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RIAA Caves in Collegiate Four Case

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Having sought billions from four college students who created “mini-Napsters,” the RIAA has settled with each for between $12-17.5K:

    The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sued four students separately last month for running services that searched computers connected to their college networks for MP3 song files. The students also shared copyrighted music from own machines. The lawsuits marked the first time that the RIAA directly sued students, as opposed to companies, associated with peer-to-peer piracy.

    The settlements will see each student making payments to the RIAA totaling between $12,000 and $17,000, split into annual installments between 2003 and 2006.

    ….”The record companies indicated right from the beginning that they were amenable to settling this case,” said Howard Ende, a Drinker Biddle & Reath attorney who represented defendant Princeton sophomore Daniel Peng. “In my view, this was not about Daniel Peng, per se, but was a utilization of the legal system to make a point–essentially to intimidate Internet users.” [CNET]

Ende was in fact defiant:

    “Dan never felt that he was doing anything wrong, and I believe that as well,” he said. The record companies “claimed that this was a Napster-like system, when in fact it’s a Google-like system. It had many things on it that were academically related.”

    ….”They wound up engendering not just fear, but fear and loathing. Rather than scaring, I think they alienated. They should be working with colleges and universities to try and find a sensible way to protect their intellectual property.” [Chronicle of Higher Education]

The lawsuits–on top of a series of communications that the RIAA and other copyright holders have had with universities over the past year–have led to a crackdown on campus file swapping and the kind of network search tools created by Peng and the other students.

College officials recently reprimanded a large group of students at Pennsylvania State University for using or operating similar services. This week, the New Jersey Institute of Technology banned the use of file-sharing software on its campus, citing the danger of lawsuits, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

….As part of their settlements, the students agreed not to knowingly infringe the record label’s copyrights while using the Internet. They will also shut down their network search services. Peng’s attorneys said he will instead provide links to a record industry Web site.

“We believe it’s in everyone’s best interest to come to a quick resolution, and that these four defendants now clearly understand the seriousness with which we view this type of illegal behavior,” said RIAA Senior Vice President Matt Oppenheim in a statement. “We have also sent a clear signal to others that this kind of activity is illegal.” [CNET]

Blah, blah, more to the point, the RIAA saw the “seriousness” of last week’s Grokster ruling, which established the legal legitimacy of file sharing and pulled the rug out from under the RIAA’s contributory infringement stance.

Also contributing to the RIAA’s eagerness to settle, the dire financial status of the family of one of the accused:

    Andy Jordan, Jesse Jordan’s father, said Thursday that after the recording industry filed its suits, “they began immediate negotiations to try to force the kids to settle as fast as possible.”

    “This whole thing is a publicity stunt, and unfortunately it has ended up as a big story in every country on the planet with names named and reputations trashed with no real evidence at all,” he said. The Jordans have not been able to afford a lawyer to defend their son.

    Andy Jordan, a computer scientist who is a technology consultant, was laid off from a full-time job two years ago. “We barely make ends meet as it is,” he said. He added that the record industry would rather sue innovators than change with the times. [COHE]

Jordan’s father also told the WSJ that

    his son’s $12,000 settlement “happens to be the same amount of money that is the total of his bank account. That is money he has saved up over the course of working three years … to save money for college.”
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About Eric Olsen

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    I don’t know about calling this an RIAA “cave.” Sounds more like a victory. They squashed these guys, and intimidated a couple of colleges into banning P2P.

    Even at that, though, what did they gain by their victory? Not much as I can see. The minor money is a hardship for these students, but probably not the half of what they spent collecting it.

    Of course, it will not slow the rest of us down at all. Indeed, hopefully it will be a pyrhhic victory for the RIAA, motivating others to stand up to their thug tactics. Surely screwing a teenager out of his college fund isn’t going to win them any friends.