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September 21, 2023

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Pirating Music

The Recording Industry Association of America has sent out 411 more subpoenas to college campuses to threaten students who illegally share music files.

A couple of weeks ago lawsuit letters were sent out to 19 universities, including the University of Michigan, Indiana University and Northern Illinois University, proving college campuses are one of the RIAA’s biggest targets.

The record industry finds illegal downloaders by hiring investigators to download music on peer to peer file-sharing applications, which allows them to see what computer they are receiving the files from, says Rodney Fleming, managing attorney for Student Legal Services.

‘They go to these sites and download music from your computer and that gives them an IP address that they can trace,’ Fleming said.

If the crime can be traced to a college campus they send subpoenas asking them to identify students, whose computers have been identified to contain the illegally obtained files.

The letter universities receive basically states, ‘We don’t know who these individuals are but they came from IP addresses on your campus, can you forward this to these individuals,’ Fleming said.

Although Fleming is unsure if the University has received any letters, he knows some university students have received them at their homes.

People convicted of copyright infringement through illegal file-sharing are generally asked to settle for around $3,000 to$5,000 within around 20 days of receiving the letter, Fleming says.

‘What the settlement letter basically says is we believe you have illegally downloaded a certain number of songs or made songs available to download from your computer,’ Fleming said.

The short window of time to pay the settlement and the money needed for an attorney puts students in a bind.

‘Most people if they feel like they’ve done something wrong then they are going to try and settle the case, but if not they will file a lawsuit in federal court through the subpoena process and try to extract even more money from them,’ Fleming said.

‘$3,000 is a significant amount of money,’ Fleming said. ‘It could be the difference between whether a student goes to school next semester.’

Defending one’s self against copyright infringement is not easy unless they didn’t actual commit the crime, Fleming says.

‘Just the time and money to hire an attorney to defend you would be incredible,’ he said. ‘It’s very difficult to defend from a practical and legal standpoint.’

In October, a Minnesota woman named Jammie Thomas who tried to fight the record industry’s subpoena ended up having to pay $222,000 for having 24 illegally downloaded songs on her computer. Equaling out to $9,250 per song.

In order to avoid being served a subpoena, Fleming says, students need to remove any peer-to-peer applications and the files downloaded from them.

Shaun Terhune, senior, chooses to download his music legally by paying money to download songs on iTunes.

‘I’m happy paying for it fair and square,’ Terhune said.

Other students like Andrew Darr, junior, choose to download songs illegally but still support the record industry by buying CD’s.

‘I buy CD’s for artists I really like but I’ll download certain songs because it’s pointless to buy a whole CD if there is only one song I like on it,’ Darr said.

The RIAA’s threats haven’t scared Darr away from illegal downloading yet but it could if one of his friends were caught.

‘If someone I knew got subpoenaed I would probably stop,’ Darr said.

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