Major copyright holders are backing a legislative proposal [PDF] to make colleges do their dirty work. The Higher Education Reauthorization Act is supposed to make going to college more affordable, but, under a last-minute amendment, certain schools would risk losing federal funding for student aid if they don't divert funds away from education and toward policing corporate copyrighted content on their campus networks. Twenty-five schools will annually be singled out, required to police their students with "technology-based deterrents" (read: network surveillance technologies), and forced to provide evidence to the Secretary of Education about their efforts to stop file sharing.
Senate Amendment 2314 may come up for a vote tomorrow or later this week, so it's critical that you call your Senators now and tell them to reject this proposal. You can find their phone numbers here.
Schools are already being forced to expend significant resources in the face of the RIAA's lawsuit campaign against students and thousands of copyright nastygrams. More enforcement won't stop file sharing, as students will simply migrate towards other readily-accessible sharing tools that can't be easily monitored. But it will chill academic freedom, as legitimate uses of the network will inevitably be stifled.
The federal government shouldn't be in charge of schools' network management decisions. Congress ought to reject this misguided proposal and take up real solutions that get artists paid and let students keep sharing. Please take action and call your Senators now.
Thanks to EDUCAUSE for alerting us to this bill, and check out their site for more about the bill here.
UPDATE, July 24, 11 AM: This amendment is a moving target. A modified version was proposed and then withdrawn yesterday, and we're hearing rumors that another version will be brought forward soon. It's still important that you call your Senators and tell them that pressuring schools to do the industry's dirty work is bad policy.
Update, 7 PM: News.com reports that Sen. Harry Reid withdrew the amendment.