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Record Industry Targets Students for File Sharing

Mills College Weekly

The Recording Industry Association of America, which filed more
lawsuits last week against illegal downloaders, is giving students
who share music a scare. Across the country cases of illegal
sharing are on the rise, some as close as UC Berkeley.

The RIAA is going after colleges throughout the U.S. Eighty-nine
students had lawsuits filed against them on March 30, accusing them
of illegally sharing copyrighted songs on file sharing networks
such as Kazaa or LimeWire; these 89 were out of a total of 532
lawsuits filed. The RIAA is targeting 21 campuses nationwide in
states ranging from California to New York. These schools include
UC Berkeley, Stanford, and the University of Southern

The RIAA is using the “John Doe” litigation process in order to
sue defendants whose names are unknown. The courts subpoena the ISP
address of the computer sharing files to get names of these
individuals, however, colleges are not obligated to give the names
of these addresses, according to Mills director of Central Systems
and Administrative Computing, Marshall Northcott.

“They are pressing colleges and universities to provide names
[of students] sharing files,” said Northcott. “At this point we
have no obligation to gives names from colleges. They are trying to
pass a law that would make campuses give names to the RIAA.”

The proposed law that Northcott refers to is the “Piracy
Deterrence and Education Act 2004,” recently approved by the House
Judiciary Subcommittee. If it is signed into law it will be the
first law to punish Internet music pirates with jail time. This law
targets those sharing over 1,000 copyrighted songs on any
peer-to-peer network.

If this bill is signed into law it would call on both the FBI to
create a Piracy Deterrence Program and the Justice Dept. to
initiate an anti-piracy education program. That alone would
authorize a $15 million budget for the department to use in 2005 in
order to prosecute the copyright file sharing cases.

No one has yet been convicted of a crime for file sharing. The
laws make it nearly impossible to prove that a file sharer is
guilty of a criminal offense. For a criminal offense to occur it
must be proven that the music pirate acted “willfully” in their
sharing. It must also be proven that distribution of the music is
for financial gain with a total retail value higher than

The average college student student has 1,100 illegally
downloaded music files on their computer, according to a survey of
over 1,000 students published in March by the Ruckus Network, a
company that offers legal downloads.

“I don’t share, but I do use it so I don’t want them to crack
down on people,” said freshwoman Laura Arvios. “People will find
ways to do it, so they [the RIAA] might as well get used to

Mills is taking precautions by educating and informing

“We are not trying to prevent, we are trying to educate
individuals on the implications if you do choose to file share,”
said Northcott. “Some schools do try to block file sharing. At this
point we are not required by law to block it.”

Northcott also went into detail about notifying students to stop
sharing files. “Mills’ obligation is to notify the person suspected
of the violation to stop sharing content. We don’t inspect, we
don’t judge copyrighted material from non-copyrighted material. The
second offense can lead to loss of computing privileges and [the
individual] is reported to a group on campus.”

Northcott does emphasize that while it is not his goal to judge
whether it is legal or not, it is his job to limit music sharing as
much as possible. Since the school year began, only two students
have been contacted about their file sharing. Last year no students
were notified because the problem wasn’t the issue that it is

Students say that although they know it’s wrong, it remains a
temptation. Sophomore Gloria Espinosa, says, “I know it’s like
stealing because I’m not paying. I don’t have that much money. If
it’s a CD of someone that I want then I’ll buy it.”

Arvios also said that, “I think it’s okay to a certain extent.
It’s good for small groups that get free advertisement so people
will go out and buy their whole CD. It’s making the music industry
more competitive.”