Following numerous lawsuits against Internet users suspected of
file-sharing, the record industry will soon subpoena the University
for the names of students allegedly sharing music illegally.
In January, the Recording Industry Association of America filed
suit against 532 individuals nationwide, many of them college
students. The suits, called “John Doe” lawsuits, are
against users identified only by their Internet protocol addresses.
RIAA is subpoenaing the University for the names of the students
under its network.
“We are waiting to receive them,” Assistant General
Counsel Jack Bernard said, who added that the subpoenas will most
likely come within the week.
The University has already notified those who may receive
subpoenas. Bernard said about nine students will be subpoenaed.
If the subpoenas are “substantively and procedurally
valid,” the University will follow the law and release the
names of the individuals, Bernard said. Subpoenas compel their
recipients to release important information for an intended trial.
Since RIAA has presumably filed suit against these users, that
information is the student’s name.
“These are very difficult subpoenas to refuse,”
The University always disputes subpoenas unless they are valid
and will not release information unless the subpoenas pass legal
muster, Bernard said.
The sued students could either go to court or likely settle out
of court. Settlements can vary in size, especially since legal
challenges have increased RIAA’s costs. But RIAA spokesman
Jonathan Lamy said the average settlement is $3,000. This amount is
also contingent upon how many files a student shared.
Recently, the federal court ruled that RIAA had to file its
suits individually. It had previously filed collective suits.
Whether or not RIAA followed this procedure will affect whether the
University will release the students’ names.
But Lamy said this ruling, issued in Philadelphia, did not
affect the vast majority of its lawsuits.
The 532 targeted users uploaded on average 837 songs. Most
individuals who face potential lawsuits share a large number of
files, but downloading and sharing even one copyrighted file is
“We want to be fair and reasonable. The intent here is not
to make money, nor is the intent to win a lawsuit,” Lamy
said. “The goal is simply to send a message of deterrence,
that this activity is illegal, that it can have consequences (and)
that if digital music is what you want, turn to the great legal
alternatives that are available,” he added.
Students can take precautions to avoid participating in illegal
activity. File-sharing programs like Kazaa have an option to
disable the uploading of files. But many students, administration
officials say, are not aware of this option.
RIAA uses a simple technology called webcrawler to scan IP
addresses for copyrighted material, but if a student is not sharing
or uploading files, then RIAA cannot view the material on a
Sharing files online can be legal as long as the material is not
copyrighted, but most files are copyrighted.
Administration officials said they will strive to protect the
rights of its students, but it must do what is legal.
“We will of course comply with the law,” Associate
Provost James Hilton said. “Violation of copyright laws is a
violation of our own computing policies.”