The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Mac complies with new piracy requirements

By Lauryn Gutierrez

The U.S. Department of Education is proposing new legislation in the Higher Education Act that specifically directs colleges in how to fight piracy.In an effort to reduce illegal uploading and downloading of copyrighted works, three antipiracy provisions will be enforced on college campuses in the future.

According to David Sisk, Associate Director for ITS, Macalester already complies with two of the three new requirements.

One requirement mandates that colleges must brief students annually that the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material could subject them to civil and criminal liabilities. Even before the act was passed, ITS put on an annual educational campaign to inform students of what they stand to lose from illegal file sharing.

During orientation, first years are given flyers concerning copyright laws and upperclassmen are notified through emails, and links on the Macalester website. The information is also given to resident hall directors.

“Some people get the message, and some don’t,” Sisk said. “That’s always going to be the case.”

The act also states that the college must have ‘technology-based’ deterrents to illegal file sharing. Macalester has taken steps to do this by having students complete a network registration process that links the student’s name to an IP address on the campus network. They also monitor overall bandwith traffic. But, Sisk said, that they never monitor individuals.

“We do not review anybody’s online network content,” he said. “We don’t read emails and we don’t go into network folders. We just don’t do it, and we’re never going to do it.”

The third requirement, which instructs that colleges offer students alternatives to illegal downloading, could be interpreted to mean that Macalester must pay a commercial retailer so students can legally download music and movies. Sisk feels this is an undue financial burden on the college that falls far outside of any educational mission, and he is sure that Macalester is not planning on buying any sort of music service license for the campus.

“We’re in the business of higher education, not in helping students watch movies,” Sisk said.

So is Macalester openly shirking obligations to the act? As it stands, the proposed laws are so vague they are nearly unenforceable.

ITS staff did receive an invitation in September 2008 from the U.S. Department of Education to comment on the proposed legislation. Macalester’s CIO, Jerry Sanders, wrote a letter in response stating that because the language in the act is so vague, the college cannot technically be held responsible and prosecuted for any action taken or failed to be taken.

Sisk noted, however, that in reality the U.S. Department of Education is not going to begin punishing colleges and universities for not following legislation that makes no sense. He believes that the U.S. Department of Education will realize they need to go back and come up with some more coherent rules.

“But right now,” he said, “the legislation is not clear enough that we know what to do.

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