RIAA plans to carry out suits
The RIAA is at it again, and this time it?s private. Last week, the Recording Industry Association of America announced its intention to sue 405 file-sharers on the private academic network Internet2. Twenty-five Carnegie Mellon students are included on the hit list. The University has not yet received any subpoenas demanding the identities of those implicated, but this has not stopped a group of targeted students from organizing in the face of impending legal action and possibly presenting a unified legal front against the RIAA.
In a telephone press conference on Tuesday, RIAA president Cary Sherman said that Internet2 was being ?hijacked for illegal purposes,? noting that over 70,000 albums were available for instant download on i2hub, a variant of the file-sharing program called Direct Connect. Three students notified of impending subpoenas who were contacted by The Tartan were i2hub users.
A reporter in the conference asked Sherman if the RIAA had verified that the files they observed were copyrighted works. ?We didn?t see many copies of the Bible or the works of Shakespeare,? he responded. When asked how the RIAA was able to track file-sharing on the network ? they have been denied official access in the past ? Sherman dropped no hints: ?We don?t give out that information. Our investigative techniques wouldn?t be as effective.?
University administrators say the school has not received a subpoena demanding the identities of the 25 Carnegie Mellon students. Mary Jo Dively, the University?s general counsel, said the subpoenas could take anywhere from two weeks to 45 days to find their way into students? mailboxes.
In anticipation of the lawsuit, a group of ten students (most of whom wish to remain anonymous at present) have banded together to form a loose coalition. One of the group?s founders, Alvin Fong, a first-year in Information Science, was one of nearly 40 Carnegie Mellon students the RIAA accused of illegally sharing files on the ultra-fast Internet2. He hopes its membership will grow to include everyone on campus accused of copyright infringement.
?We want to show the RIAA that we?re not going to roll over and play dead,? said Fong, who said he was using i2hub but not sharing anything illegal. He said the deep pockets of the RIAA made the legal fight lopsided and wanted to organize ?so we stand a fighting chance ... and students can make an informed decision.? One of the group?s main goals, he said, is to distribute information about past lawsuits and students? legal options. Fong said group members feel that the ?way the RIAA is going about [its enforcement] is unethical and unfair to the students.?
Another member of the group, first-year H&SS student Michael Barbaro, said the group wants to find a middle ground between the students and the RIAA instead of lawsuits, which he says are ineffective. ?Taking a bunch of money from us is not encouraging us to go out and buy CDs.? The group plans to poster around campus as part of an educational campaign to inform students about the issue of file-sharing. They are also taking the campaign online with a group on Facebook named ?CMU against RIAA.?
The group?s logo, borrowed from ModernHumorist.com, depicts a tie-wearing devil in Soviet military dress alongside the slogan ?When you pirate MP3s, you?re downloading Communism.?
Fong said he hoped to get assistance from the University for their legal defense. What kind of help, specifically, he could not say, because the subpoenas have not been served yet. But the group might not get anything from the University.
Joel Smith, chief information officer for the University, said he was not planning on giving any assistance to the students beyond what his department has already done. He has made a contact in Student Activities available to students anticipating legal action. Smith also reiterated the University?s commitment to keep students informed of any communications or actions against them. He said there will be no change in the punishments students receive for cease-and-desist orders the school receives from the RIAA.
In response to the lawsuits against i2Hub users, a website called the ?RIAA/MPAA i2Hub John Doe Identifier? (http://www.slapm.com/files/checkip.php) is gathering information on whom the record companies are suing. The site offers to tell visitors if their Internet Protocol (IP) number (a unique identifier used to send information to computers on networks) is on lists specified in the filed lawsuits. The site has information for University of Pittsburgh students but does not yet have IP addresses for Carnegie Mellon students.