MPAA Copyright Compliance Letters – coming to a Higher Education Institution near you

Nathan Fan is a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has begun sending letters to American universities and colleges notifying them that the Higher Education Opportunity Act requirements for combating piracy are already in effect and that the MPAA will be sending warning notices of any copyright infringement of MPAA material on their campuses.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) entails a set of requirements for colleges and universities to establish practices that reduce illegal file-sharing of copyrighted works on their campus networks. These include informing their students of the criminal and civil liabilities of illegal distribution of copyrighted materials, establishing plans to “effectively combat” illegal file-sharing, and to reasonably offer their students alternatives to illegal file-sharing. Institutions not in compliance with these regulations risk losing their federal funding for student aid. Although the Act was passed in August 2008, its regulations did not come into effect until July 1, 2010.

The MPAA’s outreach letter reminds the institutions of their HEOA requirements and that their compliance helps the “2.4 million workers in all 50 states [that] depend on the entertainment industry for their jobs”. Written by VP and General Counsel Daniel Mandil, the letter also emphasizes that “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 sectors”. Mandil provides the institutions some guidance on compliance with the HEOA and directs them to “role model” institutions identified by the education policy think tank Educause for their HEOA compliance strategies. Steven Worona, Director of Policy at Educause, notes that while “most, if not all, of the colleges in the U.S. are already in compliance”, the MPAA’s letters will encourage the institutions to prepare their systems to respond to future take-down requests.

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