FROM JASON’S MOVING BOWELS — At least you can see Republican ideological pandering coming from miles away. But this time it’s the typically anti-corporate, socialist-leaning Democrats who want to prop up big business.
Go figure. I’m not even going to mention that it’s election time and everybody’s hunting for corporate
The U.S. House of Representatives (source via CNET) is considering a bill that is getting kudos from the MPAA because it would force universities to pony up for Napster and other pay-to-peer services in hopes of cutting down on illegal file sharing.
If colleges refuse, the feds want to yank funding. A $100 billion aide cut would be one big matzah ball for the higher education industry to drop.
It’s not hard to immediately see problems with this wonderful legislation. First, colleges would be burdened with the cost of policing for the music and film industries (if I were a lobbyist for the MPAA and RIAA, this would be the part where I break open the champaigne). The cost of new technology and personnel, of course, will be passed from the colleges to the students, from the students to Sally Mae, and from Sally Mae to the taxpayers.
It’s a de facto tax going straight to Hollywood. And you thought Big Oil was the player you had to watch for corruption.
Second, colleges will have to police all file transfers — whether they’re legitimate or not — in order to comply with the law. That means podcasts, In Rainbows, open source software, public domain videos, and all other legal files will have to be monitored, too.
Reduced to its core concept, that means the government is forcing private establishment to enact a police state. It places students under constant surveillance. The same Democrats who fight for privacy and derail the Patriot Act (which they should) are advocating here a breach of privacy and the same kind of wiretapping they accuse Bush of doing.
Third, the government doesn’t have the infrastructure right now to enforce the law. Police are not notorious for their ability to investigate ‘Net crime, though the FBI and other federal agencies have a better track record.
Those same agencies have severely limited resources, though, and have bigger things to worry about — like making sure their intelligence on imaginary WMDs gets fact-checked before it leads to a $2 trillion war in the Middle East.
Universities are completely within their right, which they have so-far thankfully been brave enough to exercise, to complain to Congress about this ridiculous, expensive, civil-rights-violating, and unrealistic plan. I can only hope someone remains on Capitol Hill who actually understands the Internet enough to cast an informed vote.