Higher Education bill aims to make universities police file-sharing

Kyle Almond

In a move that will undoubtedly draw many “1984” comparisons, the Recording Industry Association of America is trying its hand at politics. According to the RIAA’s Web site, more than half of college students engage in “music piracy” and because of this the controversial Section 494 of the Higher Education bill has arisen.

The section require universities to educate students about the consequences of illegal music, particularly peer-to-peer sharing, during the scholarship application and disbursement process; develop strategies to prevent peer-to-peer sharing; and to explore providing legal peer-to-peer resources, such as Rhapsody, Napster, or iPod subscriptions to all students. Schools that wish to employ technological means to encourage legal downloads or prevent illegal downloads can apply for grants.

Much of the debate surrounding the bill hasn’t been on the issue of free music downloading being legal but on the issue of universities be involved in enforcing the law and on the profiling of college students as music thieves.

“I don’t think that all college students download illegally,” said Kim Leavell, sophomore criminal justice major. “Personally, I think it’s more of a high school thing.”

The RIAA is fighting piracy on many fronts. It is attempting to educate people as to the effects of piracy, not just on artists and recording executives but on music store clerks, factory workers, sound engineers, janitors and the thousands of other people whose income relies on profits from music sales.

The RIAA is also suing people who offer to share files, believing that if nobody is uploading the music nobody can download it. Interestingly, it doesn’t sue the individuals initially; it files a complaint against an Internet account holder based of the user’s IP address.

“I don’t think students will decide whether or not to download music illegally based on what their university tells them about downloading,” said Caley Onek, freshman business major.

As if to highlight her point, in the background music was being played by someone who admitted that the music had been downloaded illegally.

The Higher Education bill is expected to be voted on before the House of Representatives goes into recess for the holidays. It is co-sponsored by Rep. George Miller and Rep. Reuben Hinojosa and is expected to pass in the House of Representatives.