Music Downloads: $10,000 per song

Students who use peer to peer (P2P) file sharing to download files from other students on campus now have more reason to be wary.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has stepped up efforts to stop illegal music downloads at the College. According to Lynette Harris, director of Community Standards, the College has received 40 notices from RIAA since Aug. 26, close to double the approximately 25 it received all of the 2005-2006 academic year.

When RIAA identifies the Internet protocol (IP) address of a College user, it sends an e-mail to Harris, notifying her that the student associated with that IP address is downloading copyrighted music. Information Technology identifies the user and suspends the student’s Internet access. Harris then sets up a meeting with the student, where she explains the illegality and potential consequences of copyright infringement.

“We talk about how important knowledge about downloading is,” Harris said. “The meeting is more warning-based.”

After the meeting, the student’s Internet connection is restored and Harris notifies RIAA that she has met with the student. Harris then gives RIAA the student’s identity.

Harris said that while other companies have given notice to the College in the past, this year’s spike in complaints comes from Jeremy Landis, an online copyright protection officer with RIAA.

According to Harris, Landis’ complaints came as a result of students using the Ares/Warez P2P program.

Several calls to Landis for comment were not returned by press time.

It is unclear who specifically is being targeted – the College or users of Ares/Warez – or if the increased efforts by RIAA are part of its normal enforcement program.

According to Harris, some students said their use of Ares/Warez had occurred some time ago or had only been occasional.

She emphasized that even if a student isn’t downloading files, the student’s connection may be used to send files to other users.

“Even if they haven’t used it in some time, the capability (to have files downloaded) is still available,” Harris said.

Harris said some students claimed they had removed the program from their computers, but later found out that it had reactivated itself. She encouraged students to work with ResNet to ensure the program is completely removed.

According to Harris, after the initial warning there are few repeat offenders. While RIAA could sue individual students for damages up to $10,000 per song after the initial warning, Harris said that no students have been sued so far.

In addition to action by RIAA, students could face campus disciplinary action with punishments ranging from disciplinary probation and temporary suspension of Internet privileges to complete loss of Internet privileges.

According to press releases from RIAA, RIAA uses automated programs to log onto P2P networks and download copyrighted music from other users. After a human identifies the music as copyrighted and determines the user is worth pursuing, RIAA sends a subpoena to the user’s Internet service provider, or in the College’s case, a notice to the College, to discover the identity of the user. RIAA will also take a screen shot of the program being used to download music.

While P2P is not illegal in itself, it is illegal to download copyrighted music from other computers without the permission of the copyright holder.

College campuses have traditionally been a haven for file sharers. Students have fast connection speeds. College-aged students generally see file sharing as more permissible than other age groups.