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Government

Congress wants to cut college funding over illegal downloads

Siding with the the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America, politicians are putting pressure on universities to do more to prevent students from illegally downloading music and other copyrighted files on campus networks, reports CNET News.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor on

Siding with the the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America, politicians are putting pressure on universities to do more to prevent students from illegally downloading music and other copyrighted files on campus networks, reports CNET News.

Focusing on how to stem the tide of file swapping among students, members of the House of Representatives' Science and Technology Committee are encouraging universities to use educational campaigns and technological filters to reduce illicit downloading.

"Illegal file sharing isn't just about royalty fees," committee chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) said at the hearing, which lasted a little more than an hour. "It clogs campus networks and interferes with the educational and research mission of universities."

The advent of of cheap broadband has made it easy and very tempting to swap files illegally.

"This rampant disregard for copyright law needs to end. So long as the right thing remains more daunting, awkward and unsatisfying than the wrong thing, too many people will do the wrong thing." said Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas), the committee's ranking member.

The issue for universities is not so much legality but enforcement. It's difficult for network providers to determine what is an illegal download and what is not. Witholding some of the billons of dollars in federal research money is one way to punish universities who don't police thier networks adequately.

"We're spending a good deal of federal resources in terms of helping universities with their technological improvements, directly and indirectly," said Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.). "Is it responsible for a Congress that wants to protect intellectual property rights to continue to fund network enhancements for universities if some of those enhancements are indirectly being used in fact to promote intellectual property theft?" (That seemed to be a reference to the Internet2 project, funded in part by taxpayers.)

Filtering and blocking file-sharing traffic also has it's pitfalls, says Greg Jackson, CIO for the University of Chicago, who said when his university tried it, it took down all of the university's Internet traffic with it, stumping the technical staff for "a while."

"So long as the right thing remains more daunting, awkward and unsatisfying than the wrong thing, too many people will do the wrong thing," Jackson said, the cumbersome nature of DRM solutions.

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