Provision would counter digital piracy at colleges

Provisions in the newly renewed Higher Education Act would mandate colleges, including AU, to purchase computer tools that would detect student music and video piracy.

Officials from Educause, an information technology association for higher education institutions, and the American Council on Education are pushing for the removal of these provisions. AU is a member of Educause, according to the association's Web site. The two organizations claim the provisions would be ineffective and costly in university settings, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

AU would need to increase its staffing and technology expenses if these provisions were implemented, according to Cathy Hubbs, chief information security officer in the Office of Information Technology.

"AU would need to expend resources to research appropriate technologies; purchase, manage and continuously update the technology to keep pace with the changing landscape of music and video piracy," Hubbs said in an e-mail.

Additionally, AU would need to raise the money needed to implement these provisions, according to David Swartz, chief information officer for Information Technology.

"I do not know yet what the full costs to the university will be of compliance with the proposed law, but I have heard that it is expensive and funding for this activity is not currently budgeted," Swartz said in an e-mail.

The implementation of these provisions, if successful, would only amount to cutting about 3 percent of entertainment industry losses that arise from illegal downloading, Educause Vice President Mark Luker said in a statement on the organization's Web site.

In order to deter students from illegal downloading, provisions in the act would also require colleges to provide subscription-based music services to its students, according to The Chronicle.

AU's Housing and Dining Programs department offers the Napster service as a legal way for AU students to download music files. AU instated the program, hoping to curb the illegal sharing of copyrighted files and to teach students the legal way to acquire music, according to the Office of Campus Life's Web site.

It is still not clear whether the current Napster service contract fulfills the final legislation's requirement to provide subscription-based music, Hubbs said.

Tom Heijne, a sophomore in the School of Communication, said the university has no right to use tools that detect music and video piracy on its students.

"I think that's an invasion of privacy," Heijne said. "I don't think they have any business what I do on the Internet."

Under AU's current policy, students found guilty of infringing copyrighted materials on the university's network can face disciplinary measures listed in the university's Computer Use Policy, Faculty Manual, Student Code of Conduct and Staff Manual of Personnel Policies, according to information on AU's Web site.

Students found guilty of breaking copyright rules can currently face consequences that include the loss of computer access, dismissal from the university, remedial education, monetary reimbursement and prosecution under federal law, according to AU's Web site.

AU has dealt with more than 600 instances of illegal file sharing since 2003. The Recording Industry Association of America has sued at least two AU students for music piracy since they began the crackdown earlier in the decade, The Eagle previously reported.

A stricter enforcement of such rules may alter the role of faculty and administration on campus, Hubbs said.

"From a community standpoint, acting as a policeman is not the business most educators want to be in," Hubbs said in an e-mail.

Molly Cohen, a junior in SOC, said it should not be the university's duty to see whether students follow the law.

"The reason I can't afford music is because I pay so much to go to this school," Cohen said.

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