RIAA Targets 405 Students In New Round of Lawsuits

In Uncategorized on April 13, 2005 at 8:01 pm

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RIAA Targets 405 Students In New Round of Lawsuits

by Shankar Gupta, Wednesday, Apr 13, 2005 7:00 AM EST

CALLING FILE SHARING BY COLLEGE students “an emerging epidemic,” the Recording Industry Association of America President Cary Sherman announced Tuesday a new round of copyright infringement lawsuits against students. In its lawsuits, the RIAA claims that 405 students in 18 different schools illegally shared more than 930,000 songs using the free program i2hub and Internet 2, a recently developed intercampus network.

Internet 2 was created by a group of universities to allow researchers and professors to share data quickly over the Web. Internet 2 tends to be very fast, allowing students to download a full movie file in less than five minutes, and a song file in less than 20 seconds, Sherman said.

In addition to its speed, Sherman said, students have gotten the impression that i2hub is safer to use, blunting the threat of lawsuits that has loomed over campus file sharing in the past. “I2hub has for some reason been thought to be a safe zone to engage in illegal activity, and what we wanted to do is puncture that misconception,” said Sherman. “When you’re on the Internet there’s no real safe zone for lawlessness.”

In this last round of suits, much like the RIAA’s previous suits against file sharers, the objective is to deter file sharers from swapping copyrighted material. But some think that their worth as a deterrent isn’t especially high. “It’s just become a matter of course–and I think, ultimately, useless,” said NYU sophomore Matt Buchanan, who writes a technology opinion column for the NYU student newspaper, the Washington Square News. “While there was that original notion of fear that resulted in a slight decline, people have realized … odds are in their favor. They’re only hitting major uploaders and occasional old ladies, so your average downloader is very safe.”

NYU is among the schools that has students named in the lawsuit.

“If the goal’s deterrence, I think it’s not working,” Buchanan said.

The RIAA doesn’t yet know the names of the students it wishes to sue, so it has sued using “John Doe” defendant names; once in court, the RIAA intends to subpoena information about the IP numbers they’ve collected, giving them the real names of each of the targeted students.

The schools involved are Boston University, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Drexel University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Michigan State University, New York University, Ohio State University, Princeton University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of California-Berkeley, University of California-San Diego, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, University of Pittsburgh, and University of Southern California. No more than 25 students are named in any one school.

I2hub was developed at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst by Wayne Chang, a sophomore there. I2hub released a statement, saying “the i2hub Organization does not condone activities that breach the rights of copyright owners. Our companies are focused on bringing together students and connecting them in ways never before achieved.” I2hub declined further comment. Sherman said that i2hub can be used for legitimate purposes, but “you don’t see a lot of copies of the bible or the works of Shakespeare” being swapped.

The RIAA is no stranger to litigation against students. Including this latest slate, it has filed over 9,000 lawsuits targeting file sharers at schools, but has so far shied away from filing suits against the schools themselves. “There’s always been the possibility for legal liability by service providers, and universities are ISPs, so there’s a legal issue there,” Sherman said. “But that’s not the direction we’ve pursued with universities. We’ve preferred to regard universities as our partners in addressing this issue.”

In addition to filing the suits, the RIAA sent letters to the presidents of each university, as well as 140 more schools on which the association has collected data on illegal file sharing. The letters urge university presidents to look into technical means to block illegal file sharing, or to provide students with alternative services–according to Sherman, more than 40 institutions now offer legitimate online music delivery services to their students.


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