RIAA Sues Internet2 Users

By Jon Newton 4/12/05
The Big Four record label cartel says it’s ready to push its black sue ‘em all sales campaign even further into US teaching institutions.

Its RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) will tomorrow file 405 lawsuits against students at 18 major universities.

The news comes immediately on the heels of another Big Four record label cartel “initiative’ under which its IFPI (International Federation of Phonographic Industry) has just announced it’s launching 963 suits against people in Europe and Asia.


Jon Newton

Headed up by cartel mouthpiece Cary Sherman, this latest US onslaught comes, “In response to an emerging epidemic of music theft on a specialized, high-speed university computer network known as Internet2."

Through the p2p application i2hub, Internet2 is, “increasingly becoming the network of choice for students seeking to steal copyrighted songs and other works on a massive scale,” says the RIAA.

“We cannot let this high-speed network become a zone of lawlessness where the normal rules don’t apply,’ says RIAA president Sherman.

"We have worked very constructively with the university community, improving educational efforts at colleges across the country, expanding partnerships between schools and legal online services and providing a clearinghouse for expertise on technological anti-piracy solutions.”

Translated, this reads: “We’ve been able to shoe-horn corporate music stores we back and supply into universities so they can sell our product. If they play ball and get their students to buy our stuff, the students won’t end up in court. If they don’t ….”

Centralized piracy servers

The four cartel members, only one of which can be said to be American, are also eyeing another 140 schools in 41 states.

“While these schools were not included in the initial round of lawsuits, letters are being sent to each university president alerting them to the illegal activity occurring on their campuses,” say EMI (Britain), Sony BMG (Japan, Germany), UMG (Francxe) and Warner (US).

"More than two years ago, through the Joint Committee of the Higher Education and Entertainment Communities [JCHEEC], the RIAA and the entertainment community partnered with higher education leaders to address the issue of piracy on college campuses," says the RIAA.

"The RIAA, in letters sent today, is asking university presidents to take action to stop illegal file sharing related to not only i2hub but also other university networks like the centralized piracy servers often set up by students on the college’s local area network."

Schools targeted by the cartel include:

Boston University, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Drexel University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Michigan State University, New York University, Ohio State University, Princeton University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of California – Berkeley, University of California – San Diego, University of Massachusetts – Amherst, University of Pittsburgh and University of Southern California.

Hard-core criminals

The RIAA, a component of the entertainment industry, is fighting a desperate and losing battle to turn back the tide of technological progress.

Led by a tiny band of venal, narrow-minded, technically ignorant corporate executives based principally in the US and Europe, the industry is attempting, and failing, to continue 1990s practices based on physical sales in the digital 21st century.

To regain control of its formerly compliant customer bases, the cartel must somehow gain complete dominance of the way files are being distributed on the internet.

It can never succeed but until it recognizes it has to embrace modern technologies and practices instead of trying to sue them, and their users, into seeing things the Hollywood way, men, women and children portrayed as hard-core criminals will continue to be subjected to this kind of legally sanctioned terrorism.

And while the labels rage helplessly against p2p, the numbers of file sharers globally and in the US continue to rise, disingenuous cartel misinformation reports to the contrary notwithstanding.

P2p research firm Big Champagne says the average number of p2p users online around the world at any given moment in March, 2004, was 7,370,644.

But by March, 2005, the number was 8,282,986.

In the US, with students and teenagers as the principal targets, in March, 2004, an average of 4,603,571 people were on the p2p networks at any given moment.

In March, 2005, the number had soared to 6,016,247.

Artificially inflated costs

In the meanwhile, you could be forgiven for thinking that the almost 10,000 people who have received subpoenas in the US have ended up in court where they were found guilty of file sharing.

However, you’d be wrong.

Not one of the people victimized by the RIAA for the non-existent crime of file sharing has ever appeared before a court, or been found guilty of anything.

The only winners in this are the lawyers and the people running the scalp-hunting agencies which supply the entertainment industry cartels with their victims.

As Britain’s Brian Petruska says in a letter to the Washington Post:

“File sharing is a technological advance that allows for the costless worldwide distribution of digital media. By eliminating the distribution costs, it makes the world and everyone in it wealthier by enriching people's lives with music and other forms of entertainment.

“Second, file sharing will not bankrupt artists, record companies or movie studios. These folks will continue to receive royalties from radio play, live performances and cinema presentations. In addition, music consumers desire not just music. They also want pictures of their favorite artists, album art, lyric sheets, etc. Thus, file sharing does not spell the doom of an industry, merely the doom of a particular business model.

“Record companies and movie studios artificially inflate the cost of distribution by enforcing their copyright monopoly on distribution. This monopoly is a gift from the government that is now contrary to the public good.

“Technology changes, and industry and law must change with it. File sharing can increase the amount of music and art in people's lives. I hope that the Supreme Court is not as myopic and chained to the status quo as The Post's editorial board.”

 

Below is the RIAA's press release on the suit--editor:

WASHINGTON, DC -- In response to an emerging epidemic of music theft on a specialized, high-speed university computer network known as Internet2, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), on behalf of the major record companies, will file tomorrow copyright infringement lawsuits against 405 students at 18 different colleges across the country.

Internet2 is an advanced network created by participating colleges and universities for important academic research. Through the use of a file-sharing application known as “i2hub,” however, Internet2 is increasingly becoming the network of choice for students seeking to steal copyrighted songs and other works on a massive scale. Downloading from i2hub via Internet2 is extremely fast -- in most cases, less than five minutes for a movie or less than 20 seconds for a song. Students find i2hub especially appealing because they mistakenly believe their illegal file-sharing activities can’t be detected in the closed environment of the Internet2 network.

“This next generation of the Internet is an extraordinarily exciting tool for researchers, technologists and many others with valuable legitimate uses,” said Cary Sherman, President, RIAA. “Yet, we cannot let this high-speed network become a zone of lawlessness where the normal rules don’t apply. We have worked very constructively with the university community, improving educational efforts at colleges across the country, expanding partnerships between schools and legal online services and providing a clearinghouse for expertise on technological anti-piracy solutions. We cannot let rampant illegal downloading on Internet2 jeopardize this collaborative work. By taking this initial action, we are putting students and administrators everywhere on notice that there are consequences for unlawful uses of this special network.”

In addition to the 18 campuses whose students are being sued, the RIAA has evidence of i2hub infringement at another 140 schools in 41 states. While these schools were not included in the initial round of lawsuits, letters are being sent to each university president alerting them to the illegal activity occurring on their campuses.

More than two years ago, through the Joint Committee of the Higher Education and Entertainment Communities, the RIAA and the entertainment community partnered with higher education leaders to address the issue of piracy on college campuses. Today, administrators are placing greater emphasis on teaching students about their responsibilities to respect copyrights and are making strides in strengthening and enforcing campus computer use policies on copyrighted materials. More than 40 institutions now offer legitimate on-line music delivery services to their students, and many schools are experimenting with technological means such as filtering to reduce the incidence of illegal activity.

“Without question, the Joint Committee’s efforts to respond to the issue of illegal P2P file sharing on campus networks continue to yield significant dividends,” Sherman said. “In order to maintain the gains we’ve made, we must move quickly to address this new threat emerging from i2hub and similar applications. We know that it’s very difficult for these legal services to gain real traction on college campuses when pirate services with lightning fast downloads are easily available to students with no seeming likelihood of detection or threat of consequences.”

The RIAA, in letters sent today, is asking university presidents to take action to stop illegal file sharing related to not only i2hub but also other university networks like the centralized piracy servers often set up by students on the college’s local area network. The letter, signed by the RIAA’s Sherman, asks university leaders to explore technical measures such as filtering and consider legitimate alternatives to offer to students.

“We think that any policymaker or campus administrator would be outraged to learn that a special, high-speed Internet technology designed for academic research has been hijacked for illegal purposes,” said Sherman. “Surely taxpayers would not want their money – through federal agency grants and R&D funding – facilitating the rampant theft of intellectual property on our college campuses.”

A total of 405 lawsuits will be filed tomorrow against students at Boston University, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Drexel University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Michigan State University, New York University, Ohio State University, Princeton University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of California – Berkeley, University of California – San Diego, University of Massachusetts – Amherst, University of Pittsburgh and University of Southern California. Combined, the students being sued have illegally distributed more than 1.5 million total files, including more than 930,000 songs.

While evidence of infringing activity on i2hub is extensive, the RIAA has chosen to limit the number of lawsuits to 25 per school at this time. In addition, the 405 lawsuits that will be filed tomorrow are against some of the most egregious abusers of Internet2 technology. The average number of mp3 files shared by users sued in this round is more than 2,300, while the average number of total files is more than 3,900. Some users have shared as many as 13,600 mp3 files and as many as 72,700 total files (such as audio, software and video).


Jon Newton is the editor of p2pnet.net and is a regular contributer to MP3 Newswire. Jon's site is devoted to the politics of digital music and his insights as well as those of his co-writers can be read there. We urge you to explore it.

 


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