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Congress Takes IP Enforcement to School

Congress moved to get schools more involved in preventing the piracy of copyrighted material.

The House and Senate passed a compromise version of the Higher Education Opportunity Act that requires colleges and universities to spell out how they will combat unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing of copyrighted material.

Both the House and Senate passed a conference version of their separate bills, so now it simply awaits the signature of the president.

The Higher Education bill calls for an annual disclosure by schools that "explicitly" informs students that unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials, including P2P file sharing, may mean civil or criminal penalties. It also requires schools to summarize those penalties and to describe its policies regarding unauthorized P2P file sharing.

Part of the Bush administration's crackdown on copyright infringement, in addition to boosting enforcement and establishing a coordinating post in the White House, was trying to better educate students about copyright laws and getting schools more involved in monitoring the file sharing on their campuses.

While both House and Senate versions of the bill required that schools make their current policies and sanctions available to their students, including how they detected and prevented unauthorized distribution in the past, House and Senate conferees agreed in conference to add language that requires schools to lay out their plans for preventing such detection in the future, given the speed of technological change, including, "to the degree practicable," providing alternatives to illegal downloading or P2P distribution of intellectual property.

The Copyright Alliance -- a consortium of TV and movie studios, publishers and other copyright holders -- praised passage.

“The path laid out in this bipartisan bill will educate students, encourage the use of legal alternatives, help campus networks to function better and ultimately help to ensure that the high-quality, good-paying jobs in the creative industries that many college graduates hope to one day attain are more abundantly available." the group said in a statement.

B&C parent Reed Elsevier is a member of the Alliance.

Elsewhere on the IP-enforcement front, no action was taken on the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act, a bill that would toughen IP enforcement, including giving the Justice Department the power to pursue civil lawsuits against infringers and creating a White House post to coordinate IP enforcement.

That bill was scheduled for markup in the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday after being introduced only the week before, but it was held over and will have to wait for legislators' return in September from their August recess.