The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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RIAA lawsuits won’t stop illegal downloading

Every one knows someone who has downloaded music illegally, and probably has themselves. And I’m pretty sure student downloading hasn’t diminished all that much when the Recording Industry Association of America, or RIAA, first began to crack down on illegal downloading by suing, among others, old ladies without computers, or even worse, the deceased.

But the RIAA must have caught on to student’s love of saving money on music by downloading because they have issued 400 pre-lawsuit notices to 13 universities, including USC, asking for the universities to release the names of students whose IP addresses are linked to illegal file sharing.

The notices offer students 20 days to settle their case at a “substantial discount,” as the RIAA says. Otherwise, get ready for the full force of RIAA lawyers and litigation, so they might recoup the “devastating” effects of downloading.

It seems like extortion. “Pay us money now, and we won’t be too mean to you.”, the site where a student can pay the discounted settlement, has an FAQ which says that these lawsuits are designed to “recoup a very small piece of the massive damage inflicted on the music community as a result of piracy.” I wonder how much the administrative and legal costs the RIAA is paying for these lawsuits in comparison to how much they’re getting back.

By their own admission, these legal actions aren’t going to make up the money they’ve lost. The point is to scare the users into paying a pre-set sum in hopes that they won’t have to pay even more.

I’ve never known any school to condone illegal downloading, but the schools also have a responsibility to the students under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, which protects student records privacy.

Instead of going after broke college students, which is why we end up downloading in the first place, maybe the RIAA and recording industry should instead look to change the system of how we receive our music. The initial threats of litigation didn’t stop anyone from downloading and I doubt these notices to universities is going to slow it much either.

In fact, some are fighting the RIAA and winning their lawsuits. In Jan. 2007, a 29-year-old nursing student, Tenise Barker, counter-sued, moving to dismiss the case on the grounds that the RIAA’s suit had a lack of specificity and that making songs available did not constitute copyright infringement. They are currently awaiting the judge’s decision.

In another case, in 2005, Patricia Santangelo was able to get the lawsuit her dismissed. However, the RIAA then moved the suit against her children.

Perhaps the most tactless thing the RIAA has said yet is a representative telling a MIT student accused of file-sharing, “the RIAA has been known to suggest that students drop out of college or go to community college in order to be able to afford settlements.” Way to convert people to your side, RIAA.

The RIAA is right to send on these letters and try to prosecute illegal file sharing, as much as it grieves me to say it. On its basest level, yes, downloading is stealing because it’s taking a product without paying for it. But instead of sending a few hundred letters to a handful of universities, the RIAA needs to broaden their litigation.

Until everyone who downloads is caught and prosecuted, we’ll all continue to download, hoping we’re the ones who won’t get caught.

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