The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has sent 124 takedown notices to Ithaca College students this semester, warning them to remove illegally obtained or shared music from their computers.
David Weil, director of Web, Systems and Departmental Services, said takedown notices are a provision in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) allowing the copyright holder to notify people they see sharing or downloading files.
Mike Leary, assistant director of judicial affairs, said receiving a takedown notice means facing potential consequences from judicial affairs.
“Since illegal downloading and file sharing is considered a violation of the law, we have to enforce the law like we’d enforce drinking under 21 or smoking marijuana,” Leary said.
Last March, 20 students received pre-settlement letters warning them of the RIAA’s plans to sue. Leary said these letters had never been sent to the college before.
“That was kind of a new tactic by the recording industry,” he said. “You know, we had never had any of those before.”
Leary said the 13 or 14 students who settled out of court paid about $3,000 to $4,000 dollars to the RIAA, not including legal fees.
A copy of a pre-settlement letter from the law firm Holme Roberts and Owen LLP said in a lawsuit, the minimum damage amount per song is $750. Weil said no pre-settlement letters have been issued so far this semester.
Since 2003, the college has received approximately 895 takedown notices. Leary said the college received 551 takedown notices last year, which is 61.5 percent of the total notices the college has received in almost five years.
“Two [or] three years ago we hardly got any of these, but last year was a huge jump,” Leary said.
Weil said the RIAA sends notices to a student’s IP address. Apogee matches up the IP address with the student and then forwards the notice to the student.
Chuck Brady, Apogee CEO and founder, said Apogee’s role is to forward notices between the RIAA and students.
“We’re not involved in the verification or determining the validity of these DMCA requests,” he said.
Brady said students have several options when they reply to the Internet service provider.
“We require that they respond back to us with either that they’ve removed the offending material or that they have a copyright, or I guess they could also say that ‘that wasn’t me,’ that’s a third option,” Brady said.
Leary said students have three days to notify Apogee after receiving a takedown notice.
Brady said the notices are only accusations, not charges.
“They’re not letters from a law enforcement agency,” he said. “RIAA is a private organization.”
Weil said students who illegally download or share music face consequences from Apogee as well as judicial affairs. Students who receive multiple takedown notices — three or more — may lose their Resnet connections for a semester.
“If a student receives a number of these notices, then they can risk losing their network connection for a period of time,” Weil said.
Brendan Kimball, a freshman music education and voice major, received a takedown notice Sept. 28 for the song “Sugarland” by Everyday America. He has LimeWire, a file-sharing program, on his computer. He said he has never used it.
“If I honestly did it, I wouldn’t mind because I was in the wrong, and they caught me,” Kimball said.
The takedown notice confused Kimball, since he had never even heard of the song or band before, and he replied to Apogee to report the mistake.
“I sent [Apogee] an e-mail back that was basically like, I’m sure there’s a clerical error, you might want to check that,” he said.
On Friday, the Office of Judicial Affairs dropped the charges against Kimball, suspecting that someone hacked into LimeWire with his IP address.
Junior Hunter Zager received a takedown notice Sept. 26 for the song “Teenagers” by My Chemical Romance. She said she had the song on her computer, most likely from a CD, but did not acquire it through LimeWire. She said she had only loaded the program onto her computer a day or two before.
“The song I’m being accused for is one that I have on my computer, but it’s still random,” she said. “I have it, but I didn’t share it, which is what I’m being accused of.”
Zager said she is very meticulous about computer security because of the dangers of viruses and file sharing.
“I would not share files,” she said. “I don’t want things coming into my computer that aren’t legit.”
LimeWire gives users the option to not share files on their computer and Zager used that option. She said she is worried other files on her computer could get her into trouble.
“I don’t know what can make you guilty and what makes you innocent,” she said. “But at this point, I’m ready to erase my entire music library just because I’m so terrified of what e-mail they’re going to send me next.”
Zager said she believes LimeWire can be confusing and misleading for users.
“You don’t even know what you’re getting when you download it, I mean, how do you know what’s legal and what’s not?” she said.
Leary said the college will continue to educate students through posters and fliers about the dangers of illegal downloading in hopes of preventing further action against students.
Weil said so far this semester, the college has not received any pre-settlement letters, which he said appear to be sent out once a month, but he is still concerned about student conduct.
“These takedown notices … indicate that students are still actively engaged in this type of behavior of sharing these files and therefore are putting themselves at risk to potentially receiving a settlement letter,” he said.