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An Oldie from Nashville

A number of people wrote to me yesterday about this newsflash from Inside Higher Education:

Tennessee's New File Sharing Law

Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen last week signed legislation to impose new requirements on public and private colleges in the state to monitor and prevent sharing of digital music files or other copyrighted material. The new law requires colleges to develop and enforce policies on computer and network use, and to analyze their networks to determine if copyrighted works are being shared without authorization.

Now, I've been tracking Tennessee P2P legislation for some time, and I even travelled down to Nashville back in March to testify against an early heavy-handed version of the bill which was, happily, scrapped, and so reports of a "new file sharing law" were quite a surprise. In fact, it turns out that there is no new file sharing law.

The source of the IHE item was a news release from the governor's Web site that begins (emphasis added):

Governor Phil Bredesen kicked off CMA [Country Music Association] Day in Nashville with a ceremonial bill signing on Wednesday.

Apparently Inside Higher Education missed that little word "ceremonial". The real bill signing took place nearly 7 months ago, on April 29. The online copy of the law has Gov. Bredesen's dated signature.

So this isn't a new file sharing law, it's an old file sharing law. It requires Tennessee colleges and universities to establish policies prohibiting illegal file sharing and to notify their students of those policies and the penalties for violation. It also requires campuses that receive more than 50 DMCA notices in any year to "reasonably attempt to prevent the infringement" and to report on these reasonable attempts to their state governing boards. As we and others have often said, such legislation is the wrong weapon aimed at the wrong target, but this shot left the muzzle a while ago.

The only remaining mystery is why the governor would make a splash about signing an already-signed bill, and I think I have the answer: It's green government! Apparently the celebration of CMA Day required a visible gesture, but new legislation -- with all the hearings and the arguments and the lobbyists and the press -- is just so expensive. Much better this way. Reduce! Reuse! Recycle!

For a really entertaining medley of oldies, try this from  David Pogue.


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