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University of Washington Will Aid RIAA 406

Posted by kdawson
from the in-loco-prosecutor dept.
Several readers let us know that the University of Washington has announced that it will pass on RIAA settlement offer letters to students identified, presumably by IP address, as suspected file sharers. "The notices say offending students have 20 days to settle with the association by paying it about $3,000 to $5,000 or be taken to court without possibility of a settlement." The Vice Provost for Student Life sent an email to all students saying, "The University has been notified by the RIAA that we will be receiving a number of these early settlement letters. After careful consideration, we have decided to forward the letters to the alleged copyright violators."
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University of Washington Will Aid RIAA

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    do they really expect says to go up.

    Or is the lawsuit tactic the new sales method.
    • by packeteer (566398)
      It's a scare tactic. They lose out WAY more money paying their lawyers than they will ever recover. You think once they get a judgment for $5,000 the will ever collect that? No way. The RIAA is losing money suing people. The only reason they do it is to scare people. All they have to do is go around and ruin a few hundred college students lives by ruining their credit before they are 25 and people might stop downloading. It's pathetic that it comes to this. They place their bottom line over anything
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Kalriath (849904)
        Said students perhaps shouldn't be pirating music then, hmm? There's lots of ways to get DRM-free music (often of high quality too) for cheap or free legally.
        • by Penguinisto (415985) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @09:18PM (#19657707) Journal

          Said students perhaps shouldn't be pirating music then, hmm? There's lots of ways to get DRM-free music (often of high quality too) for cheap or free legally.

          ...and if you get hit in spite of not pirating? The wonders of DHCP coupled with the notoriously insecure networks that most colleges run* tend to make it drop-easy for innocents to get snagged by this dragnet of theirs.

          Given that a typical college student has zero cash to spare for a settlement, let alone to fight back and proclaim their innocence if they do get accidentally snagged? It's a disaster waiting to happen, and woe betide any Uni who not only finds that an innocent student was hit, but that said student fights back... because now (IIRC) the RIAA and UW may wind up on the wrong end of a lawsuit. (Unless the Uni would be willing to help defend any provable innocent students who accidentally get targeted).

          * yes, I said notoriously insecure. When one can literally sit across the street from a major university in Utah (I won't mention which) with a Pringles Can rig and get full Internet access in no time flat, it can't be secure... and odds are VERY good that they aren't alone in having such gaping holes in their network.

          /P

        • Your right they should not be pirating but do they deserve to get what the RIAA is going to do? Do we as a society chose to chop off a hand of a thief? No way. Do we as a society want to punish extremely harshly for what is a small crime? No way.
          • by Kalriath (849904)
            No, you're certainly right there. You'll also notice I carefully avoided ever saying that the punishment actually befits the crime. But nevertheless, it is still a crime and strictly speaking they would have nothing to worry about (regardless of how overblown the punishment is) if they simply didn't pirate.

            Now, I've said "strictly speaking" because there's still the chance of being hit by the "whoops, missed" prosecution campaign the RIAA runs. These are certainly cases where the university itself needs
            • by The_Wilschon (782534) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @10:21PM (#19658209) Homepage

              But nevertheless, it is still a crime
              No it isn't [copyright.gov], except in extreme cases [copyright.gov].

              they would have nothing to worry about (regardless of how overblown the punishment is) if they simply didn't pirate.
              Yes [slashdot.org] they [slashdot.org] would [slashdot.org], strictly speaking. The RIAA has apparently very little concern for whether or not it hits actual copyright infringers, and everyone it hits still has to show up in court and in the press, or settle out of court for an amount of money they very probably don't have to spare.
              • by I'm Don Giovanni (598558) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @11:53PM (#19658943)
                According to your link, unauthorized reproduction or distribution of $1000 worth of works in a 180-day period crosses the line from civil infraction to criminal activity. That's not an "extreme case". Many pirates cross that line all the time. Hell, many people simply leave their music collection (which they mostly received thru piracy) open to P2P uploading 24/7. Even if your collection is only worth one dollar, 1000 people obtaining it over P2P during a 180-day period becomes criminal on your part (not theirs), since you've distributed $1000 worth of works.
  • by saintlupus (227599) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @08:20PM (#19657277) Homepage
    Most universities will do this sort of thing, forwarding along the letters so that the students have an inkling of what's going on if/when they get their subpoena.

    Those of you calling colleges "spineless", would you rather the kids were blindsided by the legal system instead?

    --saint
    • Actually, I was at my daughter's "pre-orientation" for college last week, and at the IT presentation, I was asking "Are you doing port blocking/packet shaping?", "What's your policy on RIAA threats?", "How many laptops were stolen last year?", "Are you using static IPs in the dorms?", etc., etc., etc. After that, I had enough information to properly warn my daughter what to expect, and what not to do.
      • by robbiethefett (1047640) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @08:43PM (#19657439)
        It used to be that when shipping a daughter off to college, one had to warn her of things like date rape and underage drinking. Now it seems like son and daughter alike are getting fucked and all the pepper spray in the world won't going to fend off the rapist known as the RIAA.
      • by Original Replica (908688) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @08:46PM (#19657459) Journal
        After that, I had enough information to properly warn my daughter what to expect, and what not to do.

        While I think the old model of the music industry is dieing and mp3s will eventually all be free, you already had that information before you went to the presentation. "Listen kid, every band signed on to a RIAA label is backed by rabid lawyers. The bands that made the music have a right to decide what to do with it, and they chose to sign on to labels that sue fans. Don't buy or steal their music. Even if you don't get called into court there is no sense in supporting a band that would allow their management to abuse their fans. If you want music to be free support and listen to free music."

        of course what kid ever listened to their parents about music?
        • by robbiethefett (1047640) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @09:04PM (#19657611)
          You don't have to be so harsh on the bands.. I have an MCSE cert, that doesn't mean I get together with steve balmer on the weekends and shoot penguins. There are many musicians that are truly brilliant that do studio work for major labels. If i were a good enough musician, i would love to have the opportunity to work with a lot of other musicians without committing to a band. When it comes to the groups that sign, I doubt many of them have the slightest clue about the politics. Those that do are most likely "coached" into the mindset of "downloading is stealing." A producer can have a hell of an impact on a young musician. It's like a father figure. I've been in a band that was approached by a major label, and I have to say, if the front man didn't end up getting too strung out on coke, there's a good chance I would have ended up playing in one of those bands that "chose to sign on to labels that sue fans." When you drive a beat-to-shit Chevy van that you bought with money from working in a butchers shop, the prospect of getting the largest paycheck of your life looks pretty damn good, no matter what your ideology.
    • by ClaraBow (212734) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @08:32PM (#19657353)
      Those of you calling colleges "spineless", would you rather the kids were blindsided by the legal system instead?

      I would rather have the University give the students a head up and tell them that the University is doing all they can to help the students, instead of aid the music industry. The University should look after their interests: the students.

      • by Like2Byte (542992)
        I'd personlly like to see the entire student body finish their semester out and transfer to another college.
      • by timholman (71886)

        I would rather have the University give the students a head up and tell them that the University is doing all they can to help the students, instead of aid the music industry. The University should look after their interests: the students.

        Why do you think the university would aid the students? The students are not employees of the university; at best, they can be considered customers, but even then the school has no obligation to legally defend them if they are sued for actions that are not officially sanc

    • Academic Freedom? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by golob (69902) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @09:36PM (#19657851)
      So, in full disclosure, I am a human embryonic stem cell (huESC) researcher at the University of Washington.

      Let's say Focus on the Family writes a series of letters to the University accusing a "John Doe" embryonic stem cell researcher at the university of violating federal restrictions on the creation of new lines. Mind you, they've shown no real material information that any individual has violated the law, just blanket accusations with flimsy identifying information.

      They say to the University "give us personal information on every human embryonic stem cell researcher at the University or we'll subpoena that information."

      The University replies: "Well, we can't roll over that easily. Send us letters demanding that the recipient contact you or suffer severe legal concequences, and we'll forward them to everyone working on human embryonic stem cells here. Then you'll get your identifying information, and we'll be off the hook."

      Let's be clear about what's being done here. From the original e-mail:

      The RIAA is now sending colleges and universities a letter for each instance they find of a student illegally downloading material from the internet and requesting the university to identify the individual student and forward the letter to him or her... The University has been notified by the RIAA that we will be receiving a number of these early settlement letters. After careful consideration, we have decided to forward the letters to the alleged copyright violators. We do so primarily because we believe students should have the opportunity to avail themselves of the settlement option if they so choose.

      Whether the University is directly identifying students to the RIAA or indirectly does so by sending the students a letter directing them to contact the RIAA, the net result is the same.

      Do people not understand why academic institutions MUST behave differently than this?

      What if the coal industry threw letters at climatologists?

      What if the junk food industry thew letters at obesity researchers?

      The University has access to a massive collection of very personal information, including detailed financial, academic and medical records. It is essential for the primary mission of the University to protect its members against angered outside forces. Without this commitment to protect academics, we'll never be able to get honest answers to questions.

      The proper course was to:
      1. Not save identifying information in the first place
      2. Tell the RIAA to come back with their own damn identifying information.
      3. Send letters instructing students to not self-incriminate themselves
      4. Provide proper legal services than (borderline negligent) legal advice to settle to any and all demands.

  • Would that mean most if any students that are allegedly copying music will have to pay $150K for each infringement? Looks like there will be some students that will have to pay for the rest of their lives over copying music.

    <sarcasm> Isn't it wonderful our courts are trying the real criminals instead of the murderers?</sarcasm>
  • by ClaraBow (212734) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @08:23PM (#19657297)
    that they identified the correct students? If I were a student who is struggling just to pay tuition and rent, I'd panic. And if the University misidentifies a wrong student, then is it liable for harm done to the student? This seem highly irresponsible to me.
    • by westlake (615356)
      How can the University be certain that they identified the correct students? If I were a student who is struggling just to pay tuition and rent, I'd panic.

      So panic. Get it out of your system.

      You have some tough choices to make and you need to start thinking about them now. Not when an offer of settlement becomes a summons into court.

  • by Aranykai (1053846) <slgonser&gmail,com> on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @08:27PM (#19657311)
    Lets try RTFA.

    If the UW didn't do so, the industry would file a lawsuit against a John Doe or Jane Doe and subpoena the university for the person's identity, Godfrey said. "This isn't a matter of the university cooperating with the recording industry," he said. "We all concluded that to not pass these along to our students would be unacceptable and more costly to them."
    They are not giving the students names to the RIAA, just letting them know the RIAA intends to file suit if they dont settle now. They are actually giving those receiving these notices time to find representation and legal help. I would prefer having a few weeks to discuss my options with a lawyer rather then get hit with a summons out of the blue.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I RTFA'ed, and there is a big question that still remains unanswered: why is the University of Washington
      recording this information in the first place? I know that many other universities committed to student
      rights simply do not record the DHCP lease information, so it cannot later be subpeonaed
      by the likes of the RIAA.

      UW is indeed aiding and abetting the RIAA here, by keeping records they need not be keeping.

      To the folks who made the Nazi analogy: It is a historical fact that the Nazis were greatly
      aided by
      • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @09:04PM (#19657613) Journal
        To the folks who made the Nazi analogy: It is a historical fact that the Nazis were greatly aided by careful records on religious affiliation kept in the countries they invaded. That's why most European countries (namely the ones invaded by the Nazis) do not, in fact, are legally prohibited from, keeping track of the religious affiliations of their own citizens.

        They were also aided by the careful records on gun ownership. The blitzkreig motorcycled up to the local cop shop, grabbed the records, and went house-to-house collecting guns. Then any resistance movements had to start from scratch with stolen or air-dropped weapons. That's why many gun owners - especially those who were involved in WW II or know its history - are so dead-set against gun registration databases.
      • by Jason Earl (1894)

        The UW admins keep this information because otherwise it is hard to find the guy that trying to DOS your mail server into oblivion. Student networks are notorious for having internal attackers of all different kinds. If you were an admin you'd want to be able to put a finger on the students too.

        Take away the anonymity and people start to behave in a civilized manner. That's just how things work.

        • The UW admins keep this information because otherwise it is hard to find the guy that trying to DOS your mail server into oblivion. Student networks are notorious for having internal attackers of all different kinds. If you were an admin you'd want to be able to put a finger on the students too.

          That's crap from start to finish. Network administrators have these systems in place due to federal wiretapping laws and clueless pressure. All networks have a DoS problem and you won't get a finger on it with h

    • They are not giving the students names to the RIAA, just letting them know the RIAA intends to file suit if they dont settle now. They are actually giving those receiving these notices time to find representation and legal help.

      Not true.

      They are aiding the RIAA in their extortion scheme by forwarding the extortion letters, when they do not need to do so.

      As with any other ISP, if they don't forward the letters when asked, the RIAA's next step is to file the John Doe suit, subpoena the records, and obtain the
  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @08:46PM (#19657461)

    students identified ... as suspected file sharers. "The notices say offending students have 20 days to settle with the association by paying it about $3,000 to $5,000 or be taken to court without possibility of a settlement."
    Guilty until proven innocent. In related news: Kneecaps may NOT be substituted in lieu of payment.
  • by EMeta (860558)
    This is getting to be a good number of institutions. Anybody know of a list of the good and the bad universities, as a cheat sheet of where to send our business/employment applications?
  • .. transfer while you still can.
  • by r_jensen11 (598210) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @08:55PM (#19657527)
    With the advent of Tanya Anderson counter-sueing the RIAA and Safenet, couldn't this just result in n more counter-sueings?
  • what would happen if half or more of the university students suddenly decided to withhold from paying their tuition? I mean, if there is 1% withholding, they university kicks them out. But half or more? It would kill them. It is certainly a lot better than burning down a building like was done in the 'nam days.
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      The problem with boycotts is always one of organizing everyone to go along with you. It's virtually impossible. You might as well organize a REAL revolution.

            Everyone will nod their heads and say "oh yeah, I agree". But no one will actually refuse to pay their tuition because, after all, they're grateful to have gotten into the university in the first place and won't want to take the risk.
  • by mpapet (761907) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @09:10PM (#19657653) Homepage
    by Microsoft. Of course they'll play along. Otherwise it's biting the hand that feeds them.

    Perhaps this is a good lesson about the perils of privatized funding?
  • original e-mail (Score:3, Informative)

    by pfc9769 (1120609) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @09:23PM (#19657749)
    For anyone who's interested, here is the e-mail the UW sent out: Dear Student: I am writing to inform you of a development that could become a serious issue for some of our students--the law governing downloading and sharing of music and video from the internet. Under copyright law, it is illegal to download or share copyrighted materials such as music or movies without the permission of the copyright owner. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in recent years has taken an aggressive approach to stopping this illegal downloading and file sharing. This has put many students at the nation's colleges and universities at some legal risk. I write first to caution you against illegally downloading or sharing files. Your actions when you do so are traceable and could result in a significant financial penalty to you. Second, I want to inform you about a new process the RIAA has initiated and the University's role in this process. The RIAA is now sending colleges and universities a letter for each instance they find of a student illegally downloading material from the internet and requesting the university to identify the individual student and forward the letter to him or her. The letter, called an "Early Settlement Letter" notifies the student that he or she has 20 days to settle with the RIAA by going to a designated website, entering identifying information, and paying a set amount, usually between $3,000 and $5,000, but sometimes considerably more. If the recipient chooses not to settle, the RIAA will file a lawsuit and the offer to settle for the amount stipulated is no longer an option. The University has been notified by the RIAA that we will be receiving a number of these early settlement letters. After careful consideration, we have decided to forward the letters to the alleged copyright violators. We do so primarily because we believe students should have the opportunity to avail themselves of the settlement option if they so choose. Not forwarding the RIAA letter to students could result in their being served with a lawsuit, with no chance to settle it beforehand. The University is unable to provide legal services to students who have violated copyright law through illegal downloading or sharing. If you receive a letter from the RIAA, we encourage you to engage a personal attorney. If you have questions, please let us know. We know how tempting it is to download music or movies and share files with your friends. But you need to know that it is illegal to do so and that the consequences can be severe. Please inform yourself of the requirements of the law and please obey it. Otherwise, it may prove costly for you and your family.
  • Add the University of Arkansas to that list. They are doing it here as well.
  • How the RIAA Alienates Customers
  • by Phroon (820247) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @09:43PM (#19657911) Homepage
    At my school, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, MAC spoofing was rather common. The reason for this was that university housing gave us 10mbps links, but only allowed us to transfer (up+down) 750MB per floating 24hr window without our bandwidth becoming significantly reduced (That's 10 to 15 minutes of full pipe transfer, FYI). Details here [uiuc.edu]. Of course, this limiting was tied to MAC Address, as each room only had one port to the router. So to circumvent the limiting, people would look up MAC addresses and IPs on the network and spoof their network card to them. This caused weird things to happen when two computers with the same IP and MAC are on the same network, but in essence you could steal someone else's bandwidth. With such a practice in use, how can they possibly say that one person or another was the person that IP+MAC combo belonged to? They have records of what room the MAC was in use in when, but how can they be sure that it wasn't your roommate spoofing your MAC address?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by photomonkey (987563)

      Answer (and I most certainly don't mean this as a troll): They don't give a flying shit.

      This is racketeering at its finest. I accuse you of something. You either pay me a large small sum, or I take you to court and you're stuck, win or lose, with likely more than the initial large small sum I would have accepted as a settlement.

      I mean, I have a wireless network secured with basic WEP and MAC filtering. Not really that hard to break in, but hard enough to keep random idiot off my network. Who's to say

  • by deAtog (987710) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @10:43PM (#19658373)
    Its a trap. Don't fall for it. The RIAA has no legal recourse since they don't actually own the rights to the intellectual property. By deciding to comply and pay the RIAA, you do NOT receive protection from being sued by the actual intellectual property owner. Ergo, if you pay, the RIAA will turnover any relevant information to the appropriate owners who may then file suit against you. This is all a ploy to get you to confess that you've done something wrong and provide them with the information they need to ensure that you lose any subsequent cases.
  • Collateral Damage (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @11:04PM (#19658537)
    As a student at the UW, this is very disturbing. Housing is tight and almost all rooms are doubles or triples. For sure they can identify which room an IP address is assigned to, but to identify which person in the room was using the connection... There's not a separate port by each bed/desk to identify each resident uniquely; and in some halls there is only one plug. There's pretty much no way without having physical access to the computers or making the students register their MAC address to know which person in the room was making the connection. The only way I can see the RIAA implementing this would be to either send notices to all residents in the room, or by picking randomly. Either case, this is bad for the university and I'm sure there will be some angry students next year.
  • by jafuser (112236) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @12:44AM (#19659277)
    What's to stop the RIAA from randomly picking a hundred IP addresses and then sending them the "pay up or else" letters, and then collecting a few thousand from some random people who thought they got caught?

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