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MPAA Sends Letter to Thousands of Colleges About Copyright Rules

The Motion Picture Association of American began sending letters to thousands of colleges and university presidents today, alerting them that the industry group will start notifying colleges whenever it detects illegal trading of Hollywood films and hit TV shows on their campuses.

The MPAA has never before sent “takedown” letters directly to individual colleges, although movie and television studios have long done so as part of their copyright-enforcement procedures.

The movie-industry group’s letter begins by reminding college leaders of new legal regulations on digital piracy that went into effect this summer as part of the Higher Education Opportunity Act. Those rules require that colleges devise a campuswide plan for addressing illegal movie and music downloading on their campuses.

The letter, signed by Daniel M. Mandil, the group’s general counsel, offers help to colleges in complying with the law, including a link to a Web site that lists legal sources of popular films and TV shows. It also points to a resource page about the new regulations compiled by Educause.

An official of the MPAA, who asked not to be named, emphasized a provision of the law that requires colleges to review their plans for effectiveness every few years. “Content theft is changing all the time, so it’s not a static situation where you can develop one plan and not revisit it,” he said, noting that the group wants to help colleges keep their plans up to date and make sure they realize when students are breaking the rules and trading movies and shows online.

He said he was not sure whether the group’s new practice of sending alert letters to colleges about incidents of infringement will lead individual studios to stop their warning letters to colleges.

Steven L. Worona, director of policy and networking programs at Educause, described the MPAA’s note as “an accurate summary” and “useful reminder” of the new regulations on digital piracy. “We’re quite confident that most, if not all, of the colleges in the U.S. are already in compliance,” he said.

The MPAA’s warning that it would send notifications of individual cases of file trading is useful, Mr. Worona added, because it will help colleges prepare their systems to respond to the requests. In many cases, colleges have built automated systems that streamline the process of responding to such notices, which also come from publishers, music studios, and other copyright holders.

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