Congress Warns University Presidents on P2P File Sharing

Congressional leaders have sent letters to 19 major university presidents warning them to step up efforts to curb illegal Internet file sharing or Congress "will be forced to act."

"The fact that copyright piracy is not unique to college and university campuses is not an excuse for higher education officials to fail to take reasonable steps neither to eliminate such activity nor to appropriately sanction such conduct when discovered," said a letter addressed to Purdue University president Martin Jischke  May 1, 2007.

Purdue is among the top universities with the most illegal Internet downloading activity in the United States, according to surveys cited in the letter.

The letters were sent to the presidents of the University of California at Los Angeles, Boston University, Columbia University, Duke University, Howard University, Michigan State University, North Carolina State University, Ohio University, Purdue University, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, University of Massachusetts at Boston, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, University of South Carolina, University of Tennessee, University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Vanderbilt University.

The letter asked the universities to fill out a "Survey of University Network and Data Integrity Practices" no later than May 31. The letters were signed by the chairs of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property, as well as the House Committee on Education and Labor.

"The presence of your institution on both 'Top Ten' lists is a troubling indication that authorized users of your university computer networks routinely utilize your facilities to engage in the theft of copyrighted works," the letter stated.

"Your full and complete responses to the enclosed survey will assist us in determining what 'best practices' need to be instituted. It will also help us to assess whether Congress needs to advance legislation to ensure the unacceptable use of educational facilities to obtain or traffic in copyrighted goods is no longer commonly associated with student life on some U.S. campuses."

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About the Author

Paul McCloskey is contributing editor of Syllabus.

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