"You don't wanna mess...with the R-I-Double-A"

So says the great Weird Al Yankovic in his song, "Don't Download this Song" (ironically available for download at http://www.myspace.

So says the great Weird Al Yankovic in his song, "Don't Download this Song" (ironically available for download at http://www.myspace.com/weirdal).  A funny song to be sure (it really is and you really should download it and the RIAA will not sue you), but it certainly speaks to a growing rift between the music industry and the countless people who do share music.

A student actually asked me today in all seriousness as we were discussing licensing costs for Office 2007, "Why don't you just download the software off Limewire?  That's what everybody else does."  After a lengthy discussion of institutional liability and the potential advantages of open source software, I came across a mention on slashdot (the actual article is featured on the RIAA website) of new measure the RIAA is taking to stem this cavalier attitude towards file sharing.  More disturbing than the RIAA's efforts, however (for which you can't actually blame the folks since they are just protecting their profits, even if the efforts are arcane, outmoded, heavy-handed, and irrelevant to generation-iPod), is the fact that Congress is backing their efforts by freeing federal funds for the purpose.

"The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has lauded the introduction of legislation by Congressman Ric Keller (R-Fla.) that would allow schools to tap into existing federal education funds for the adoption of technological solutions to the epidemic of illegal downloading on college campuses."

The funds being freed are normally used to subsidize grants and loans, but now could be used to for technical infrastructure improvements to identify and squelch file sharing.  Elimination of P2P applications on campuses is not necessarily a bad thing from a security, liability, or bandwidth perspective.  Unfortunately, the new legislation does not provide any additional funding; rather it allows the existing limited pool to be redistributed, potentially away from financial aid and towards the special interests of the RIAA.  Your tax dollars hard at work?  Again to quote Weird Al,

Don't take away money from artists just like me
How else can I afford another solid gold Hum-Vee
And diamond-studded swimming pools
These things don't grow on trees
So all I ask is, "Everybody, please..."
Don't donwload this song (Don't do it, no, no)...

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