Sunday, December 09, 2007

Going After a Gnat With a Chainsaw

Interesting news out of congress this week: HR 4137, the so-called College Opportunity and Affordability Act (COAA). Sounds pretty innocuous, doesn't it?

But the devil, as the saying goes, is in the details. Once again we have an Orwellian-named bill that does just the opposite of what you might think it would.

Buried deep in the 747-page(!) bill is the following: Section 494(A): Campus-Based Digital Theft Prevention, which provides that colleges and universities will have to come up with a plan to prevent illegal downloads of music from peer-to-peer filesharing groups, AND come up with a technology-based deterrent to "digital theft".

What that all means is that if a school does not comply, it will lose ALL federal funding for ALL student loans, grants, etc. Even Pell Grants. The bill also dictates that colleges come up with "alternatives" to the illegal downloading, and apparently what that means is that they will end up joining one of the non-illegal download providers. Which costs money. Which will undoubtedly come out of increased student fees.

And all of this certainly doesn't sound to me like it's going to enhance college opportunity and affordability. Quite the opposite.

Since only about 20% of a given school's student body actually lives on-campus, and by the MPAA's own estimate, only about 18% of "illegal downloaders" are students, this means that only about 4% of all illegal downloads are going into college computer networks.

And that seems to me to be more than a little Draconian.

But I guess that doesn't matter, since we've now, as a society, gone from "It's better to allow a thousand guilty men go free than to convict one innocent man" to a "kill 'em all and let god sort 'em out" mentality.

All that aside, in the big picture view, is it really necessary, is it really in the public good, to come up with a congressional bill that is over 700 pages long? Who has time to read that? Who has the intellectual fortitude to digest it?

No one, and that's why we get such bad laws. Our "representatives" are voting for -- or against -- bills that they haven't read, haven't digested, and are clueless about the projected effects or outcomes.

Let's take a stand on this one. I urge everyone to contact your representative and tell him/her to vote "NO" on HR 4137.