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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 21, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

News

Students judicially referred for RIAA violations

The 20 students whose IP addresses were reported to Apogee last week by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for illegal file sharing have been judicially referred for violation of the college’s conduct code, according to Michael Leary, assistant director of judicial affairs.

Leary said Section III-C of the student conduct code holds students responsible for “misuse of computing resources and facilities, including collaboration, copying or plagiarizing assignments, unauthorized duplication of software, invasion of privacy, and theft of information.” He said consequences for this violation depend on the student’s judicial history.

“It’s a two-fold process,” he said. “It’s a judicial violation, but then there’s a whole other legal process.”

The students now have 14 days to respond to pre-litigation letters sent by the RIAA last week, notifying them of their copyright infringement and asking for a $3,000 settlement fee to avoid federal litigation. The college was one of 23 campuses targeted in the second round of the RIAA’s new copyright deterrence and education initiative, which aims to curb media trafficking on college campuses.

Sophomore Pamela Fioretti received a letter from the RIAA via e-mail last Friday, asking her to pay a settlement fee of $3,000 within 20 calendar days or face federal charges that could reach $750 for each downloaded song.

“I had heard of people getting in trouble for using LimeWire … but I never got a warning from judicial affairs,” she said. “Especially considering they’ve sent out hundreds of letters, I can’t believe it happened to me.”

Fioretti said she has not downloaded many songs, but because other LimeWire users can download and share songs through her IP address, the RIAA counted each download toward the 746 songs they listed in her letter.

The e-mail, sent by the law firm Holme Roberts & Owen, included a case number for the given IP address and instructions to pay settlements online at www.p2plawsuits.com.

In the last two weeks, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Maine — both recent targets of the RIAA initiative — refused to comply with the RIAA request. The University of Wisconsin said they would need a subpoena before releasing any student information, and the University of Maine said the RIAA’s request violates the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Apogee also refused to forward the letters, according to Dave Weil, director of Web, systems and departmental services.

The reason for the recent refusals is because of the difference between the old “takedown letters” and the new settlement notices, specifically the exclusion of parts of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) regulations in the new notices, Weil said. Passed in 1998, the act gives ISPs a safe harbor against copyright liability for their users’ activities. It also requires the disclosure of specific file information for infringement violations. The new settlement notices do not include the time or date of each file downloaded, Weil said.

“That’s the controversy,” Weil said. “It is not a valid DMCA notice, so legally, the ISP does not have to do it because [the RIAA notices do] not have all the information.”

The conflict the college faces, he said, is the RIAA’s ability to start a lawsuit by subpoena regardless of an ISP’s cooperation.

“By not passing the notice along, you deny the individual of making an informed choice about what they want to do,” Weil said.

Weil said the organization will target all users who violate copyright laws, regardless of the number of files they have downloaded. Of the 20 students recently notified by the RIAA, Weil said 13 had never been notified, but at least 7 had previously received takedown notices.

Regardless of a student’s view on the RIAA, Weil said, they must keep in mind that sharing files is against the law.

“Whether you agree with RIAA tactics or not, there are questions of legality,” he said. “Even though ‘everyone does it,’ copyright infringements are violations of the law, and there are consequences.”