Monday, October 29, 2007

"Anti-filesharing bill would cut federal financial aid"

from - by Jordan Wentz

Anti-filesharing bill would cut federal financial aid

Bill states colleges must keep track of illegal downloads

Students may lose out on new opportunities for financial assistance if the colleges they attend do not make enough of an effort to stop illegal filesharing.

If the U.S. House of Representatives' proposed College Access and Opportunity bill, released Oct. 4, passes, colleges and students will see increased financial aid and lower costs - but not if the schools do not comply with a stipulation in the bill that requires many to prove they are stepping up efforts to curb illegal downloading.

According to the bill, universities must provide students with information about the legal ramifications of distributing or downloading copyrighted material over the institutions' information technology systems without permission.

If schools fail to adequately inform students, they will forfeit eligibility for benefits provided by the bill, which Committee on Education and Labor spokeswoman Alexa Marrero said aims to expand college access and put the focus back on students' needs.

"The bill [is designed to cut] college costs, [increase] financial aid and accreditation, update programs to better meet the needs of changing student populations and strengthen financial aid opportunities," Marrero said.

Colleges where more than 100 students have received copyright infringement notices from the Recording Industry Association of America - letters that inform students they have been caught illegally downloading a file and will be prosecuted unless they delete the file in question and agree not to do so again - would be required to prove to the secretary of education that their students have been notified of the consequences of illegal filesharing and that they are trying to prevent the behavior.

Boston University ranks 15th on the RIAA's list of U.S. colleges that have received the most letters for students illegally downloading music and third on the list for movies, The Daily Free Press reported in August.

RIAA spokeswoman Liz Kennedy declined to comment on the bill, saying it is not RIAA business, although the meter by which the schools would be judged - the number of copyright infringement notices their students have received - is an RIAA creation.

Last month, the U.S. Senate passed the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which provides similar benefits to schools but does not include any stipulations based on filesharing, said U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) spokeswoman Kaelan Richards.

The bill's opponents say it puts undue pressure and responsibility on colleges to fill the role of filesharing watchdog.

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