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By Nate Anderson | Published: July 25, 2007 - 01:03PM CT
Colleges were among those less than pleased to find that Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) recently talked a new amendment into the Higher Education Act legislation that was moving through the Senate. The amendment would have directed the Department of Education to compile a yearly list of the 25 top P2P-using schools. How would such a list be compiled? By the number of complaint letters received from the MPAA and RIAA.
We heard from Reid's office yesterday that the Senator had canned the proposed amendment, without comment. It's clear that it was canned in response to strong outcry from the academic world, but there was no shortage of enraged citizens either.
Colleges and universities, always fierce about their own independence and the idea of academic freedom, were not eager to implement P2P filtering software, especially since it has the potential to block legal uses of P2P technology. The schools also aren't big on unfunded mandates that tell them how to run things on campus.
One IT official at a Boston-area school noted that the proposal would have created a kind of "revolving door" for anti-P2P software companies who would have, in effect, been guaranteed 25 new customers each year. The kind of reverse meritocracy that the amendment would put in place was also completely subjective.
The Reid amendment led to protests from groups like EDUCAUSE, a coalition of colleges and universities. In an urgent letter sent to members late last week, the group pointed out that the amendment would rely on "terribly inaccurate" data from the entertainment industry, that it targets only schools and not ISPs in general, and would "dictate the day-to-day operations of colleges and universities.
Our own coverage sparked many of you into action: we heard from dozens of you that sent your views to your own senators, and a few of you called Reid's office for good measure. We were told that the volume of complaints was indeed high.
Inside Higher Ed has a nice writeup on the developments, noting that after Reid pulled his amendment, another one was inserted into the bill, which then passed the Senate. This final amendment, though, was almost innocuous: colleges simply need to publish a couple of notices to students about how illicit file-swapping is wrong.