Monday, December 20, 2010

Here comes the MPAA

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the Motion Picture Association of America  plans to remind universities of the anti-piracy provisions it got Congress to include in the Higher Education Opportunity Act. Turns out part of the price for Congress to create educational opportunities is that universities have to devise plans to address illegal movie and music downloading on campus.

Now what the MPAA (and the RIAA) would really like is for universities to monitor their campus networks for illegal content. The nice thing about this strategy is that the university tends to be a monopoly provider of Internet services to students. If one of my students doesn't like Harvard's services, she can't ask for a Verizon DSL connection instead. If she is going to download illegally, Harvard has a way to know it.

Of course, the same logic would suggest that since pirated CDs can arrive in a student's room only through their campus mailboxes, universities should open students' postal mail to make sure there is nothing illegal in it.

Whatever the universities can be pressured into can serve as a model for what Congress can be asked to impose on other ISPs, or what individual ISPs can be pressured into doing. Watch for more pressure for pre-emptive surveillance to protect American intellectual property as both Congress and the courts grow increasingly sympathetic to business interests where they conflict with personal liberty.

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