LSU Starts Fining Students For File Sharing; But Seems Quite Confused About It

from the you-said-what-now? dept

P2P Blog points us to the news that Louisiana State University (LSU) is starting a program whereby it will fine students $50 for unauthorized file sharing. However, the quotes from the university representative seem quite confusing and oftentimes flat out incorrect. The reporter who wrote the article seems equally confused. Nowhere is it explained exactly how it will be determined that someone is actually sharing an unauthorized piece of work, or if there is any sort of actual due process involved at all. Instead, the school seems to think that any accusation means guilt automatically. They also claim, oddly, that the fines are "in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act." Please, someone, point out to me where it says in the DMCA that your ISP can fine you based on what it thinks you may have done wrong?

The LSU spokesperson, oddly claims that the RIAA's "subpoena" costs $4,000, but that's not true. What she means (I think) is that the RIAA often offers up a "we won't sue you settlement at $4,000. That has nothing to do with the subpoena at all. Even more confusing, she claims that the settlement offer is for the RIAA's "time":
"Once they get a subpoena, they say 'OK, person X, you've done this, now that's $4,000 for our time.' And you have 28 days or something ridiculous to pay it. If you don't pay it, the fine goes up from there."
That's simply not true. First of all, the $4,000 is just a settlement offer. It's not for their time, and it's not a fine. The way she says it "goes up from there" makes it sound as if it's a court granted fine that just keeps going up until you settle. That's not true. Until a court says you need to pay, you don't need to pay. It is an option to get the RIAA to leave you alone, but the RIAA doesn't get to just fine you. But, the LSU folks don't seem to get that. The author of the article doesn't seem to get it either, at one point discussing how the RIAA "has the legal authority to take offenders to court" -- um... anyone has the legal authority to take others to court in civil cases -- and then confuses the civil infringement claims with criminal infringement, suggesting (incorrectly) that if the RIAA takes you to court, you could get "five years in prison." You can only get jailtime in a criminal lawsuit, and, no, thankfully (not yet) the RIAA does not have the legal authority to charge you in criminal court.

The folks at LSU also seem quite confused about technology:
"When you transfer files, they're called packets, and these packets can be identified as to what they are. Usually it's through things like BitTorrent, or through LimeWire, or any other things that are shareware, where people put up stuff illegally or make it available illegally."
Oh, and on top of that, apparently some universities have magically figured out how to stop file sharing. Wish I knew how:
"But there are places that have actually shut off the ability to do any sharing of files because they were getting so many complaints from the RIAA."
And these are the folks who want to start fining people $50 for file sharing, when they don't even seem to understand the law or the technology involved? That's going to go over well...

Filed Under: copyright, dmca, file sharing, fines, lsu


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  1. identicon
    Ian L, 20 Jul 2009 @ 7:31pm

    A few comments

    1. Verizon can charge a fee, not a fine. But if you agree to the TOS and it's held up in court, it can be chaarged, and you gotta pay or you're breaking your side of the contract.
    2. IANAL
    3. You CANNOT stop illegal file sharing without breaking your network. My school slows down torrent file downloads. Solution: download 'em over HTTPS or as text files. My school has everyone behind a firewall, but everyone has a static non-NATed IP address so I've gotten some crazy fast downloads on...wait for it...the 96 KHz versions of Nine Inch Nails' Ghosts album set. Yep, BitTorrent can be legal, folks.
    4. Only dumb kids who should be buying music from iTunes get caught on the whole illegal file sharing thing anyway. Private torrent trackers are rather heavily vetted so you pretty much don't get any *AA moles in there.
    5. Who downloads music anymore, if you indeed have a cushy campus connection to ride on? I only download MP3s (Napster subscription, with BitTorrent as my backup in case the one-time song download fails, which has happened several times over the past week) if I'm going to be out of internet range or if my internet connection is dog slow. At a university, neither is the case...
    6. In terms of "education", universities should simply make students aware of the legal options available that are quite cheap, especially compared with dealing with the *AAs. Lala.com has streamable songs for ten cents apiece (less for albums) and Napster has unlimited streaming and five downloads for $5 per month. Granted, neither service gives you unlimited iPod-able music, but hopefully the new KaZaA service, at $20 per month, will do that.
    7. Either the school newspaper or the IT department don't know what they're talking about. Could very well be either, but if it's the newspaper I'd like to take the reporter and slap them around because they're doing discredit to decent on-cmapus news sources. My school's paper being one of them (I write most of the tech stuff in it...I'll avoid the shameless plug and make you dig through a few layers of links to find out which paper this is because our website needs a little help).

    Guess that's about it. Personally, IF I did do an illegal download and IF that download could've been gotten DRM-free online for a cheap amount, I'm perfectly fine with paying a $50 "You idiot" fee. But I'll bet the false positives in the system will ruin it, and the writers of the article had everything screwed up.

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