After months of anticipation, the University received a subpoena
from the Recording Industry Association of America last week, which
may require the University to turn over the names and contact
information of nine students who allegedly used illegal file
sharing programs to upload files.
“The subpoenas were received at the end of last week, and
we notified the students before media. The RIAA originally sent
(the University) notice of intent to subpoena students they said
were illegally distributing their music files,” said
University spokeswoman Julie Peterson.
The University now has 21 days to respond to the subpoenas,
during which they will decide if the subpoena is valid.
“Essentially we have three weeks to comply with the
subpoena, and if it is valid, we’ll have to comply —
that’s what we’ll have to do. There isn’t really
a choice in the matter,” said University Assistant General
Counsel Jack Bernard.
In order to determine whether or not the subpoena is valid,
Bernard said the University will read through the subpoena and
assess both what it is asking for, and what law it uses to request
RIAA issued the subpoena under the “John Doe”
litigation, because they do not currently have access to the nine
student names and contact information and can only identify the
students by their Internet protocol address.
“We thought we would be getting these much earlier —
originally in December when (the University) received the first
notice,” Bernard said.
The RIAA announced last Wednesday that 477 new lawsuits were
brought against alleged illegal file sharers. In addition, 69 of
the lawsuits were against people using University networks.
Fourteen schools, including the University of Michigan, were cited
as having illegal users.
“It remains as important as ever that we continue to work
with the University community in a way that is respectful of the
law as well as University values,” said RIAA President Cary
Sherman in a written statement.
But both Peterson and Bernard agree that the University would
prefer to take an educational approach to the situation, and
encourage clarification of questions surrounding file sharing.
“We’ve encouraged the RIAA to let us continue taking
our educational approach instead of taking a litigational approach,
but they have chosen to take the litigation strategy,”
“We have consistently had educational programs since
Napster first came on the scene, and I anticipate that we will
continue this because this is just an issue of our times,”
“Our faculty and their colleagues have very provocative
ways of thinking about issues regarding file sharing.”
ResComp Director Jeffry Wright said ResComp plans to slightly
alter the educational program it sponsors during summer
“The main change we’re planning at this point is
that we’ll actually mention that some University of Michigan
students were subpoenaed. It’s a real risk, not something
that we’re saying just to scare people,” Wright
He added that ResComp will sponsor programs in the fall to
promote computer smart and safe computing.
“We’ve been doing something about file sharing or
being a bandwidth hog for at least three or four years. We’re
just tweaking it a bit to make known the fact that actual students
got subpoenas,” Wright said.