Entertainment Industry Pushes For Law Requiring Colleges To Filter Networks
In a letter sent to several high-ranking Senate and House members last week, film and record label executives claimed that filters can both reduce piracy and save colleges on bandwidth charges.
The entertainment industry is backing the College Education and Affordability Act (H.R. 4137), passed by the House last month. The 747-page measures contain a provision, Section 494, that would require colleges receiving federal financial aid to develop a plan to provide legal music and movie services and explore technological measures aimed at deterring copyright infringement.
The current Senate version of the bill only requires colleges to inform students about policies on piracy and the legal consequences.
Last week's letter, signed by Dan Glickman, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, and Mitch Bainwol, chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, asserted that one university saved $1.2 million a year in bandwidth after installing a technology filter on a campus network, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education's Wired Campus, which obtained a copy of it.
That missive came shortly after the American Council on Education sent a letter to legislators urging them to reject the provision in the House bill that mandates schools to explore filtering networks or offering some sort of subscription or subsidized music/movie services.
"In short," states the educators' letter, "Section 494 of the House bill would impose new costs and regulatory burdens on both the Department of Education and campuses while doing very little to address the problem. Twelve other higher education groups including the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and Educause signed the letter, which went to Senators Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and Representatives George Miller, D-Calif., and Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Education and Labor Committee on Education and Labor.
The MPAA-RIAA letter, addressed to the same Congress representatives, reportedly argued that college students "are disproportionately responsible for digital theft of copyrighted materials," and urged that the issue be "proactively addressed by the university community without further delay."
When originally lobbying for the measure, the MPAA relied heavily on a 2005 study concluding that college students account for 44% of movie industry losses due to piracy. But in January, the MPAA said the research was flawed and that college students caused only 15% of piracy-related losses.
Educause and some other groups lobbying against the law say even the 15% figure doesn't justify mandating that schools explore filtering. They say that around 80% of students live off-campus and don't use the college's network to connect to their home computers. Therefore, they argue, campuses account for, at most, 3% of movie industry losses stemming from piracy.
Net neutrality groups also argue that filtering won't stop copyright infringement because people can encrypt material so that filters don't catch it. At the same time, filters can interfere with the exchange of lawful material, such as when they mistakenly tag clips as pirated when the uploaders are using them in a review or other lawful context.