Most persons who are aware of the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), enacted in August 2008, consider the legislation as applicable primarily to the federal student assistance programs. Few persons realize that copyright compliance regulations targeted toward reducing illegal file sharing (aka Peer-to-Peer or P2P) were promulgated during the negotiated rule-making periods after the enactment of the HEOA. Effective July 1, 2010, institutions participating in those federal student assistance programs must comply with these regulations in order to continue offering federal financial aid to their students.
- Annual Disclosure. Institutions must issue an annual disclosure to students describing copyright law and the school’s policies and sanctions for dealing with violations of the law and policies. The disclosure should detail the nature of the penalties imposed for copyright infringement. To assist with disclosures about federal law, the Department of Education produced a standardized disclosure and inserted this document in the handbook for federal student aid. However, colleges and universities still must issue an institutional statement about their policies and penalties for unauthorized or illegal distribution of copyrighted materials using the campus IT system.
- Infringement Combat Plan. The HEOA regulations require institutions to write and implement a plan to effectively combat on-campus network copyright abuse by using one or more specified technology deterrents: (a) bandwidth shaping, (b) traffic monitoring, (c) prompt attention and response to DMCA notices of infringement, and (d) use of any of a variety of commercial products designed to reduce or block illegal file sharing. This policy must be reviewed with some defined regularity, but campuses are afforded discretion with regard to determining what criteria should be applied and what methods to implement.
- Offer Alternatives. Colleges and universities must provide students with alternatives to illegal downloading. This requirement can be accomplished by simply posting a list of legal alternatives. The organization EDUCAUSE has compiled a list of these legal alternatives, which institutions may direct students to. Libraries can also play a helpful role by providing information about licensed streaming video content. Additionally, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) notified college and university presidents in a letter issued to them today that it has launched a new website entitled “Respect Copyrights” and therein it has compiled a comprehensive list of legal video streaming sites.
While the above-referenced letter from the MPAA to college and university presidents is intended to be a kindly extended hand of cooperation in preventing the “theft of creative materials,” the underlying message is also a warning. The MPAA does not hesitate to inform its addressees of the consequences of not complying with the HEOA and notes, courteously, that it will send notices whenever illegal activity involving its members’ copyrighted content is detected.