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Onus now on colleges to control student file sharing


Rally in support of file sharing in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo: Jon Aslund)

This semester, expect to see tighter controls blocking file-sharing capabilities on campus. That's because it is now federal law that colleges and universities must try to bar students from file sharing or face the possible loss of federal funding according to 2008's Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), effective July 1, 2010.

College campuses are where many students are first exposed to peer-to-peer (P2P) networks on which people freely exchange songs or movies, much to the chagrin of the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America).

With the passage of the copyright provision of the HEOA, essentially a strengthened enforcement of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, the focus has expanded from individual file sharers and file-sharing sites to the colleges and universities where some file sharing is taking place. While individual students can still be liable for file piracy, the schools may also be held accountable if they do not have a system in place designed to block file sharing. Many schools are employing software to block the P2P programs and/or have instituted policies threatening additional consequences if a student is caught using a P2P network to share media.

Locally, the area colleges and universities have posted file-sharing policies for students who are caught using P2P networks:

There are, of course, ways around these new regulations, such as moving off campus to avoid usage of the school's internet system. But as Cary Sherman, RIAA president, told USA Today, off-campus students can be prosecuted as well through other means: "If a student is file-sharing at home, then we are dealing with that person by sending notices to their (Internet provider) just like we send notices to universities."

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