A few months ago I posted about the most recent of multiple Congressional hearings involving illegal filesharing on university networks. Partly as a result of that hearing, there have been a number of developments in Congress on the subject. In May, a group of Congressmen from both the House Judiciary Committee and the House Education and Labor Committee, decided to send a letter and a survey to 20 of the universities selected by the RIAA and MPAA as ââ?¬Å?worst offendersââ?¬Â? in regards to copyright piracy. The bi-partisan effort was led by Congressmen Howard Berman (D-CA) and Lamar Smith (R-TX). The letter included statistics such as the purported fact that the $6.1 billion loss to the entertainment industry via piracy equals a $20 billion loss in GDP, and subsequently 141,000 high-paying jobs. The survey sought to inquire about university practices regarding the mitigation of piracy on their networks through peer-to-peer (P2P) filesharing technology, and included questions such as: ââ?¬Å?Do you expel violating students?ââ?¬Â? An example of the letter and survey (PDF) received by Purude University can be found here. According to Ars Technica, Lamar Smith later commented that if the survey was not adequately repsonded to, Congress would be forced to act in some unspecified manner. Towards the end of March, Congressman Ric Keller (R-FL) actually introduced legislation on the matter. H.R. 1689 was introduced in the Education and Labor Committee and would allow the Department of Education to provide grants to Universities for the purposes of mitigating illegal downloading. This would in effect provide government funds for the purchase and installation of P2P mitigation software such as that marketed by RedLambda (whose CEO was witness in the previous Judiciary Committee hearing on the subject). The availability of government funding for such purposes would be a powerful tool for the RIAA in its attempts to pressure universities to voluntarily install anti-P2P software. It remains to be seen how effectively such tools can differentiate between illegal and legal use of P2P, particularly since some use proprietary ââ?¬Å?behavioralââ?¬Â? analysis to determine whether someone is engaged in either legal or illegal activity. The trend of Congressional involvement in this area indicates that Congress will probably continue take action on the subject of filesharing at universities. However, the form any future legislation might take is anybodyââ?¬â?¢s guess. Those involved in University networks from both a technical and legal perspective should probably continue to pay attention to the debate.

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