05.09The RIAA’s state-by-state war on education
On Thursday, Tennessee became perhaps the first state in the nation to adopt legislation aimed at forcing universities to police their own networks for pirated media. The Tennessee legislation mandates, according to this News.com article:
“any higher education institution in the state, whether public or private, to develop and enforce a policy that prohibits its students, staff, and faculty from committing copyright infringement. It also requires schools to make “reasonable” attempts to prevent copyright infringement on their networks if they receive 50 or more infringement notices during a preceding year, but it does not explicitly define what those steps are.”
The legislation as passed is probably vague enough to be both comforting and terrifying. But it could have been a lot worse. The original draft (PDF) was written directly by a RIAA lobbyist, and would have forced schools to spend precious dollars on “effective technology-based deterrents, to prevent the infringement of copyrighted works over the school’s computer and network resources, including over local area and internal networks.”
A similar measure is being considered in Illinois, and by that I mean that it is similar to the “technology-based deterrents” version of the Tennessee bill, not the “tell people not to pirate music and movies and try pretty hard to keep them from doing it” version. What’s interesting about the proposed Illinois legislation is that it would be triggered by a school receiving 10 infringement notices in a given year, unlike the 50 required in the great state of Tennessee.
What’s astonishing about both of these bills, and other efforts by the RIAA to wage a state-by-state campaign of educational bullying, is not just the audacity of asking public and private educational institutions to spend valuable resources ensuring that the RIAA and the MPAA are continuing to make money. It’s the fact that mere notices of infringement are sufficient proof that schools have infringers on the property.
And not coincidentally, the last month, as you probably know, has seen a rush of stories chronicling a disturbing increase in the number of copyright notices the RIAA is sending to colleges and universities. Indiana University noted to Wired that it’s receiving on the order of 80 DMCA notices per day, up from 100 per month from the RIAA, MPAA, and HBO combined. The University of Chicago, George Washington University, and the University of Cincinnati all note similar increases.
It’s obviously not hard to see what the RIAA is up to. Flood schools with notices of infringement, whether they’re even remotely true or not, then have your lobbyists write and hand-deliver legislation that requires technologically impossible and ridiculously expensive filtering on school networks based solely on those same notices of infringement. What’s utterly unbelievable, though, is that any state legislature would go along with this sham, in any form.
Colleges and universities are an easy target because students have a reputation for being low-income freeloaders and pirates. But as we know from the MPAA’s 200 percent math error, the accusations aren’t necessarily true, and state legislatures would do well to do their research and leave the education to the people who can count.