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. icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), 20 Jul 2009 @ 8:54am

    File sharing software = shareware?
    Tee-hee...

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