Students Dropping Out Of School To Pay RIAA Settlement Fees?

from the educational-campaign,-huh? dept

You may recall a couple years ago that an RIAA representative suggested that an MIT student should drop out of school and get a job in order to pay the fine it was demanding she pay for sharing some music. Now, according to the associate dean of student development at the University of Wisconsin, some students are doing exactly that: “Some students have had to drop out of school in order to pay for their legal fees.” No examples or proof is given, so I’m wondering if this is just a throw-away line.

However, if it is true, it would be interesting to hear from some of those students, and to see how the RIAA responds to the situation. No matter how much you might think the RIAA is right to enforce copyright law against students, I’m curious to see if anyone can reasonably defend encouraging a student to drop out of college just to pay off such a fine. The punishment seems way out of line with the “crime.”

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: riaa

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Students Dropping Out Of School To Pay RIAA Settlement Fees?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
RD says:

Welcome to the New America!

Should this be any surprise? There is only one thing that runs the world anymore: GREED. If you owe someone money, for any reason, they will come after you and take it. They will come after you in all ways possible, to the exclusion of reason, fairness, devoid of any sense of honor. You owe money? PAY or else. Dont eat, have a place to live, clothe yourself, or pay any OTHER debt, borrow from someone else, but pay US. This is how the New America works. Those who are the HAVES can enforce onerous and life-destroying terms on anyone beneath their bootheel. Cant afford to pay your debt? Sell your house, move to a cheaper place. Put it on a credit card. Borrow from a bank, borrow from family, borrow from your 401k. Cancel your cable, turn off your lights, and eat less food. Yes, these are ACTUAL SUGGESTIONS from their scumbag collection agencies. If you dont capitulate, kiss your credit goodbye. Wage and bank account garnishment. Want to work out a payment plan? Tough, we expect it all right now or we ruin you. We are slowly becoming a nation of indentured servants. There are no practical protections against those who have money, power and greed. No one looks out for you, because the attitude is you were “irresponsible” and got yourself into this trouble, so F-U you deserve it, regardless of whether or not its fair to ruin your life over just owing some money. This sort of behavior is encouraged by coporations and the Govt could care less as they are in the pockets of the rich.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Welcome to the New America!

Yes, welcome. No one is responsible for their own actions. The mortgage company gave me a mortgage for a house that I knew I couldn’t afford. We don’t need to make quality cars, but just convince people they are unamerican if they buy foreign cars. It is everyone else did this to me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Welcome to the New America!

If they wanted to make high quality cars which everyone wanted, they would have found a way.

But they decided to make cheap cars to maximize profit, which unfortunately, no one wanted. Ergo, shareholder value was superseded value delivered to the customer. Shareholders were in control, not the customer.

Today, there are no customers, and a surplus of angry shareholders.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Welcome to the New America!

They want to transfer all the wealth from the Baby Boomer Generation to their income statements.

It’s no secret that bankruptcies are on the rise. I can count the number of people I know that filed bankruptcy on two hands. Each has their own story, and in every case, it’s not that they wanted to declare bankruptcy, but it was because the collection agents would interfere in one way or another with the people’s means of production, usually by harassment, defamation, slander, and lies shared with HR agents at employers.

Another common thread I hear is that bankruptcy was the best thing that they’ve ever done. Should bankruptcy cases spike, or become the means to an end– (A net positive effect which would enable a person to be a productive and good influence in society) I imagine stories would become more common, get out into the mainstream, there would probably be some legislative policy changes to the predatory nature of these companies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Welcome to the New America!

I believe that RD has a valid point. I don’t think people I know from all walks of life, people I’ve known for 3, 4, 5 years deliberately sabotage their future by filing bankruptcy unless there’s something else that interferes with their means of production.

Perhaps you should seek out some of these people who are considering or have already walked through bankruptcy process and listen to some of their stories and why they believe it was the only way out. For some the root cause was medical bills, others it was an unfortunately timed layoff, or some additional unplanned expense- perhaps a car repair. Bad luck.

You may be surprised. Unemployment numbers came in for October, and 250,000 people were laid off, this was probably because some companies are struggling to even understand their own identity. The unemployment figure is a massive storm coming through the pipeline, and I don’t think you understand the downstream economic impact of even 1% of these good, hardworking folks considering bankruptcy as a last resort.

From a CxO level, the best thing that can be done is to emulate that which our President Elect did to get in–

Listen. Listen to everyone, and base your long-term strategy upon that input. The cream will rise to the top in the next 4 years.

Matt says:

Re: Re: Re: Welcome to the New America!

Cry me a river with all this “bad luck” stuff. I have well over 6 months of pay in liquid assets just in case “bad luck” happens. I bet the people you know that had to declare bankruptcy didn’t have anything close to that. Whereas you call it “bad luck”, I call it “poor planning”.

Are you in a situation where if you got sick you’d be screwed? Do you have kids to take care of that you can’t afford if you lost your job? Are you so un-skilled that you couldn’t find another job immediately? All these things mean you need to reevaluate your situation. Living paycheck to paycheck? Cut the cable, cut the internet, buy cheaper food, don’t have kids, turn the thermostat up/down a little, drive slower, don’t go out to eat, stop buying CDs (actually, just stop buying crap that you don’t need), sell your house and move into an apartment, and STOP BITCHING. Somewhere along the line I can GAURANTEE you made a bad choice (most of the time it’s having kids when you can’t afford it or potentially couldn’t afford it if something happened). And yes, now you have to pay for it. It’s called life. It’s not fair. Anybody who tells you different is trying to sell you something.

Remember: people with uncontrollable debt is THE REASON YOUR 401(k) IS DOWN 30% (well, if you even have one). Thanks, deadbeats.

darkone says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Welcome to the New America!

Well, I don’t have kids. I’m not married. I don’t even date (that saves a lot of money). I do live in an apartment, and spent some time living with family. I don’t drive, I ride a bike. I did stop buying CDs. I am a skilled worker. But I didn’t have a 6 month cushion and it did take me a while to get another job, because I do happen to have a few rare health conditions. I could probably go on disablitiy, but I prefer to work instead. I did not file for bankruptcy, and I am slowly paying back the lenders who would let me out from under the vulturus collection agencies.
I don’t really get too many opportunities to save much money, because living past a couple of doctors life expectancy estimates tends to be a little expensive.

And for those few who think I should be darwined out (not saying your one of those), I do have a 134 on the standard IQ test and a genius level in visual intelligence score.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Welcome to the New America!

Remember: people with uncontrollable debt is THE REASON YOUR 401(k) IS DOWN 30% (well, if you even have one). Thanks, deadbeats.

No, Matt.
Don’t blame me for your inability to withdraw or close your 401(k). I did so last year and moved it to tangible precious assets such as Gold and Platinum. I’m doing quite well.

Sorry to hear of your monetary loss, but thanks for the info.

Twinrova says:

Re: Re: Re:2 For you, Matt

Excuse me, Matt, but are you 12 years old still leaving with your parents? You sure sound like you are.

Bad decisions, you say. Drop cable, buy cheaper food, and stuff we don’t need, you say.

Damn, you’re an idiot to say the least. Let me tell you my story and you tell me how I should have proceeded.

6 years ago, my wife and I worked steady jobs. At the time, we had two teenage children living with us. All was well. We didn’t go out to eat, didn’t spend our money on CD/DVDs, and had “tier 2” cable at the time, which was a mere $5/mo more than the standard local channel cable.

We also had 4 credit cards, each with LESS THAN $1000 balance, which we working to pay off. We paid $20/mo more than the minimum, which doesn’t sound like much, but when paying down, every bit helps. Just a note, these CCs each had $3000 at one time, and were obtained before my wife and I married. Call it “joined marriage debt”.

All was well until one day, I opened my CC statement to find our interest rate skyrocketed from 1.9% to 23.99%. I’ve NEVER been late with a payment, so I was shocked to see this.

After spending 2.5 hours on the phone, I was told the increase was due to “the company finding a competitor card on your credit report”. Wow, I guess those ToSes really covers every damn excuse to raise their rates.

I asked, but was denied, my original interest rate. Just a few days later, two other statements came in (both from the same company) which also indicated a percentage rate increase. I guess I figured out who the “competitor” was.

In addition to all this, natural gas prices spiked. Our $54/mo bill shot to $103/mo, which didn’t matter what my setting was on. Electricity went up, and gas was also increasing, which was pushed onto us by higher food prices.

So tell me where my option was to NOT file bankruptcy? We didn’t live beyond our means (buying used cars instead of new) so I’m curious where the hell you get off telling people they’re at fault.

Explain to me why my family had to pay these increases when our lifestyle didn’t change. Explain to me how a loaf of bread went from $0.99 to $1.49 overnight. Explain to me how my family was to keep book fees for the kids from jumping a staggering 52% that year.

Now explain to me how cutting costs would have helped me stay on track (believe me, I looked. Bankruptcy was the LAST thing I wanted to do).

What, you can’t? You can’t figure out a resolution to my situation? Of course you can’t, because you’re an idiot. All these actions weren’t just focused on my family, but millions more. After the new bankruptcy laws were changed, every credit card company raised their rates. EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM.

I will state filing for bankruptcy was the best damn thing I’ve ever done. Chapter 7, baby. Clear of all debt. How did we do this? Simple: The judge saw the above issues and my payment cycle. This is how that extra $20/mo saved our ass, because he saw we were making an attempt long before everything else increased. His statement to the CC companies (although no representatives were there, go figure) was classic. I should have taken a transcript of the case.

At any rate, you don’t sit there all smug and tell people they’re at fault when companies raise their rates due to “larger demand on supply”. You don’t tell people to buy “cheaper food” when gas price increases force prices to go up. You don’t tell people they’re wrong when standard yearly payraises are 3% while inflation skyrockets past 8%.

Go screw yourself. Don’t you dare tell me I was wrong in my purchases. I was the one consumer who did what I was supposed to do and ended up getting fucked over by the very companies I gave support to with my accounts.

Before I go, I just want to let you know, that after filing, we still pay our bills on time. We have NO credit cards (and will never get one again). And both our “new” cars were purchased used. We haven’t changed our lifestyle except for one area: My wife was fired from her job and decided not to return to work.

Now, my paycheck covers all the bills with money left over to buy that occassional CD/DVD (well, game, actually. I don’t buy CD/DVDs).

Take this information and learn from it. I would tread very lightly in your reply if you think I was “wrong” with my spending.

Good day, Matt.

Brad Eleven (profile) says:

Re: Welcome to the New America!

“There is only one thing that runs the world anymore: GREED.”

Consider that this is the only thing that has ever run the world. Maybe it wasn’t so obvious before, and maybe that’s because it wasn’t reported, or maybe you and I were too young, and naive, and idealistic.

I think the most effective course of action is to embrace and accept this. Rather than getting in on the game, let us undertake to know our enemies.

For example, AIG is in the news again today, thanks to an aggressive ABC affiliate in Phoenix. Let us redeploy the paparazzi and report on misbehaving corporations like they were misbehaving celebrities.

Ultimately, I think the best long-term strategy is to put them in the spotlight so we can keep laughing them off of the stage.

“You can’t really be strong until you see a funny side to things.” ~Ken Kesey, born 73 years ago yesterday

Jake says:

Mixed feelings here, I’m afraid. I don’t like the laws on file-sharing the way they’re written now, but if you knowingly break the law then you have to take the consequences. I don’t know if Mr Masnick intended that the subtext of this post be that certain groups get preferential treatment under the law because of their status, but it can easily be read that way, and that’s not a solution; even arguing that the maximum fines for unauthorised file-sharing be capped at a certain level risks losing sight of the big picture.

Matt says:

RE: Welcome to the New America!

I normally agree with most of the posts on here because I’d like to consider myself a soul-less digital pirate. However, going down the whole greed path gets a little on my nerves. Yes, the RIAA is basically a bunch of bullies that sues children, and they are suing over ambiguous things.

However, you bring up when “you owe someone money” they will “come after you in all ways possible, to the exclusion of reason, fairness, devoid of any sense of honor”. Of course they will, you deadbeat! What happened to the honor of paying back your debts? How fair is it to ignore your debts? Comments like that remind me of all the radio adds about “consolidating your debt” and the oppression of credit card companies. You deadbeats out there that can’t pay your debts need to be SLAPPED! It’s not credit card companies fault that you live beyond your means, it’s not the banks fault that you are such a dumbass that you can’t think for 2 seconds about what an Adjustable Rate Mortgage is. I have no sympathy for you half-wits that have no idea how to manage your money. Yeah, when people are owned money, they want it back. If your credit was so crappy that you had to get a credit card with 30% interest, don’t go crying when you can’t pay your frickin’ bills because of all the interest. It’s because of people not paying their debts that the economy is in the position that it is.

Luci says:

Re: RE: Welcome to the New America!

Sure, and it’s always people living beyond their means, right? Personal experience here says that’s a canard. There are all sorts of reasons that one winds up in debt. Medical, loss of job (mine was sent to India, so how is that my fault, again?), death in the family, etcetera ad nauseum. So, yeah. People need to learn how to handle their debt, but that by no means makes them deadbeats or losers. It isn’t the people in debt that are destroying the economy. Keep looking, deeper, you’ll find it’s a lot more complex than any person can explain in one tiny blog post.

Tyler B says:

Re: RE: Welcome to the New America!

I see your point but you must realize that not everyone in a financial crunch got there by being dumbasses. There are people who become ill and get swamped in medical bills and lose their homes. Not to mention the massive job loss across the country. I know people should save up for a rainy day. Many have but its just not enough due to the high cost of living. There are many other factors that contribute to this. Unfortunately the powers that be seem to share your views and apply the same judgment to everyone in these situations without distinction, which is wrong Just another side to compliment your one-sided argument.

Anonymous Coward says:

The RIAA hating is funny. Hey, you know what Microsoft has engaged in evil business practices in the past, we should boycott Microsoft. Oh and since Microsoft makes so much money from the internet we should boycott the internet.

By boycotting music you are hurting the musicians, you may hurt the RIAA in the process but untimately you are hurting the musicians.

RD, I think you suffer from a problem that is persistently getting worse. You seem to think that the world owes you something, that somehow you are a victim and that you shouldn’t be held accountable for your actions. I think this problem started with the children of the 70s (I am one of them). You are entitled to the “pursuit of happiness” not “garanteed happiness”. I am tired of people from my generation and now the next generation all claiming to be victims of society and how unfair everything is. My parent’s generation obviously didn’t do a good job preparing us for the realities of the world, and did an even worse job enstilling values in their children. Take responsibility for your actions, repay your loans, don’t spend more than you make, treat others as you would like to be treated, etc… These are the important life lessons that generations x and y have failed to learn.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

One can hope

Now, I do not expect him to listen to any of us at all, just because it would be the first time ever, but we can all submit our thoughts to Obama.

Write in a nice piece about wanting to see copyright laws revamped a little bit. I did.
Although, mine was more like a 4 page essay. Hopefully they coded well and I didn’t buffer overflow anything.

Lonnie E. Holder says:

Re: Parents should sue

While they are at it, they should also sue the owners of the store at the mall where their children were caught shop lifting. Then, they should sue the high school that refused to graduate their children because of a little thing like failing to attend class and pass course. Before we forget, they should also sue the local police and the courts for taking away their childrens’ licenses for getting caught DUI. After all, they are just innocent children out to have a little fun.

Then there are those other little things:

o Teepeeing houses (vandalism)
o Throwing beer bottles from their moving cars (littering)
o Attempting to purchase beer when younger than 21.
o Smoking (after all, lung cancer for a 16-year-old is YEARS down the road – that only ruins their lives decades after the fact…probably)

Rather than break the law, how about getting the law changed?

sniperdoc (profile) says:

GREED Rules it all?

@RD Ummm I can’t recall that it’s ever been ok for people to break the law. The law says and has always said that copyright infrigment will do the following:

In the U.S., the online infringement of copyrighted music can be punished by up to three years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Repeat offenders can be imprisoned up to six years. Individuals also may be held civilly liable, regardless of whether the activity is for profit, for actual damages or lost profits, or for statutory damages up to $150,000 per infringed copyright.

If you choose not the follow the law, then you are punishable to the full extent. To claim ignorance should be a double fine. People know it’s bad, don’t read up on the consequence of getting caught, and then say the crime doesn’t fit the punishment??? I say bullhonkey! It’s that inividual’s fault for breaking the law that’s been layed out before them. Crime doesn’t fit the punishment my arse.

Don’t ever try justifying this article in any way, because it’s complete malarky

Michael Long (user link) says:

Out of line?

Get caught swiping a $15 CD or DVD from a store, and you could get thrown in jail for the night, have to appear in court, fined $500, and sentenced to community service? Is that “out of line”?

Where I live there’s a $1,000 fine for dumping trash. Is that out of line? Well, let’s see. The likelihood of being caught is remote. And it’s just some trash… but with a $1,000 at stake, why take the risk?

As to the college students, they rolled the dice and assumed they wouldn’t get caught. Wrong.

Why not put the question a different way? Is owning a hundred bucks or so of “free” music really worth the risk of losing your education? And your chosen career?

darkone says:


This article has a let’s wait and see quality to it.
Yes, people are responsible for their actions; but let’s not forget that the RIAA lawsuits are not really about artist rights, they are about setting up a legal distribution monoploy. Don’t believe me, just ask an indie artist how many hoops he has to jump through just to post his own music online.

I’d also like to chime in on the New America argument. True some people are in trouble because they got in debt beyond their means. But it is not all black and white as Matt suggests. Others have defaulted because jobs that did provide the means to pay their debts have gone away. I myself ended up in default because I got sick with four serious infections in a row, which cause on going health conditions to get worse and put me out of work for almost a year. I can identify with some of what RD is saying because I accually had collection agents say things like “Well you didn’t buy disability insurance, so sad, too bad”. And I had one suggested I take out a loan to pay them, even if I was going to end up defaulting on that loan too. Economic Crisis is not all black and white, there is a lot more subtext.

Bob says:

Re: RIAA will change their mind in time

Yeah, it be easier to forgive them if they were stupid right? It’s the fact that they are strategically planning HARM to ill-informed and unsuspecting INDIVIDUALS that should spark any kind of fight. (By “harm” I mean the disgusting amount of the fines levied against offender, not the fines themselves)

kirillian (profile) says:


I guess I shouldn’t be shocked at the shortsightedness of a good number of the previous comments here, but…

This is not an issue of whether or not stealing is right or wrong. It’s not a question about the legality of copyright infringement. Any of you who are writing arguments stating that people just should have obeyed the laws are completely ignoring the actual subject entirely. Any of those who are arguing back are just feeding into their bickering.

This is an issue concerning the methods by which the law is being enforced. Mike has pointed out multiple times that the law has been placed squarely in the hands of a private enterprise (yes, I do think the RIAA and MPAA are actually enterprises). Even if they are not enterprises…the law enforcement of copyright has been given to a private organization. As he has also pointed out, that means that we are being governed by private ambition rather than the government we elect!!!

We need to focus on the actual issue at hand. No matter that some of you feel that students SHOULD be prosecuted under law…that’s fine. I firmly stand by that myself. However, I CANNOT stand by and watch the rights that I have enjoyed being taken away slowly by ignoring the abuses against my fellow citizens. The government is NOT a tool of enterprise…the government is representative of the people…and, according to the U.S. constitution, protective of the minority – not catering, but preventing abuse against them.

This abuse is the real problem. That’s what Mike is getting at. You have to put aside the other discussions because the abuse THRIVES off of this division…

Max Claymore says:

Typical Money-Grubing Bastards

Please tell me why entering someone’s computer isn’t illegal invasion of privacy? Did this poor girl sell product? NO! But it’s all about the “Dead Presidents”, nothing else. If the RIAA and MPAA really were worried about theft of their intellectual property, then they’d go to China or Russia to pursue the real pirates of the product. However they along with media outlets which often are owned by the same umbrella corporations to scare regular folks with these stories…..
The rappers started owning their own product, but unlike Ray Charles, they also distribute it via the net and depend on live shows to make a large portion of their income. This also serves to build a loyal fan-base, but the greedy middlemen see their income slipping away, so what do they do….go after improvised teenagers because they can’t afford to fight back.
Even Washington DC congressional whores craft law to enable fatass businessmen to profit from others labors. These scumbags, we all know who these people are, the same carpet-baggers of old, are the lawyers, agents and other bottom feeding of this certain ethnic group, who rarely get dirt under their own fingernails. These people control the music & movie industries, and structure monopolies, where an artist after expenses, often owe these bastards money net, “Below The Line” go figure! Do I feel sorry for these parasites….Please, don’t make me laugh!!!

RD says:

Dear Mouth Breathers

“I’m a little lost. Can you kindly provide a topic sentence to your rant?”

Try the topic line of the article, or how about the first line:

“You may recall a couple years ago that an RIAA representative suggested that an MIT student should drop out of school and get a job in order to pay the fine”

This goes for all the rest of you mouth-breathing apologists for greedy debt collectors. You are entirely missing the point of the rant, which should not be surprising as you are so intent on tearing someone down in order to make yourselves seem superior.

The rant was directed not at (as most of you incorrectly focused on) the debt, or even the responsibility in paying debts. No where did I suggest people shouldnt have to pay their debts, or were not responsible for them. IT was focused on the other side, the people who use underhanded, reprehensible and illegal means to try to collect. Sugggesting someone to take out a loan or sell their house is ILLEGAL, its against the fair debt acts, as well as just plain wrong. Yet these greedy debt collectors routinely pressure people who are down on their luck (or even trying to pay but cant meet the astronomical demands). Its sad that this has to be pointed out, but thank you to the few of you here who “got it” and responded accordingly.

Baz Luhrmann (user link) says:

Re: Dear Mouth Breathers

RD, Great post. My heart goes out to you. May I dispense a few pieces of advice?

First off, understand that Einstein once said that insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and believing that it will make a difference.

So understanding this, you need to stop, because it’s not working. Circle around your local House of Representative Member. Find a way to share your issue. I would suggest a simple email requesting an opportunity to meet in person, then share your story, focus on what you lost, do all this in person. Your goal should be to gain commitment that they would be present in the courtroom should it escalate to that level.

Regardless of your location, you may want also want to consider a similar action of driving/flying to Los Angeles to kindly ask Mr. Henry Waxman to be in attendance as your testimony may result in new political oversight.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Dear Mouth Breathers

You remain curiously quiet.

So, if you choose the direction I mentioned, pose as a curious person looking to have an interview with them. Don’t share your troubles until in person. I can’t stress that enough.

Hey, throw up a website with your story, with donate ability, your personal army will come. I’ll personally pay for your airfare from where ever you are if you could secure a time with Waxman.

Bob says:


How is it that this reckless and unconstitutional abuse by the RIAA be allowed? They are taking long shots on copyright laws and winning, but how? I mean at most these damages square to about $3 per song… at a charitable 1:3 dl/up ratio.

It’s kind’ve like reverse captalism. One man takes the fall for the many. I mean, many other people were uploading to contribute to the stole material. Let’s get serious, the punishment needs to fit the crime (If there is one at all. It is arguably “fair use”) the person needs to only pay for what he stole.

This is a perverted sense of justice.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...