience. To be precise:

    I paid about 8 bucks for the vinyl album.

    About 12 bucks to replace the vinyl with the 8-track.

    Another 10 bucks to replace the obsolete 8 track with a casette.

    And about 16 bucks for the CD.

    And, if I don’t own the song, then I am happy to pay for it.

    But I won’t download it from any service now available because it comes with strings attached. It is way to big of a pain to deal with that when moving from computer to computer to MP3 player to CD to my car.

    So, what I do is find the CD I want used for three bucks at Amazon and buy it.

    Now, somebody please tell me why it is perfectly okay for me to buy a used CD from someone who is not paying royalties on the sale, but it is illegal for me to copy your CD to my HD.

  30. Don’t start giving them ideas now, TWC.

    Maybe you should copyright that now, before they start suing resellers of their worthless coasters holding their precious, precious copyrighted material.

  31. TWC – I believe that copyright law prevents you from making copies, not from transfering legally acquired copies. Hence, copying a CD to your HD is illegal, selling CDs to your friends is not.

  32. Dave B.,

    Wrong! You’ve been brainwashed by the RIAA!. There is a pesky, nagging little bit of copyright law called “fair use”. While the RIAA, MPAA, et al. would destroy it if they could, it still exists.

  33. Thanks Dave. I suspected as much, but the end result seems the same to me. Particularly since you know perfectly well that the seller copied the songs to his/her HD before the CD was mailed to you.

    Ska, as I said, I am not entirely against copyright law like some libertarians. However there is something very three-day-old-fish about this whole arrangement.

    If I didn’t spend so much time at H&R I could probably learn how to use that software that alters downloaded songs so they become ordinary MP3 files without the copyright protection in MP4 files (is that the right term?)

  34. Oh, and btw, where are all these great P2P software programs? I don’t seem to be able to find any.

  35. Torrents are one. IRC is an older less user friendly one. Newsgroups are more like the predecessor of P2P.

    Not software as much as systems – the software would be the clients that allow you to use these protocols (if that’s the right word). I’m no computer master or anything, so my concepts are probably off. However, you can definitely download any type of media file using these.

  36. TWC,

    Try this. Do a google search for an artist album song and include the word “blogspot”.
    You will probably find a blog linking to
    a “free” filehosting service with digital rips of all kinds of music. Takes a little effort to figure it out at first but it is easy.Some of the links will be dead but most from the past few months work fine. You can find a lot of stuff that way that you might not find with P2P programs or torrents.

  37. I don’t get it. How would universities stop p2p piracy? are they just talking about on-campus piracy?

    The legislation doesn’t specify, I’m sure. But that doesn’t matter. Never underestimate the government to force a policy by sheer force of will.

    But having said that, there are plenty of ways that you can reduce that type of activity if you have control of a network. You can’t stop it altogether, but you can make a dent in it, and if you own the network, you can shut down even suspected piracy.

  38. Thanks for the info, ska and SIV, I thought all that stuff went south with the demise of WinMx. Guess not.

  39. The MP3 blogs are nice because there are a lot of obscure vinyl stuff and CDs ripped by the “owner”.

    No legal risk that I am aware of as you are just downloading a file and not “sharing”(uploading) anything.

    Try “Totally Fuzzy” or skafunkrastapunk for some links and if you find something you like the blogroll often links to similar stuff.

  40. Thanks Dave. I suspected as much, but the end result seems the same to me. Particularly since you know perfectly well that the seller copied the songs to his/her HD before the CD was mailed to you.

    I guess the question is, once you rip a CD to your hard drive(which is legal), is it a violation of copyright to resell it?

  41. David,

    I would suspect that under the law you would have to destroy all your copies as part of the sale.

  42. “Doesn’t any decent internet access provide such an alternative but letting you log onto iTunes and pay for songs?”

    You can access emusic.com from anywhere. DRM free songs for, like 20 cents. It’s the best thing ever and plus it’s, like, capitalism!

    FYI I have no affiliation with ’em except for being a happy customer.

  43. FWIW I just learned that the provision was actually passed (along with millions of other things–the whole bill is 800 pages). An additional provision requires universities to hire companies to dispose of used computers securely if they have student data on them. Another subsidy…

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