University Of Michigan Shops File-Sharing Students To The RIAA (Or Not)
from the go-blue dept
The RIAA's aggressively going after file-sharing college students these days, offering them "discounts" on settlements before hitting them with copyright-infringement suits. Forcing the kids to pay up and settle is far preferable to the group than having to actually go to court and follow such inconveniences as proper legal procedure, and after all, what's a little bit of bullying when you can get it at a discount? It's also been using its influence in Congress to get legislators to threaten colleges and universities into doing more to stop file-sharing on their networks, even though they have no responsibility to do so.
The threats are working on at least one school, the University of Michigan, where an IT administrator says it's working with the RIAA to identify students the group says are illegally sharing music. Certainly the RIAA has the right to try and find out the identity of people it thinks are infringing its members' copyrights -- but it doesn't want to do it the proper way (by filing John Doe lawsuits, then going to court and getting a subpoena for ISP records), and has a history of trying to work around the law. If the university had been presented with legitimate subpoenas, obviously it would need to divulge the records and students' identities. But from the email the administrator sent out to students and faculty, it sounds as if the RIAA never went to the trouble of getting them, and the university is simply just rolling over. This is all very similar to the way the RIAA used to try and bully ISPs, but since that avenue essentially got shut down, it appears to have moved on to schools. The RIAA is well within its rights to pursue these suits (even if suing the hell out of your customers really isn't a great idea), but it must act within the same laws and rules as the rest of us, and there's simply no reason for colleges and universities -- or ISPs -- to be its lapdog and give up information without proper legal cause. Update: As noted in the comments, the original post at Wired has been changed after some further clarification from a University of Michigan lawyer, who says the school is merely informing some students that they're targets of the RIAA, and that it cannot hand over their identities without a subpoena -- contrary to the Wired writer (and plenty of other people's) original understanding of the email that was sent out.