The Recording Industry Association of America announced Thursday that it is delivering on its threat to sue copyright infringers at the University.

Jessica Boullion
File sharing software is getting users at the University more than just popular media. Some may reap fines of several thousand dollars for copyright infringement. (Photo illustration by Shay Spaniola/Daily)

The RIAA, which represents several record labels, said in a press release on May 17 that 12 lawsuits were filed against University network users whose IP addresses the trade group claims are connected to illegal peer-to-peer file sharing.

The lawsuits are against network users who were issued pre-litigation settlement letters on April 11. The University passed on 23 letters to alleged copyright infringers that offered the chance to accept a settlement deal to avoid a lawsuit filed by the RIAA. The RIAA could only issue the letters to IP addresses. If accused users wished to accept the pre-settlement terms, they had to contact the RIAA directly and reveal their identities.

Based on the number of lawsuits filed, 11 alleged users chose to settle with the trade group.

The RIAA said in the press release that the pre-litigation settlement offer included lower fines than accused individuals would face if found guilty in court.

The RIAA began sending settlement letters to copyright infringers in February as part of an effort to crackdown on peer-to-peer file sharing on college campuses.

An e-mail sent by the University in March to students, staff and faculty said past settlements for University students averaged between $4,000 and $4,500. These students, though, were not offered pre-litigation terms.

The RIAA settlement letters allow accused users 20 days to contact the trade group – students who were issued notices on April 11 had until May 1 to accept the settlement or face a lawsuit.

Jack Bernard, the University’s assistant general counsel, said he didn’t know how each of the 23 students who were issued the notices decided to respond.

“No one followed up with me and said they were going to settle,” he said.

Bernard forwarded the settlement letters to the students in April.

The lawsuits are filed under the name “John Doe” until the trade group issues a subpoena to the University requesting the identities of the network users in question. By law, the University must comply with the RIAA’s request if the subpoena is valid.

“If it’s not a valid subpoena, we’ll send it back,” Bernard said.

Bernard said last winter that the University has rejected some past subpoenas from the RIAA after determining they were invalid.

The University will only trace the IP addresses in question if the subpoena’s validity is confirmed, Bernard said.

He said he does not know when the University will receive subpoenas for the accused copyright infringers’ identities.

Before the RIAA can subpoena the University for network users’ names, it must file the “John Doe” lawsuits. Bernard said the trade group could have issued the subpoenas at the same time it filed the lawsuit, but chose not to do so for reasons that remain unclear.

On April 11, 20 other universities also received pre-litigation settlement letters, but it is unknown if any lawsuits have been brought against recipients at those universities who chose not to settle.

By the Numbers

11 – of 23 alleged University copyright infringers that chose to settle with the RIAA from pre-litigation letters sent April 11

500 – of 1218 alleged copyright infringers that chose to settle with the RIAA from universities that received pre-litigation settlement letters in the first 3 batches of notices sent Feb. 28, March 21 and April 11.

Source: RIAA

How copyright infringers are caught

– Individual clients, often music labels, request services from a “monitor” – a company that tags and tracks media using special software.

– The monitors identify the IP addresses from which the tagged product was downloaded or uploaded and report back to the client with a list.

– Internet service providers are solicited for information on the identities of the users associated with each IP address.

– Monitors provide reports of the information they collect about users to their clients.

Source: A pre-litigation letter from Davenport Lyons firm

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