Representative Ric Keller (R-FL) feels that colleges in America are teaching students more than literature, history, and computer science. They are alsodens ofthievery, places where students learn to steal "billions of dollars in intellectual property from hardworking people whose jobs hang in the balance." Rep. Keller is talking about illegal file-swapping, of course, and his new bill (HR 1689) could give schools more money to combat the P2P scourge.
The bill is called the "Curb Illegal Downloading on College Campuses Act of 2007." It amends the Higher Education Act, a bill that supplies federal money to universities, allowing that money to be used for programs that reduce illegal downloading of copyrighted content.
The goal is to free up university money that would otherwise be spent on bandwidth costs and to keep networks more secure by keeping out viruses that may attach themselves to P2P files. The bill notes that "computer systems at colleges and universities are intended primarily to aid in educating and increase research capability among students and faculty;" clogging a campus network with BitTorrent traffic does not fall under the school's educational mandate.
The Higher Education Act (HEA) generally allows schools to spend the money they receive only on certain prescribed areas such as financial aid grants and Pell loans. The new bill would allow that money to be used for more things, but does not contain a request for additional funding. Whether schools would be interested in using a limited pool of federal money to police student file-swapping remains to be seen.
There'sno guarantee that the bill will make it to a vote, of course. It has already been shunted to the House Committee on Education and Labor, and might languish there until the end of this Congressional term except for the fact that the HEA needs to be reauthorized, and soon. The HEA expires this summer, and Congress will certainly find a way to extend it yet again or fully reauthorize it, since few things look worse than cutting massive student aid programs.
Campuses have come under plenty of scrutiny in the past few weeks, with the RIAA and the MPAA calling schools out for high levels of illicit P2P usage. Individual representatives in Congress have also taken an interest in the issue; can it be long before the carrot of additional funds for security is supplemented with the stick of penalties for not addressing the problem?