Archive for Thursday, August 12, 2004

Students negotiating settlement for music downloads

Recording group hopes ‘to send a message’

August 12, 2004


Two Kansas University students accused of illegally downloading music are in negotiations with the Recording Industry Association of America to settle their cases.

A spokesman for the association said neither of the students had reached a deal but said most defendants nationally were opting to pay an average of $3,000 in penalties rather than proceed with a legal defense.

"The law is clear," said the spokesman, Jonathan Lamy. "Our objective here is not to win lawsuits. It's to send a message as a deterrent, to let people know there are consequences to what they're doing."

The association included two KU students as part of a round of lawsuits filed in April. All defendants initially are identified simply as "Doe" until Internet service providers provide identifying information.

Todd Cohen, a KU spokesman, said the university received a subpoena in June that requested IP addresses, names, home and school addresses and phone numbers and e-mail addresses for the two students involved.

"We were responsive to the subpoena," Cohen said.

Cohen declined to provide any of that identifying information to the Journal-World. The two students were notified that the university was providing the information to the association, he said.

One of the students, whose downloads apparently were made Jan. 26, had music that included country artists the Dixie Chicks, Alabama and Clint Black, and rockers Journey and Phil Collins.

The other student preferred harder rock, with downloads such as Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins. Those downloads apparently were made Dec. 15.

Lamy, who also declined to identify the defendants, said a separate lawsuit naming the students involved would be filed if the students didn't agree to a settlement.

To date, the association has sued about 4,000 people accused of downloading music illegally. Lamy said about 750 settlements have been made, with many more in the works.

Cohen said KU has not changed its policies concerning Internet file-sharing since the lawsuits were filed. Students who do not follow state and federal laws can be kicked off the university's computer system, he said, but the university does not actively police the system.

"It's clear they're not going after the university," Cohen said of the association. "They're going after individual users. All we are is a network provider."

Meanwhile, attorneys general in 45 states have signed a letter indicating they will crack down on illegal file-sharing. Kansas Atty. Gen. Phill Kline was one of the five that didn't sign.

The letter, sent to seven companies that offer file-sharing software, hinted at possible legal consequences if the networks don't better inform computer users about potential copyright violations from sharing files. It also tells the companies they should warn users about risks of identify theft and of being unwittingly exposed to pornography, computer viruses and spyware by using the software.

Whitney Watson, a spokesman for Kline, declined to say why the Kansas attorney general decided not to sign the letter.

"It's nothing I can share," Watson said. "We just determined we wouldn't sign it."

Some experts have questioned what legal action states could take, especially since states only can enforce copyright violations when it applies to sound recordings made before 1972.

Watson declined to say whether that jurisdiction issue factored into Kline's decision, saying only: "Really it's a federal issue at this time."

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