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Music piracy crackdown nets college kids who must pay $3,000 as fine

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Music piracy crackdown nets college kids who must pay $3,000 as fine

Old 08-01-07, 05:47 PM
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Music piracy crackdown nets college kids who must pay $3,000 as fine

Music piracy crackdown nets college kids
At least 500 students nationwide have paid settlements to avoid being sued

Nati Harnik / AP

Updated: 10:34 a.m. HT May 13, 2007
LINCOLN, Neb. - At first, Sarah Barg thought the e-mail was a scam.

Some group called the Recording Industry Association of America was accusing the University of Nebraska-Lincoln sophomore of illegally downloading 381 songs using the school's computer network and a program called Ares.

The letter said she might be sued but offered her the chance to settle out of court.

Barg couldn't imagine anyone expected her to pay $3,000 $7.87 per song for some 1980s ballads and Spice Girls tunes she downloaded for laughs in her dorm room. Besides, the 20-year-old had friends who had downloaded thousands of songs without repercussion.

"Obviously I knew it was illegal, but no one got in trouble for it," Barg said.

But Barg's perspective changed quickly that Thursday in March, when she called student legal services and found out the e-mail was no joke and that she had a pricey decision to make.

Barg is one of 61 students at UNL and hundreds at more than 60 college campuses across the country who have received letters from the recording industry group, threatening a lawsuit if they don't settle out of court.

"Any student on any campus in the country who is illegally downloading music may receive one of these letters in the coming months," said Jenni Engebretsen, an RIAA spokeswoman.

Barg's parents paid the $3,000 settlement. Without their help, "I don't know what I would have done. I'm only 20 years old," she said.

At least 500 university students nationwide have paid settlements to avoid being sued, Engebretsen said. Students who don't take the offer face lawsuits and minimum damages of $750 for each copyrighted recording shared if they lose.

UNL officials have been told 32 more letters are on the way. At least 17 UNL students who did not take the settlement offer have been sued, according to the RIAA, although the university has been asked to forward only five subpoenas.

But the students coughing up the cash question why they're the ones getting in trouble.

"They're targeting the worst people," UNL freshman Andrew Johnson, who also settled for $3,000. "Legally, it probably makes sense, because we don't have the money to fight."

Johnson got his e-mail in February, with the recording industry group's first wave of letters targeting college students. He had downloaded 100 songs on a program called LimeWire using the university network.

The money to settle came from the 18-year-old's college fund. He'll work three jobs this summer to pay back the money.

Johnson compares what he did to people driving 5 miles per hour over the speed limit.

"It's not like I downloaded millions of songs and sold them to people," Johnson said.

But just one song can bring a lawsuit, Engebretsen said.

"It is important to send the message that this is illegal, you can be caught, and there are consequences," she said.

The industry realizes attitudes need changing, and money from the settlements is reinvested in educational programs schools and other groups can use to spread the word that song sharing can have severe consequences.

"We do recognize that by the time students reach college, many of their music habits are already formed," Engebretsen said.

Earlier this month, members of Congress sent a letter to officials from 19 universities, including UNL, asking for information about schools' anti-piracy policies.

Students say its bullying

According to the letter, more than half of college students download copyrighted music and movies. The information requested is intended to help assess whether Congress needs to advance legislation to ensure illegal downloading "is no longer commonly associated with student life on some U.S. campuses," the letter says.

Barg is still angry about her letter from the recording industry group, which she calls bullying. But she agrees sharing music is common, and that other students don't understand the consequences.

"Technically, I'm guilty. I just think it's ridiculous, the way they're going about it," Barg said. "We have to find a way to adjust our legal policy to take into account this new technology, and so far, they're not doing a very good job."

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Barg thinks the university should send an e-mail to all students, warning them that the recording industry won't look the other way.

As campus clears out for the summer, UNL officials are considering launching a new educational campaign in the fall.

"If we can do anything to help educate students about what illegal file-sharing is, we're willing and interested in doing that," said Kelly Bartling, a university spokeswoman.

Bartling said no one wants students to have to worry about how to pay tuition because of an expensive settlement. "It is a hugely expensive lesson," Bartling said.

Johnson, the UNL freshman, doesn't think the threats from the recording industry group are going to solve the problem. Friends who know he got in trouble still share music online.

"People are still going to do it until they get caught, and they can't catch everyone," Johnson said.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.

---------------

Thoughts on this? How has the industry been able to find out who's been downloading? Is Limewire and Kazaa co-operating with them? Are they specifically targeting students who download on campus internet?
Old 08-01-07, 05:50 PM
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Isn't it pretty easy using P2P networks like the above to create an account and start downloading, then find out the IPs of the user you're downloading from? Regardless of what the student thought she was doing, wasn't she really distributing the music because of the way that the networks work?
Old 08-01-07, 05:53 PM
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Originally Posted by hitmanjules
Thoughts on this? How has the industry been able to find out who's been downloading? Is Limewire and Kazaa co-operating with them? Are they specifically targeting students who download on campus internet?
Sounds more like the universities might be sharing network traffic information with the RIAA - more grant money? All I know is that back in 2000 when I was in school, a few folks running napster servers basically shut down the intranet on campus during some snow days and they were later brought up individually on honor court charges. Most universities can probably pull up certain data based on ethernet ports, etc. Dunno if it's as easy with wireless or not though.
Old 08-01-07, 06:15 PM
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Our University told the RIAA to go screw themselves and get a court order when they wouldn't give up the names of the students whose IP addresses they had "caught"
Old 08-01-07, 06:18 PM
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^ Good for them.

I'd have to yank my kid out of a school that so willingly gives up private information about their students.
Old 08-01-07, 07:19 PM
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I don't think schools should give up info that easily either, but that doesn't make downloading OK.

The RIAA is being way too heavy-handed here, but the whole "I'm just a college kid what do I know", etc. excuse doesn't fly IMO. These kids know exactly what they're doing. And they're pretty stupid to do it from their dorms, which can obviously be traced back to them.
Old 08-01-07, 07:29 PM
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To battle illegal music sharing, many colleges now have free music sharing. There's software (such as www.ruckus.com) where you can access music for free and "share" that music with people on your network. The catch is that you need to a network key to access the music (which you only get if you're an active student) and you have to pay to either burn the tracks to to transfer them to a wireless device. Also, not all tracks are available. Some of the hit singles aren't available off certain records.
Old 08-01-07, 08:03 PM
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What is the RIAA's plan here? Try to goad students into purchasing music while shaking them down for money.
Old 08-01-07, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by bunkaroo
I don't think schools should give up info that easily either, but that doesn't make downloading OK.

The RIAA is being way too heavy-handed here, but the whole "I'm just a college kid what do I know", etc. excuse doesn't fly IMO. These kids know exactly what they're doing. And they're pretty stupid to do it from their dorms, which can obviously be traced back to them.

If you illegally download music, be prepared to deal with the consequences. Sure, only 1 in 10,000 people actually get caught, but the possibility is still there.

That said, I still think that this type of action from the RIAA is the wrong way to battle piracy.
Old 08-01-07, 08:14 PM
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Originally Posted by huzefa
What is the RIAA's plan here? Try to goad students into purchasing music while shaking them down for money.
It's more like "make an example of some to scare others into purchasing music legally." While you can argue that this is not the right way to combat piracy, I'm sure it will have it's intended affect of making sure that students take it more seriously.
Old 08-01-07, 08:29 PM
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Yeah, it'll curb illegal downloading in the long run. Then students will have to get their music the old-fashioned way, by duping their friends' CDs.
Old 08-01-07, 08:32 PM
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Why would she agree to pay 7.87 per song? She should have at least argued that you can get them for .99 from iTunes. College students.
Old 08-01-07, 09:02 PM
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Originally Posted by spainlinx0
Why would she agree to pay 7.87 per song? She should have at least argued that you can get them for .99 from iTunes. College students.
Why shoudn't that be a legit argument? Where does the riaa figure in $7.87 per song? Are they including court cost or something? If you can download it on itunes for 99 cents, shouldn't that be the cost you have to pay the riaa?

A 12 song albumn at a music store would then be $94.44. that better be a damn good albumn!

Last edited by mhg83; 08-01-07 at 09:11 PM.
Old 08-01-07, 09:12 PM
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who downloads 100 songs.. or 381 songs..

most people using p2p to share, are bringing in hundreds and thousands of songs
sounds to me that alot of the people were probably lucky that they had cleaned out their share folder, and the riaa didnt see the 8000 songs in their itunes directory
Old 08-01-07, 09:52 PM
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From what I've read over the many months that the RIAA has been bullying students, grandmothers, and dead people, the average extortion cost seems to be $3000 regardless of how many songs were actually in the share folder. I believe that this amount is probably set to what it is so that it does not bankrupt those who fold to the RIAA's tactics yet is just enough to make them think twice about infringing copyrights. Certainly, the average person is not going to want to risk being sued - the size of the RIAA's legal resources is most definitely daunting when there really aren't any laws to support what the students are doing (regardless of the fact that the general populace considers downloading music akin to speeding 5 mph over the posted limit).

The iTunes price is what it would be if the student had LEGALLY acquired the music. The RIAA feels it is defending the musicians who have been harmed by depriving them of their 2 cents per cd that they did not receive from the potentially millions of people that downloaded the album from the one student (damn that school has good bandwidth!)

Michael
Old 08-02-07, 12:37 AM
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There have been people who have fought but the RIAA always dismisses the cases after the defense gets so far - by dismissing the case it's as if it never existed, thus the defense cannot countersue for attorney's fees. Thus you have spent $10,000 or $20,000 on attorney's fees just to see the suit dropped when you could have settled for $3,000.

Oh, and if you don't accept the $3,000 "settlement" the next offer will be $1,000 or $2,000 higher - and there's no negotiating. Take it or leave it. There is a lot of information out there on this and I agree that RIAA needs to be stopped.

And as mentioned above, don't use P2P networks, just borrow friend's CDs or borrow CDs from the library (my local library has thousands of CDs). And of course this is all perfectly legal as long as you erase any digital copies you made when you return the CD (I don't want to advocate anything illegal of course).

Last edited by Heat; 08-02-07 at 12:41 AM.
Old 08-02-07, 02:12 AM
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I just don't buy music anymore. It all sucks.
Old 08-02-07, 03:12 AM
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As usual, the RIAA shows a keen understanding of the market. Not only will these perceptive tactics generate immediate revenue, but they will engender long-term consumer confidence from the very people who will soon be the peak combination of disposable income and interest in popular music. It never ceases to amaze me how forward-thinking the music industry is, evidenced by how successful these tactics continue to be at dramatically increasing the revenue of the artists they serve. The music industry is thriving, experiencing record highs across the board, and the RIAA deserves all the credit.

das
Old 08-02-07, 03:14 AM
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Originally Posted by twikoff
sounds to me that alot of the people were probably lucky that they had cleaned out their share folder, and the riaa didnt see the 8000 songs in their itunes directory
Unless I'm mistaken, the RIAA isn't going after them for downloading music, but rather for making it available for others to upload. So they're only nailing people for having mp3 files in their share folder, regardless of where they got them. It doesn't matter if they downloaded them or ripped from their own CD, they're illegally distributing the music over a P2P network.

In order for the record companies to go after someone for downloading an mp3, wouldn't they more less have to put that file onto a P2P network themselves in order to snag the IP address of the downloader? And if they did that, it wouldn't be an illegal download since the copyright holder was the one distributing it, no?
Old 08-02-07, 03:44 AM
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Originally Posted by mhg83
Why shoudn't that be a legit argument? Where does the riaa figure in $7.87 per song? Are they including court cost or something? If you can download it on itunes for 99 cents, shouldn't that be the cost you have to pay the riaa?

A 12 song albumn at a music store would then be $94.44. that better be a damn good albumn!
Because when you're caught stealing, there is a penalty involved to deter you from doing it again, and to deter others from doing it at all.

If you're caught shoplifting a CD from a store, the penalty isn't to pay the sticker price of the CD and be on your way. There is restitution in addition to a fine for first offenders.
Old 08-02-07, 12:56 PM
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And it's only 7.87 per song because they have the generic $3000 penalty, regardless of how many songs you have. Also, as mentioned above, they were distributing music, whether they realized it or not.
Old 08-02-07, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Mr. Salty
Because when you're caught stealing, there is a penalty involved to deter you from doing it again, and to deter others from doing it at all.

If you're caught shoplifting a CD from a store, the penalty isn't to pay the sticker price of the CD and be on your way. There is restitution in addition to a fine for first offenders.
Exactly. In my state shoplifting restitution is $50 or twice the value of the theft, whichever is greater. This money goes to the victim. Steal a $3 pack of cigarettes and it could easily cost you $200 after you tack on the actual fine, court costs, jail fees, etc.
Old 08-02-07, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by das Monkey
As usual, the RIAA shows a keen understanding of the market. Not only will these perceptive tactics generate immediate revenue, but they will engender long-term consumer confidence from the very people who will soon be the peak combination of disposable income and interest in popular music. It never ceases to amaze me how forward-thinking the music industry is, evidenced by how successful these tactics continue to be at dramatically increasing the revenue of the artists they serve. The music industry is thriving, experiencing record highs across the board, and the RIAA deserves all the credit.

das
Old 08-02-07, 08:34 PM
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Originally Posted by mhg83
Why shoudn't that be a legit argument? Where does the riaa figure in $7.87 per song? Are they including court cost or something? If you can download it on itunes for 99 cents, shouldn't that be the cost you have to pay the riaa?
If that's how people were punished for breaking the law, we'd all be robbing banks. Who cares if you get caught? They'll just turn it into a loan or debit your checking account, and the hostages get to kidnap you for 7 minutes. There is actual punishment for breaking the law.

For example, the MPAA has a clear policy that I'm sure we've all seen after the credits roll:

Copyright infringement (piracy) is a felony under federal law and carries a maximum sentence of up to 5 years in jail and/or a $250,000 fine.

That doesn't mean you have to sit in jail for 5 years and/or pay $250,000 in exchange for each episode of The Sarah Conner Chronicles you watch on TV or own on DVD. When it's on TV and you watch it or you buy the DVD release, you're paying for the item legally and aren't breaking any laws. But if you use torrents to illegally download those episodes, each act of copyright infringement carries with it the possibility for up to 5 years in jail and/or a $250,000 fine.

It's no different with music, but the RIAA has been quite erratic determining the amount of the fine. It's the crime part of it that makes it more expensive, you're not just paying back the copyright holder. You're being punished for breaking the law.

Last edited by Dignam; 08-02-07 at 08:36 PM.
Old 08-03-07, 04:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Josh-da-man
Unless I'm mistaken, the RIAA isn't going after them for downloading music, but rather for making it available for others to upload. So they're only nailing people for having mp3 files in their share folder, regardless of where they got them. It doesn't matter if they downloaded them or ripped from their own CD, they're illegally distributing the music over a P2P network.

In order for the record companies to go after someone for downloading an mp3, wouldn't they more less have to put that file onto a P2P network themselves in order to snag the IP address of the downloader? And if they did that, it wouldn't be an illegal download since the copyright holder was the one distributing it, no?
that's always been my understanding, and why i immediately transfer songs i download into a separate folder on a separate drive

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