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  1. #1
    Atomic Punk
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    Default RIAA Says Accused Students Are Settling

    Industry group says piracy students are settling - Recording Industry Association of America filed about 18,000 lawsuits

    OMAHA, Neb. - A recording industry group that has been offering settlements to college students suspected of sharing music online says more than a quarter of the alleged music pirates have accepted the offer.

    The Recording Industry Association of America sent letters offering discounted settlements to 400 computer users at 13 universities in late February. Another batch was sent out this week.

    Association spokesman Jonathan Lamy said Friday that, so far, 116 settlements were reached after the first round of letters went out.

    Those letters targeted students at Arizona State University; Marshall University; North Carolina State University; North Dakota State University; Northern Illinois University; Ohio University; Syracuse University; University of Massachusetts, Amherst; University of Nebraska- Lincoln; University of South Florida; University of Southern California; University of Tennessee, Knoxville; and University of Texas, Austin.

    Lamy would not specify which of the schools the 116 students attend.

    As part of its ongoing copyright crackdown, the association has sued about 18,000 computer users nationwide since September 2003. The figure includes about 1,000 university students.

    The lawsuits were initially filed against "John Doe" defendants, based on their Internet addresses. Many are accused of downloading music over university Internet services.

    After filing a lawsuit, recording industry lawyers work through the courts to learn the name of the defendant.

    In the association's latest effort to curb music piracy, colleges are given letters to forward to students suspected of music piracy, Lamy said. Students are urged to contact the association to broker a settlement before a lawsuit is filed.

    "Part of the rationale for this new program is to offer students a chance to settle early and with no public mark on their record," he said.

    The association has declined requests to provide specific details about the settlements.

    A letter to one Ohio University student told her that she distributed 787 audio files, putting her total minimum potential liability at more than $590,000. The minimum damages under the law is $750 for each copyright recording that had been shared, the letter said.

    Patrick McGee, an attorney Ohio University arranged to meet with its students, has said $3,000 is the standard settlement offer, though cases have settled for as much as $5,000.

    The second wave of letters the association sent out Wednesday targeted 405 students at 23 colleges. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln was the only school whose students — 61 in all — were targeted in both rounds of letters.

    UNL spokeswoman Kelly Bartling said the university was having problems identifying some of the targeted students because the university only stores computer usage records for 31 days.

    Thirteen of the 36 students sent letters in February have been identified, she said, and 19 of the 25 sent letters this week were.

    Bartling said Friday that the students were being referred to the university's student legal services for advice, but she didn't know how many have accepted a settlement.

    Lamy said UNL's records-keeping policy is an anomaly among universities the association is dealing with.

    "Reasonable data retention policies are essential," he said. "Lawsuits for music theft are just one example, but there are a host of other crimes regularly perpetrated on computer networks.

    "As services providers, one would think universities would understand the need to retain these records."

    The university isn't planning to change the records policy, UNL network security analyst Zac Reimer said earlier this week. That's partly because the association probably will begin asking for names in the same months the file-sharing occurred, he said.

    Last fall, UNL began a public relations campaign in which students were advised the practice was illegal and could lead to university disciplinary action.

    The school has a three strikes policy: First, a notice to music pirates they are violating university policy, then loss of Internet access, and finally, a visit to the school's disciplinary board.
    "Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.” -- Gen. George S. Patton

  2. #2
    Sinner's Swing!
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    Default From the SF Chronicle: Recording industry threatens to sue students

    Recording industry threatens to sue students
    Verne Kopytoff, Chronicle Staff Writer

    Tuesday, January 22, 2008

    Natalie Miles, a legal studies student at UC Santa Cruz, is getting some unwelcome education in her major.

    Attorneys representing some of Hollywood's biggest companies say the 20-year-old illegally made 599 songs available for sharing on a popular online service. For that, she was told in a letter from the recording industry, Miles will be sued in federal court unless she can come up with about $3,000 for a settlement.

    "It's horrible," said Miles, who insists she did nothing wrong and can't afford to settle. "I just don't think that these people realize that they're ruining people's lives."

    The letter was especially astonishing because Miles, who doesn't count herself as much of a music fan, said she never used Limewire, the file-sharing service that the Recording Industry Association of America cited in the letter. But she acknowledged that others might have used her computer in her absence because she wasn't careful about protecting her password.

    "I was living in an apartment on campus with five others," Miles said. "I would bring friends over, they would bring friends over - I never locked my door."

    Nearly a year after starting a crusade to stop college students from illegally sharing online music, the recording group has sent 5,000 such letters to college students across the country, accusing them of piracy. At the same time, they offer the students a chance to put it all behind them by paying several thousand dollars.

    The crackdown is part of a broader, yearslong effort by the association to curb online music sharing, a wildly popular practice that allows consumers to download music for free through online services Limewire, Ares and Gnutella. Called peer-to-peer, or P2P, networks, the services allow users to tap into and download songs from other users' collections. Adhering to copyright laws is left up to the users.

    Music companies complain that file sharing, which violates copyright laws, is cutting into their profits, and they point to falling album sales as evidence. U.S. album sales fell 9.5 percent in 2007 from a year earlier, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

    But the recording industry's aggressive campaign against music piracy has earned it enmity. Critics say that suing potential customers is unwise and they call on music companies to find a successful business model for the digital era rather than trying to protect a failing one.

    Whether the association's legal strategy is working is unclear.

    Several years of sharp growth in the use of peer-to-peer networks, which also are used to share television clips and films, has ended, according to BigChampagne, a company that measures the use of the networks. Still, the average number of users on such networks at any one time remained at around 9.3 million globally in 2007, about the same as it was a year earlier, the company found.

    "The fact that peer-to-peer traffic is relatively flat, we take that as a positive impact of our effort," said Jonathan Lamy, a spokesman for the recording association. "But that doesn't mean that the practice isn't intolerably damaging to the industry."

    During the early years of its anti-piracy fight, the trade group took a more muted approach with colleges. When its investigations uncovered music file sharing on college Internet networks, the group usually demanded that the material be removed by sending what are known as take down notices.

    Then last year, the association stepped up the fight with an initiative to routinely threaten individual students with lawsuits. Students who received the letters were told they could avoid going to court by paying a settlement - usually between $3,000 and $4,000 - that can be paid in a number of ways, including online by credit card and in monthly installments.

    Each month, the trade group sends out about 400 such letters to colleges across the nation including UC Berkeley, Stanford University and UC Santa Cruz. Of the 5,000 students who have received the letters, 1,800 have settled, according to the association.

    In addition to threatening lawsuits, and making an example of the targets, the recording group is encouraging universities to spread the word about the dangers of file sharing and to provide free, legal music downloading services to students. Lamy said illicit file sharing has dropped significantly at universities that take such steps.

    Miles, the UC Santa Cruz student, got the first of her three pre-litigation letters eight months ago while she was at home on spring break. She said that she was shocked to read the contents: that she offered to share hundreds of music files from her computer and had 20 days to contact the recording association or be sued in federal court.

    Miles said she immediately told her parents about the letter and contacted an attorney.

    As with many students accused of piracy, the recording industry didn't originally know Miles' identity. It instead sent the pre-litigation letter to the university, along with the address of a computer involved in suspected file sharing, and asked the school to forward the warning.

    Eventually, the music companies subpoenaed Miles' records from UC Santa Cruz to learn her identity. Her attorney, she said, tried to get the university to fight the court order, but he didn't succeed.

    Miles said she is unwilling to settle with the recording group, and in any case, doesn't have enough money to do so. A collections agency working for the association has called her parents to pressure them to pay. Meanwhile, Miles said, she's nervously waiting to be sued while continuing her studies.

    If taken to court, Miles said that she might declare bankruptcy. In that way, she may be able to avoid having to pay a court judgment.

    "I would much rather go on that course than give the recording industry money for something I didn't do," Miles said.

    A Minnesota woman who decided to fight the recording association in court over accusations of illicit file sharing, rather than settle, lost her case in October. Illustrating the high stakes, the federal court ordered her to pay $220,000 to six music companies.

    Fred von Lohmann, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, said he's spoken with many students who have been targeted by the recording group and have had to drop out of school and start work to pay their settlements. He said that even if students have a good defense, many settle to avoid hiring an expensive attorney, the headaches and the potential for much bigger damages levied in a trial.

    "This is a very unfair fight," von Lohmann said.

  3. #3
    Atomic Punk chefcraig's Avatar
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    Due to mind numbingly stupid actions such as this, which in effect brings lawsuits against the very people that use one's product, and the notion that artists no longer need record companies, I believe the recording industry will go the way of the dodo bird withing the next ten years.

    Apparently I'm not alone in this assessment:

    http://www.news.com/Recording-indust...-0-5&subj=news
    "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."
    George Bernard Shaw

  4. #4
    Atomic Punk bsbll4's Avatar
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    Default

    Maybe if there was music worth buying the RIAA's profits wouldn't be so bad. Propping up flavors of the month then ditching them isn't sound business. I like to think of it as karma for all of the screwjobs they did to artists over the years.

    Live music is where the money is at now. Albums have become more or less advertisements and teasers for the live experience. Seems to me bands are still making their money. Besides, I thought it was all about the art and expression of music? Oh wait, that was all bullshit to get more money, I see.

    I'm glad all the music I like is old and the artists have already made their money, because then I don't feel as band downloading it
    CNN may think my opinion matters, but you shouldn't.

  5. #5
    Atomic Punk
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by chefcraig View Post
    Due to mind numbingly stupid actions such as this, which in effect brings lawsuits against the very people that use one's product, and the notion that artists no longer need record companies, I believe the recording industry will go the way of the dodo bird withing the next ten years.

    Apparently I'm not alone in this assessment:

    http://www.news.com/Recording-indust...-0-5&subj=news
    back in 1996 my buddies and bandmates were talking about record labels and the future of music etc...They thought I was crazy because I said soon enough record labels' influence and importance would decrease as more and more independent musicians and entrepeneurs would use the net to distribute music directly to the people and that the future was bleak for the traditional machinery in place to distribute and promote records. I knew I wasn't crazy back then and I know I'm not crazy now.

  6. #6
    Atomic Punk LLFHS's Avatar
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    My sole thought for the RIAA......

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  7. #7
    Atomic Punk
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    Default

    RIAA to halt lawsuits, cozy up to ISPs instead

    At last, the music industry admits what we've known for years: That filing music-swapping lawsuits against teenagers, little old ladies, and corpses is a fool's errand (not to mention an expensive headache for the defendants). But don't worry—the RIAA has something new up its sleeves.

    The new strategy (as reported by the Wall Street Journal): If the music industry finds out that you're swapping music files online, it'll send an e-mail to your ISP (agreements have already hashed out agreements with "some" unnamed service providers, apparently), which will in turn forward the message to you—probably with a little "P.S." asking you to stop. [Update: CNET has a copy of the RIAA's form letter to ISPs.]
    If you don't stop, well ... your service provider probably won't sue you, but it might slow down your broadband connection, or cut off your service altogether.

    So, why has the RIAA changed the play? Well, maybe it's been looking at reports like this one from the NPD Group, which shows that U.S. CD sales continue to slide, while the number of tunes shared via P2P sites continues to increase, despite all the litigation.

    And then there's the disastrous headlines, as the RIAA relentlessly tracked down and sued tens of thousands of alleged music pirates. Among them: Kids, octogenarians, and a few dead people.

    Reaction to the news? Mixed. Engadget's headline reads (in part): "RIAA finds its soul," with the story noting that while the RIAA reserves the right to go after "heavy uploaders or repeat offenders ... it appears that single mothers are in the clear."

    All Things Digital has a darker outlook, speculating that ISPs—which "care about the cost of moving lots of data around … [and] want to make money by selling, renting, or just offering up Hollywood's movies and TV shows to subscribers"—might be more than content to "cut off file-sharers … [or] simply [charge] heavy file-sharers a lot of money."

    And here's another possibility, courtesy of yours truly: Say your ISP catches you sharing tunes via P2P. No problem—download away! But when you get your next cable bill, you'll find the itemized songs added to your monthly charge, kind of like an iTunes bill.

    Call it the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" strategy.

    P.S. Make no mistake—just because the RIAA has stopped filing new music-swapping lawsuits doesn't mean that it's dropped the existing ones, according to the Journal. Quite the contrary.
    "Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.” -- Gen. George S. Patton

 

 

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