Congress Wants Universities To Prevent Illegal File Sharing - InformationWeek

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6/7/2007
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Congress Wants Universities To Prevent Illegal File Sharing

The U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology held a hearing on using technology as the first line of defense in preventing file sharing on campus networks.

Several lawmakers want universities to use technology to block illegal peer-to-peer file sharing on their networks.

The U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology held a hearing on the issue this week. Although other committees have also held hearings on the matter, Bart Gordon, a Tennessee Democrat, said the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology has jurisdiction over the solution since technology will be the first line of defense in actually preventing the problem.

"Illegal file sharing isn't just about royalty fees," he said in a statement prepared for the hearing. "It clogs campus networks and interferes with the educational and research mission of universities. It wastes resources that could have gone to laboratories, classrooms, and equipment. And it's teaching a generation of college students that it's alright to steal music."

Last year, U.S. college students downloaded 1.3 billion tracks illegally and only 500 million legally, according to statistics from Gordon's office. A safe harbor provision in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act relieves colleges and universities of possible liability for copyright infringement on campus networks, as long as campuses cooperate with efforts to prevent it.

"One of our nation's greatest strengths is our educational system, and American universities are the envy of the world," Gordon said. "Their mission is to educate students, and they should not condone or look the other way when their computer networks are used as a clearinghouse for digital piracy and illegal file sharing."

Witnesses at the hearing talked about how to use traffic-shaping systems and network-filtering systems to prevent students from illegally downloading music. Several universities use one of the two types of technology to block students from illegally sharing music and other content illegally. More campuses use traffic-shaping systems to control speeds depending on the computers and programs being used. Network filtering is much less common, according to information from the Science and Technology Committee, which is trying to ensure that preventative measures don't interfere with legitimate downloading and file sharing.

The hearing comes at a time when the Recording Industry Association of America turns its copyright protection spotlight onto college students. Some students and professors argue that copyright laws are too restrictive already.

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