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Colleges And Universities Responsible For File Sharing Students

NEW YORK (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) – According to the state legislation hammered out over the illegal downloading of music and movies on college campuses appears to strike the right tone in its approach to a relentless problem.

A proposed bill would call upon colleges and universities in the state to turn up the heat on students who have been stealing music and movies. It calls on the schools to "reasonably implement" a policy that describes and prohibits the infringement of copyrighted works on campuses. It also calls for the schools to explain the penalties for copyright infringement under the law and to make reasonable efforts to post signs to remind students of the importance of the issue, as well as attempt to prevent illegal downloading.

To be sure, that language softens the original bill that called on higher education to basically police the copyright infringement that has been so rampant on campuses. In its original form, the legislation sought a lot from colleges, forcing them to enforce computer use policies with steps that might have been impossible to achieve and monitor computer use to determine where illegal file-sharing was occurring. The original legislation would have put a large burden, and potential expense, on the schools. There were also concerns that the requirement could stunt appropriate "fair use" of materials.

The compromise bill lifts some of that burden from the colleges but still manages to drive home the fact that illegal file-sharing will not be tolerated. Copyright infringement is against the law, and schools cannot just let students engage in illegal activity and ignore it. Basically, common theft is occurring, and the schools cannot turn a blind eye to what is happening on their campuses.

Sen. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, has spearheaded the legislation, essentially making common-sense arguments that stealing is wrong. So the thrust of the bill is important. Burchett has also been on-target in pointing out that of all places for theft of music to take place, Tennessee is the most shameful, because of the prominence of the music industry in this state. Many talented songwriters are suffering because of the theft committed by college students. The music industry, specifically the Recording Industry Association of America, has engaged in a crackdown on college kids and their computer habits. The industry may have appeared heavy-handed in bringing lawsuits against music lovers on campuses, but there has never been legal doubt about the issue. It's copyrighted material, protected by law, and stealing copyrighted music is illegal. The legislature is right to help, but it is also wise to listen to the concerns of authorities on college campuses about their resources and abilities to enforce the law.

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For awhile, it might have been reasonable to assume that college kids just didn't "get it" (but personally I highly doubt it) about copyright infringement and intellectual property laws. But after this amount of time in the file-sharing debate, it is difficult to believe that students sophisticated enough to capture their music through electronic devices aren't aware of the basic right-and-wrong issues involved in stealing music. Music is not all free. It's not created from thin air. It's not infinitely available without cost. Somewhere, work was put into copyrighted music, and compensation is due.

The record industry still shares part of the blame for its problems, because it was slow to catch on to advances in technology. The legislature's effort to increase awareness of the issue on campus and get more attention applied to the issue will not solve the matter of illegal downloading. But it does put a stamp of importance on the issue that the students and the leadership of schools alike should understand. Accountability has to be part of the downloading issue. It's good to know lawmakers see the importance of the issue and want to give music its due under the law. – CelebrityAccess Staff Writers