The message is clear – if you pirate music, you will face the
consequences, and as five, yet to be named individuals at the
University of Northern Colorado and three at the University of
Colorado at Colorado Springs are about to find out, it can happen
The Recording Industry Association of America, the company that
represents the music and recording industry, has brought their
crusade to end music piracy to two Colorado campuses.
In a letter to UNC President Kay Norton, dated March 22 and
obtained by the Collegian through a CSU marketing professor, the
president of the RIAA, Cary Sherman, notified the university that
five of the university’s network users are being targeted in the
most recent round of John Doe Lawsuits filed by the RIAA.
A similar message was sent to UCCS Chancellor Pam
“We will cooperate and assist the RIAA in any way we can,” said
Tom Hutton, director of university relations at UCCS.
According to Hutton, in order to receive access to the
university’s network all users sign an Acceptable Use Agreement
that states the university network is not to be used for illegal
“The IT department runs spot checks to monitor who is
downloading large amounts of materials,” Hutton said. “If we notice
large amounts of downloads, we send them a notice asking them to
Similar steps are taken at UNC if a network user is red flagged
for downloading large amounts of material.
“Our policy is to notify the student and tell them they need to
stop or they will be disconnected,” said Gloria Reynolds, director
of media relations at UNC.
One UNC student, Tyler, 21, junior communication major, whose
last name will not be published for legal reasons, has downloaded
2,152 songs since becoming a student at UNC.
“I download a lot of music,” said Tyler, who isn’t that worried
about being targeted by the RIAA. “They could come after me, but
they don’t have much they can take from me.”
That, however, is not the purpose of these lawsuits, said Amanda
Collins, a representative for the RIAA.
“The goal is to send a message that this action is illegal and
there are consequences,” she said.
According to Collins those consequences can range from $750 to
$150,000 per song per infringement.
That means that if Tyler downloads one song and then 10
different users download that song from Tyler he will be charged a
minimum of $750 for all 11 downloads totaling $8,250.
However Collins said that the RIAA is “open to settlements.” In
fact, the RIAA has settled more than 400 cases to date, with an
average settlement of $3,000.
The lawsuits are appropriately named John Doe suits because the
RIAA does not have the names of the individuals being targeted.
What they do have is Internet Protocol addresses.
“There are legal means by which (the RIAA) can request those
names,” said Reynolds, who warned that while UNC will not offer
students up, the university will fully cooperate with the law.
But students are not the only potential targets in this suit.
Anyone who has access to a high bandwidth network can use it to
“We will work with (the RIAA) to identify those students,”
Hutton said. “But we don’t know for sure that they are
CSU also has an Acceptable Use policy in place to govern network
“We follow the DMCA,” said Mary Ellen Sinnwell, who is director
of residence life with housing and dining services.
The DMCA is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. The
act, signed into law by former President Bill Clinton, prohibits
the distribution of copyrighted material on peer-to-peer networks,
an electronic file sharing system that allows its users to share
“We need to adhere to that as a university and also in our
residence halls,” Sinnwell said. “Based on activity, a student’s
system could be shut off immediately.”
One CSU student had his network access cut off last August for
violating the university’s Acceptable Use policy.
“I set up a bunch of downloads, one for the extended trailer for
the Austin Powers movie,” said Josh, 21, a political science major
whose last name will not be used for legal reasons. Josh said what
he thought was a trailer turned out to be the full film.
“It had been uploaded over 100 times, and that’s a conservative
estimate,” Josh said.
The Motion Picture Association of America notified the
university that his IP addresses had been the source of numerous
downloads. The university intern then notified Josh to stop
downloading and shut off his connection.
“The only recourse was I (I said) won’t do it again and they
said they would keep monitoring me,” Josh said. “I’ve stopped
because I don’t want to risk it.”
Not everyone feels the same way.
“My friends are like ‘It won’t happen to me,'” Josh said.
But it happened to Josh and it is happening to users on networks
at UNC and UCCS.
Still, the RIAA insists it is not trying to punish anyone.
“We’re defending our rights and taking measured and appropriate
action,” Collins said.
Collins said litigation against individual users is only a part
of the RIAA’s campaign to curb music piracy.
“We currently have suits pending against Grokster, Aimster,
Kazaa and Morpheus,” Collins said.
The ultimate goal is to lower the levels of piracy to a point
were the music industry isn’t affected, according to Collins.
But some questions about the affect piracy has on mainstream
music sales have recently arisen. A study, originally reported by
The Washington Post, conducted by professors at Harvard and The
University of North Carolina said there is no direct connection
between the recent drop in record sales and the increase in
The Harvard-UNC study showed a correlation between file sharing
and increased CD sales for popular albums – a finding supported by
“I’ll hear a song and then download a few songs from that
artist,” Tyler said.
If he likes what he hears Tyler said he would often buy the
In this world of pop stars, over-produced singles and music
videos, many consumers are wary of paying for an album with only
one good song.
“I’m not going to risk spending $18 for one song,” Josh
But why is the RIAA so hell bent on stopping piracy? As with so
many things, a lot of it comes down to money.
The average CD costs between $15 and $20. That averages out to
one dollar per song. Tyler has $2,152 or roughly 140 CDs worth of
music on his computer.
That’s not all though, add one dollar to that each time another
user downloads a song from Tyler, because that is one dollar the
recording industry isn’t making. If 10 different users download
each song that’s $215,200.
Now imagine that each of the 10 users who downloaded songs from
Tyler, each shared their new songs, not to mention the songs they
had previous to their encounter with Tyler, with 10 completely
That’s millions of dollars worth of copyrighted material being
spread for free across peer-to-peer networks. Is there another
route the RIAA can take to protect their intellectual property,
other than filing lawsuits against users and software
According to Collins it’s not that simple.
“We’re working on a multi-faceted, new business plan,” Collins
said. “There’s no one silver bullet to combat music piracy.”