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Congress keeps tabs on campuses

Senate passes bill to keep college piracy at bay

To keep abreast of what universities are doing to combat campus piracy, Congress wants to see report cards from school administrators.

The Senate passed a major education bill that includes a provision requiring 25 colleges experiencing the most online bootlegging to inform lawmakers of precise measures being taken to detect and prevent student pirates and to educate all students about the wrongs and potential consequences of piracy.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) attached the provision to the Higher Education Reauthorization Act, which the Senate approved on Tuesday.

The provision calls for the 25 universities that have received the most notices of digital copyright infringement to do the following:

  • Provide evidence of having informed students of school policies on illegal downloading and sharing of protected material

  • Peview plans and procedures for preventing piracy and determine whether they need to be improved or changed

  • Show they have developed a plan to implement a technology-based deterrent to prevent illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution of protected material on the campus computer network.

The universities will report to the Dept. of Education.

Motion Picture Assn. of America topper Dan Glickman praised Reid, noting that “some college students are abusing powerful taxpayer-funded computer networks to download and distrib-ute movies and other copyrighted material, which is why we are committed to working with universities to develop and implement plans to address this problem.”

The MPAA estimates that the industry loses about $500 million annually to campus piracy.

“We commend the majority leader for focusing on such an important issue,” said Mitch Bainwol, chief exec of the Recording Industry Assn. of America, in a statement. “The theft of music on campus and elsewhere not only hinders record companies’ investment in new bands of tomorrow but poses serious problems for schools whose students use P2P networks to engage in copyright theft.”

The Copyright Alliance also voiced support for Reid’s effort. “We at the Copyright Alliance believe enactment of this amendment would in a few short years lead to significantly reduced campus piracy and a decreasingly active role for the federal government,” said CA exec director Patrick Ross. “That is a win-win-win for copyright owners, institutions of higher learning and the taxpayers who fund them and U.S. policymakers.”

The Copyright Alliance is a consortium of more than 30 separate entertainment, media and software companies as well as labor guilds and trade unions. Reed Elsevier, which owns Variety, is a member.

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