Thursday, August 2, 2007

Senate leader backs off anti-piracy initiative tied to education bill

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, has quietly backed off a controversial proposal that would have required the Secretary of Education to monitor college’s anti-piracy efforts.

Reid’s proposal, which was folded into the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, included a provision mandating the 25 schools with the most piracy violations begin filtering P2P filesharing networks on their campus. Critics, including the Digital Freedom Campaign and some educators, charged such filtering would inevitably catch perfectly legal filesharing as well as unauthorized downloads.

Jennifer Stoltz, a spokesperson for the Digital Freedom Campaign, said in a public statement:

"This amendment is the just latest in a series of legislative efforts by wealthy record labels to require our tax dollars to be spent on policing college students…no one supports illegal downloading or file sharing, but the Digital Freedom Campaign and its members believe that Universities have more urgent things to do with their scarce budgets than collect information on their students for the government and for the [Recording Industry Association of America]. Academic resources would be better spent educating students rather than spying on them at the behest of large corporations."

Late last week, Reid substituted the bill’s stronger language for a softer approach that would require the top 25 piracy schools report how they are combating piracy, not trying to block it through filtering.

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