Corrupt Congressmen say no financial aid to schools that don't send money to DRM services and bust file-sharers

Democratic legislators have introduced a bill that will tie university financial aid funding to universities imposing stiff penalties for file-sharing, and to universities subsidizing student subscriptions to failed DRM-based systems like Napster and Ruckus. This is about as ugly as pork-barrel politics can get: politicians are so in debt to four of five ailing giants from the entertainment industry that they're prepared to deny low-income children access to a college education if universities don't punish kids for listening to music and piss away money on a useless service that no one wants to use.

The congressmen behind this are Reps. George Miller from California and Ruben Hinojosa of Texas and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. These three men are proposing to make colleges into a subsidy system for the MAFIAA. Remember those names come election time -- and if you live in their districts, call them today.

The U.S. House of Representatives bill (PDF), which was introduced late Friday by top Democratic politicians, could give the movie and music industries a new revenue stream by pressuring schools into signing up for monthly subscription services such as Ruckus and Napster. Ruckus is advertising-supported, and Napster charges a monthly fee per student.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) applauded the proposal, which is embedded in a 747-page spending and financial aid bill. "We very much support the language in the bill, which requires universities to provide evidence that they have a plan for implementing a technology to address illegal file sharing," said Angela Martinez, a spokeswoman for the MPAA.

Link (Thanks, Jacob!)


  1. I smell a rat. The bill in question here is the Higher Education Act Reauthorization which is like 800 pdf pages long. Does anyone out there know who introduced the DRM language into the bill or is someone at cnet holding an anti-democrat bias?

  2. No doubt all the losses from infringement that music industry is claiming could have been paid for with the money the industry likely gave these and other politicians to pursue that same purpose.

  3. “We very much support the language in the bill, because we basically wrote it and our chums inserted it sans edit, which requires universities to provide evidence that they have a plan for implementing a technology to address illegal file sharing.”

  4. Hey, it makes sense to me.

    After all, music piracy does FAR more damage to the American economy then denying an education to the next generation could ever cause.

    *Waves Canadian Flag*
    I swear, watching the news from south of the boarder is the greatest spectator sport ever created.

  5. “These three men are proposing to make colleges into a subsidy system for the MAFIAA.”

    We are all made men, we are all wise guys now.

  6. >Corrupt Congressmen
    >politicians are so in debt to four of five ailing giants

    Citations, please? Those are very heavy, almost fear-mongering, accusations to be throwing around, especially when the article you’re quoting says nothing about the politicians behind the bill.

  7. Universities are considered ISPs, so they are as responsible as any other ISP. Here, they are already implementing efforts to identify every single user on the network.

  8. Representative George Miller = (202) 225-2095
    Representative Rubén Hinojosa = (202) 225-2531
    Senator Harry Reid = (202) 224-3542

  9. “Universities are considered ISPs, so they are as responsible as any other ISP. Here, they are already implementing efforts to identify every single user on the network.”

    Any legal precedent on that, or are you just giving your opinion? Universities are all over the place on how they handle file sharing, so clearly there is quite a bit of disagreement among university legal counsels as to what they’re legal exposure and obligations are.

  10. Here’s what YOU can do to fight this!

    Call the members of the House Committee for Education and Labor and voice your opposition!

    The vote is on Wednesday morning. This is your chance to make a difference.

    House Committee for Education and Labor
    Name State Phone

    Jason Altmire D PA 4 202.225.2565
    Robert Andrews D NJ 1 202.225.6501
    Judy Biggert R IL 13 202.225.3515
    Rob Bishop R UT 1 202.225.0453
    Charles Boustany R LA 7 202.225.2031
    Michael Castle R DE 202.225.4165
    Yvette Clarke D NY 11 202.225.6231
    Joseph Courtney D CT 2 202.225.2076
    Susan Davis D CA 53 202.225.2040
    David Davis R TN 1 202.225.6356
    Vernon Ehlers R MI 3 202.225.3831
    Luis Fortuno R PR 202.225.2615
    Virginia Foxx R NC 5 202.225.2071
    Raul Grijalva D AZ 7 202.225.2435
    Phil Hare D IL 17 202.225.5905
    Ruben Hinojosa D TX 15 202.225.2531
    Mazie Hirono D HI 2 202.225.4906
    Peter Hoekstra R MI 2 202.225.4401
    Rush Holt D NJ 12 202.225.5801
    Bob Inglis R SC 4 202.225.6030
    Ric Keller R FL 8 202.225.2176
    Dale Kildee D MI 5 202.225.3611
    John Kline R MN 2 202.225.2271
    Dennis Kucinich D OH 10 202.225.5871
    Randy Kuhl R NY 29 202.225.3161
    Dave Loebsack D IA 2 202.225.6576
    Kenny Marchant R TX 24 202.225.6605
    Carolyn McCarthy D NY 4 202.225.5516
    Howard McKeon R CA 25 202.225.1956
    Cathy McMorris Rodgers R WA 5 202.225.2006
    George Miller D CA 7 202.225.2095
    Donald Payne D NJ 10 202.225.3436
    Thomas Petri R WI 6 202.225.2476
    Todd Platts R PA 19 202.225.5836
    Tom Price R GA 6 202.225.4501
    Linda Sanchez D CA 39 202.225.6676
    John Sarbanes D MD 3 202.225.4016
    Bobby Scott D VA 3 202.225.8351
    Joe Sestak D PA 7 202.225.2011
    Carol Shea-Porter D NH 1 202.225.5456
    Mark Souder R IN 3 202.225.4436
    John Tierney D MA 6 202.225.8020
    Tim Walberg R MI 7 202.225.6276
    Joe Wilson R SC 2 202.225.2452
    Lynn Woolsey D CA 6 202.225.5161
    David Wu D OR 1 202.225.0855
    John Yarmuth D KY 3 202.225.5401

  11. “Any legal precedent on that, or are you just giving your opinion?”

    I’m a tech for the university. The university is considered an ISP. At least, that’s what they tell me. It makes some sense, considering they provide internet service to thousands of people.

  12. “I’m a tech for the university. The university is considered an ISP. At least, that’s what they tell me. It makes some sense, considering they provide internet service to thousands of people.”

    I work at a university as well, and I’ve never heard anyone express the view that we’re a de facto ISP. In fact, many of the policies at quite a few universities would have to be very different if universities generally considered themselves ISPs.

    And the number of people we provide Internet services to is irrelevant. I worked at a Fortune 500 company that had far more employees than most universities have students, yet it was clearly not an ISP. I’d assume that legally a university would be closer to that of a large corporation, though IANAL.

    Regardless, clearly this proposed bill would establish obligations for universities that no normal ISP would have to meet.

  13. And I thought there wasn’t anything they could do to make me hate them more than I already do, but then they go and propose a thing like this. I agree with those that have stated- these two issues are unrelated! This is far more unethical than some kid downloading free songs…these MAFIAA jerks are digging their own industry’s grave.

  14. I’d like to second the call for citations on the accusations of corruption. Given that the issue is (as usual) essentially a few lines of a 750-page document, who knows who’s responsible for it.

  15. Miller has videos all over YouTube. Someone should make a response video to one of them to out him on this. This video appears on Miller’s home page.

  16. It’s on page 410:

    Part G of title IV (20 U.S.C. 1088 et seq.) is further amended by adding at the end the following new section:
    ‘‘(a) IN GENERAL.—Each eligible institution participating in any program under this title shall to the extent practicable—
    ‘‘(1) make publicly available to their students and employees, the policies and procedures related to the illegal downloading and distribution of copyrighted materials required to be disclosed under section 485.
    ‘‘(2) develop a plan for offering alternatives to illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution of intellectual property as well as a plan to explore technology-based deterrents to prevent such illegal activity.
    ‘‘(b) GRANTS.—
    ‘‘(1) PROGRAM AUTHORITY.—The Secretary may make grants to institutions of higher education, or consortia of such institutions, and enter into contracts with such institutions, consortia, and other organizations, to develop, implement, operate, improve,and disseminate programs of prevention, education,and cost-effective technological solutions, to reduce and eliminate the illegal downloading and distribution of intellectual property. Such grants or contracts may also be used for the support of a higher education centers that will provide training, technical assistance, evaluation, dissemination, and associated services and assistance to the higher education community as determined by the Secretary and institutions of higher education.
    ‘‘(2) AWARDS.—Grants and contracts shall be awarded under paragraph (1) on a competitive basis.
    ‘‘(3) APPLICATIONS.—An institution of higher education or a consortium of such institutions that desires to receive a grant or contract under para2
    graph (1) shall submit an application to the Sec3
    retary at such time, in such manner, and containing or accompanied by such information as the Secretary may reasonably require by regulation ‘‘(4) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.—
    There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this subsection such sums as may be necessary for fiscal year 2009 and for each of the 4 succeeding fiscal years.’’.

  17. Daniel Hechtman, this isn’t the first time they’ve linked unrelated issues to student financial aid. If you’re male and of draftable age, failure to register for the draft makes you ineligible for financial aid.

    I was working in a university financial aid office when the draft registration rule was added. We despised it. It had nothing to do with education or financial aid.

    Here’s a story:

    A year or two before they instituted the rule about the draft, the feds suddenly decided that every student receiving financial aid had to undergo a process called “verification.” Previously, this had only been done to a small sampling of students, as a control mechanism.

    Imagine the chaos and delays you’d get if the IRS suddenly decided that every tax return had to be fully audited, and refused to pay tax refunds unless the audit was complete. That was what it was like. Suddenly there was much more paperwork involved, and everyone’s financial aid was delayed for months.

    Who got hit the hardest: (1.) Students whose families weren’t savvy about paperwork and recordkeeping. They had to go through the most complicated procedures, and were the least equipped to deal with it. (2.) Students who had jobs, children, or both It was a real hardship for them to have to repeatedly come in person to the financial aid office and stand in line in order to find out what hoops they would have to jump through next. (3.) Students with no resources to fall back on.

    In theory, the verification program was there to make sure financial aid went to the students who needed it most. Its actual effect was that the neediest students couldn’t keep eating, paying rent, and attending school full-time during the months it took for their financial aid to clear. They hadn’t planned for that delay; nobody had. We went from a system where financial aid usually cleared in time to pay their first semester’s tuition, to one where many of them didn’t see a dime until the second semester was underway. Of course, when it did clear, they got the whole year’s worth in one lump — if they were still in school.

    Many of them weren’t. They’d had to drop classes and take jobs to support themselves. By the time their financial aid finally came through, they no longer qualified for it.

    And what did the feds find out from this orgy of fact-checking? Nothing they didn’t already know. They certainly didn’t find a bunch of cheaters who were finagling the financial aid system. The vast majority of the students were honest. The program’s real savings came from denying financial aid to otherwise qualified students who’d had to drop out.

    None of us thought that was an accident.

    What’s the moral? Students should vote. They should organize voter registration drives and “get out the vote” campaigns. They’d be a big enough voting bloc to make politicians think twice before doing favors for the MPAA and RIAA at the students’ expense.

  18. What happens when the students go by the letter of the law, bypassing the “University ISP” and getting a real ISP of their own? How does this law morph to catch the cheaters then?

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