p2pnet news | RIAA News:- If I was going to do a Wouldn’t it be cool …? list for 2008, this would be at the top:
Wouldn’t it be cool if Mitch Bainwol, Cary Sherman, Jonathan Lamy and all the others who work for the RIAA figured out there are decent ways of earning a living, leaving the Big 4 labels, Warner Music, EMI, Vivendi Universal and Sony BMG, to stew in their own juice?
Never happen and meanwhile, these and other RIAA spin doctors are raking it in as they come up with new ways to pillory the people who ultimately pay their salaries.
In 2003 they launched their bizarre sue ‘em all marketing campaign with the Big 4′s own customers as targets, this year switching their attention to students in universities and colleges across America.
It works like this: the RIAA has already successfully turned scores of US schools into de facto sales and enforcement divisions with administrators and teachers as staff, paid for by federal and state allocations and parent fees.
Having gotten school authorities used to the idea that corporate entities, answerable only to their shareholders, have a right to an upfront and functional place in America’s educational system, they’ve moved the campaign up a large notch, sending specious extortion letters to universities, demanding they threaten students on the RIAA’s behalf.
And many of the schools are, disgracefully, falling over themselves to cooperate, completely ignoring their students’ welfare and well-being.
Thus, at the end of 2007, some four thousand (and rising) young men and women at US schools are worrying about RIAA threats and harassment instead of concentrating on their studies. And no one Bush administration gives a damn. Instead, they’re actively encouraging and helping the Big 4 with the likes of congressman Hollywood Howard Berman infamously leading the way.
‘The RIAA’s frivolous steps of coercion’
But not all the universities are caving in and the latest school to decide it exists to benefit its students, not the Big 4 labels, is the University of Maine, the first senior US teaching institution to the assign law students to actively help other students persecuted by the RIAA.
Hannah Ames and Lisa Chmelecki, studying at the University of Maine School of Law’s Cumberland clinic, are now officially representing two Maine students, supervised by U of M associate professor Deirdre Smith.
On December 3, well before the news broke, second-year English major Kyle Kernan (right) posted on The Main Campus.
Under the headline University should not succumb to RIAA’s strong-arm tactics, he wrote >>>
Four months ago, I received an e-mail on FirstClass from a lawyer who represented the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The letter implicated my IP address here at the University of Maine in copyright infringement and said that the user of this address had to pay a $3,000 settlement or await the RIAA to bring the case to federal court, where he or she would be asked to settle for an amount of $250,000.
They did not know my name; they just had an IP address. The first e-mail I received was not even a direct subpoena, but a threatening letter that was directed through the IT Department and then to me. The letter from the RIAA came as an attachment on the e-mail from an IT representative who wrote me a message riddled with ambiguity.
The IT member, representing the University of Maine, presented me with no clear explanation as to the validity of this letter; they simply wrote to me, “view this message with extreme acknowledgment and consideration.” The IT Department, I thought, found this e-mail to be a scam, and my family and friends thought the same as well. If I was being sued due to downloading music, wouldn’t I be given a hard copy through the mail about it, and addressed to my name? Wouldn’t I even be given a warning?
A few weeks ago I received another letter notifying me that the university had to give the RIAA my name and information and the settlement had now reached $4,000. These are just a few examples of the RIAA’s frivolous steps of coercion.
Dean of Students Robert Dana had notified me that the RIAA could sue the university if they did not release the names. However, based upon my research, the RIAA has never sued a university.
The RIAA is also monopolizing their efforts by obtaining the most amount of money possible by pooling these John Does together in one subpoena. This is illegal based upon the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 20. The University of Maine should account for this rule and throw out the RIAA’s subpoena on students until they come after their IP addresses individually.
I was accused of having two IP addresses. I’m aware now that one of these addresses could have been from a wireless router. This means that I will be responsible for whatever songs these individuals download through the wireless connection I am linked to.
I am an avid music fan. I’ve spent probably $500 on CDs, and have purchased many albums based upon artists’ songs I downloaded on LimeWire. This is even more upsetting because many bands elect to put their music on YouTube or MySpace for people to listen to for free. How is LimeWire any different?
There are many ways to make an example out of someone, but what the RIAA is doing is unjust. College students’ futures could be in jeopardy from this. Some are forced to file bankruptcy – all because they decided to download Kanye’s slammin’ new jam. Shame on you. If the music is distributed by a downloader, charges could go up to the million-dollar range in damages.
In the book “A Civil Action,” a true-life story, families sued W.R. Grace for causing their children to die from leukemia and other illnesses because the company had knowingly polluted the town’s water supply by dumping toxic chemicals in local ponds and sewers. Each family was given less than $500,000 dollars for the settlement, after small-firm lawyer Jan Schlichtmann had lost everything. How do the deaths of children compare with downloading music illegally in a civil court room?
There is something undeniably wrong with our justice system. Companies like the RIAA are affluent enough to hire the most expensive lawyers, which gives them enough freedom to brush past our due process rights. I cannot stand for the RIAA breaking our rights and calling for outrageous sums of money from college students, and universities should not either.
‘Restrict the RIAA’s access to data on students ‘
Six days later, The Main Campus ran another story, this time slugged GSS seeks to limit RIAA access to data.
It said the General Student Senate (GSS) approved a resolution saying it’ll help protect students from harassment.
With that in mind, it passed two resolutions: one making amendments to the constitution; and, the other reforming the Student Government (UMSG) election process.
Says the story >>>
The resolution, proposed by Vice President of Student Entertainment Derek Mitchell, will change the method in which the Information Technology Center stores student’s online history. This would restrict the RIAA’s access to data on students using the campus internet.
The RIAA has been pursuing financial settlements with students they allege are guilty of illegally sharing copyrighted materials, usually through file-sharing services like LimeWire.
The senate resolution calls for a change in the university’s data management structure – the manner that the IT Center distributes internet addresses – requesting an alteration in how often a student’s IP address is renewed.
The University of Maine’s current policy supplies students with a single address for an entire academic year, making it possible for the RIAA to subpoena records of student’s online actions, including Web sites visited and files downloaded. Under the new resolution, a student will receive a new IP address periodically throughout the year. Because no records of the IP addresses would be kept, there would be limited information available in the case of a subpoena, which senators said would help to protect students from RIAA prosecution.
“The RIAA’s underhanded tactics have cost students across the country thousands and thousands – potentially millions – of dollars. UMaine needs to act to prevent this from happening to our fellow students,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell described the policies that other institution’s have developed to protect students such as regulations that help to impede the RIAA’s persistent monitoring.
Hopefully, other US universities will follow Maine’s examplae.
For now, stay tuned.
Jon Newton – p2pnet
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