Movie industry to colleges: Remember copyright rules

Federal law requires colleges to devise policies against the illegal downloading of music and movies.

First, it was the recording industry that colleges had to worry about, and now it’s the movie industry, too: Thousands of colleges and universities received a friendly reminder from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) this month, with MPAA officials highlighting a federal law that requires institutions to devise policies against the illegal downloading of copyrighted material.

The letter, signed by Daniel Mandil, senior executive vice president of the MPAA, reiterated that universities must publish a “written plan to effectively combat the unauthorized distribution” of illegally downloaded movies, TV shows, and music using the campus’s internet connection.

Mandil points out that the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), passed by Congress in 2008, requires colleges and universities to create policies against illegal file sharing as a condition to receive federal student aid.

The movie industry letter was sent to higher-education officials Dec. 6.

The MPAA said it will send notices to institutions citing “specific instances” of illegal downloading over the school’s network, which has become commonplace since websites like Napster cropped up a decade ago, offering vast libraries of illegal downloads for free.

Failing to crack down on illegal downloading, Mandil said in his letter, could be detrimental to students who hope to enter the music or movie industry after school.

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“…Online theft is a job killer that also reduces the number of opportunities for graduates of your institution to make a living in the creative sector,” the MPAA letter said.

The letter suggests ways colleges can battle illegal downloading, including seminars for students who are caught snatching movies and music off illegal websites. The MPAA also urged higher-education officials to have warnings pop up when students access illegal sites, or block the portals altogether.