As students return to school, many colleges are ratcheting up their penalties and restrictions on P2P use. MTV News has a nice round-up, and here are some of the lowlights:

  • UC Berkeley students will now be booted off the network for a week if they're accused of illegal file sharing.
  • The University of Tulsa will force alleged filesharers to pay $250 in order to reactivate their network access. Stanford students who fail to respond within 48 hours will be hit with a $100 charge.
  • The University of Kansas has adopted a one strike and you're off the network policy.
  • Ohio University has decided to monitor its network and block all P2P applications.

It's long past time for colleges to realize that bullying their students won't get the RIAA off their backs. Universities have already gone out of their way to appease the industry over the last four years. Along with implementing penalties for alleged infringements, many colleges have wasted valuable resources on expensive network filtering tools and access to DRM-laden limited download services.

Of course, P2P use continues to grow unabated, and the campus crackdown can't and won't slow file sharing. Even if students were cut off from the Internet entirely, they could still use myriad other easily available alternatives to share music (like copying CDs, swapping hard drives, and private networks).

But that hasn't stopped the record industry from continuing to ramp up its misguided war on ordinary students, as detailed in our comprehensive report on the RIAA's four-year litigation campaign released today. Despite universities' efforts, the RIAA started its new "pre-settlement" threat campaign, and, in the six months since its start, the industry has singled out nearly 3,000 students across 100 different campuses for harsh fines. The RIAA is also lobbying hard for legislators to make universities do their dirty work. Just last month, Congress nearly passed a bill to take away education funds from schools that don't use filtering tools.

Enough is enough -- universities need to help put a stop to the RIAA's futile fight against file sharing. The longer it goes on, the more random fans will be hit with disproportionate penalties, the more educational resources will be wasted, the more legitimate uses of P2P will be chilled, and the more money will be left on the table. After all, tougher enforcement isn't putting a dime in artists' pockets.

Universities should insist on a blanket license for their students, collecting a reasonable regular payment -- for example, $5 a month -- in exchange for the right to keep sharing music with their classmates. With this solution, the RIAA can call off the lawyers and the lobbyists, and universities can get back to education instead of copyright enforcement.

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