Not long after I arrived at the Daily Journal in July, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, tried to attach an amendment to the higher education funding bill that would have created a top-25 list of the universities with the most illegal downloads. The amendment was quickly ditched under pressure from education lobbyists; opponents complained that this would be a “hit list” authored by entertainment industry trade groups like the MPAA and RIAA.
Now CNET reports that a Congressional committee is set to pass a 747-page bill this afternoon that’s quite a bit kinder to Hollywood, and it looks like it will pass over the universities' objections. Also blogged yesterday at NYT.
Under the bill now being debated, universities would have to make some moves towards tighter control over peer-to-peer networks. Schools would have to support initiatives to help reduce illegal downloading (p. 476), start working on an "alternative" system, and explore “technology-based deterrents.” (p. 412)
Speaking of technology-based deterrents, I reported a few weeks ago that U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson is mulling over the installation of a copyright filter on the Morpheus software used by StreamCast Networks. (“Shifting the Digital Media Landscape,” Daily Journal 10/25/07) StreamCast is the last defendant in the MGM v. Grokster litigation; the others went out of business after losing at the Supreme Court. MGM Studios Inc. v. Grokster Ltd., 01-8541.
Andrew Bridges, the Winston & Strawn partner who was formerly a lawyer for StreamCast but has since moved on, compared Wilson’s order to the civil-rights busing cases—“The court has scheduled its intention to take over a business,” he said.
Perhaps what we're seeing today is similar copyright activism from another branch of government. In the upper house, Sen. Leahy has revived a bill beloved by the content industries, which would allow federal law enforcement to file civil lawsuits for copyright infringement.
With universities and FBI agents on your side, who needs IP lawyers?