Mar 312004
 
Authors: Josh Huseby

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

to you.

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

Shockley-Zalabak.

“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

activity.

“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

stop.”

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last name will not be published for legal reasons, has downloaded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

pirate music.

“We will work with (the RIAA) to identify those students,”

Hutton said. “But we don’t know for sure that they are

students.”

 

CSU also has an Acceptable Use policy in place to govern network

activity.

“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

files.

“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

downloaded music.

The Harvard-UNC study showed a correlation between file sharing

and increased CD sales for popular albums – a finding supported by

Tyler.

“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

CD.

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

said.

 

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

different users.

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

providers?

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.”

 Posted by at 6:00 pm

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