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RIAA Announces New Campus Lawsuit Strategy
February 28, 2007
Thomas Mennecke
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First there was Napster. The RIAA successfully litigated this once grand P2P network into oblivion. Although this MP3-perfect community was dismantled, the file-sharing community moved onto Gnutella, FastTrack, AudioGalaxy and eDonkey2000. As P2P networks became more decentralized, dismantling networks no longer became a viable option. From the RIAA's perspective, filing lawsuits against individuals was the only solution.

That was back in August of 2003. Almost four years later, the file-sharing population has continued to grow, while CD sales continue to fall. Digital music sales have grown since their introduction, yet have failed to make up for the loss in sales. As was the case during the glory days of Napster, college and university campuses remain one of the strongholds of free file-sharing, as students have grown tired of DRM (Digital Rights Management) encumbered alternatives offered by the music industry.

In a press conference call hosted today, RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Bainwol, President Cary Sherman, and General Counsel and Executive Vice President Steven Marks announced a new anti-piracy initiative which is aimed primarily at student downloaders, but will be made available to everyone. What is this new initiative?

Many people have become familiar with the mechanics of the RIAA lawsuit engine. One of the agents of the RIAA, such as Media Sentry, downloads a file from an unsuspecting file-sharer. A screenshot is made of the individual's shared directory, or several files are downloaded to ensure a viable case. The individual's IP address is then obtained. The RIAA then subpoenas the file-sharer's ISP requesting the personal information associated with that IP address when the alleged upload occurred. The RIAA then informs the unsuspecting file-sharer of an impending lawsuit, but also gives the option to settle. A typical settlement costs between $3,000 and $5,000 US.

Today's press conference call started with introductions from Mitch Bainwol and Cary Sherman, who both elaborated on how piracy is causing exorbitant financial losses, how campus piracy is resulting in job layoffs, and listed all these great alternatives that college students should be using (but for some reason aren't). Then Steven Marks got to the real meat and bones of the conference call, and things got really exciting.

w RIAA plan implements a device called a "pre-lawsuit letter". The plan is currently underway, as the RIAA has already sent 400 of these letters to various college campuses. Basically, the letter is sent to the college or university, and is then forwarded to the student. Instead of threatening a lawsuit outrightly, within 20 days the student has the option to settle at a "discount". The RIAA would not elaborate on how much this discount was. We can only speculate that it is less than the current financial lawsuit threshold of $3,000.

While the main focus of this new strategy is aimed at college students, it will be implemented nationwide with all ISPs and their customers. The RIAA classified this new initiative as a "win, win, win situation", meaning a win for the person caught, a win for "ourselves" (the RIAA), and a win for the university. Although the content of this new pre-lawsuit letter has not been released, it's doubtful the student will feel like much of a winner after receiving it.

In addition, the RIAA stated they will step up enforcement against LimeWire and Ares Galaxy users. After the initial introductions by the RIAA, reporters were then able to ask questions. Slyck was put into queue, however time ran out before we were able to participate.


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Entertainment Industry :: RIAA

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