It appears as if the RIAA is preparing to sue seven U-M undergrads living in residence halls for illegally sharing digital music files.

“A national recording industry organization has notified the University of Michigan of its intent to issue subpoenas to find out the names of seven students the group believes are violating copyright laws by illegally downloading music.

U-M students were notified via e-mail on Tuesday from E. Royster Harper, vice president for students affairs, that the Recording Industry Association of America has sent several notices of its intentions to the U-M over the past few weeks.

“At least seven of these are U-M undergraduate students living in the residence halls,” Royster Harper wrote. “Normally, such notices from RIAA are in preparation for a lawsuit against the individuals for violation of copyright.”

Since last fall, the RIAA has filed numerous lawsuits across the country against individuals the group alleges have traded copyrighted music over the Internet by illegally downloading and uploading music through file-sharing programs. The RIAA discovers the individuals’ identity by issuing subpoenas to the Internet service providers.

The university’s policy is not to identify students unless the RIAA follows the correct, legal steps, said university spokeswoman Julie Peterson. She said the general notice to the student body was sent for education purposes.

… Royster Harper wrote in her message that students involved in the RIAA notices have been contacted by U-M, but the university will not identify them unless required by law. … “

> AANews: “Recording industry eyeing U-M students”

This is from the Daily’s coverage: “U students accused of file-sharing”

” … There are “no immediate plans” to institute formal and absolute restrictions on Internet traffic at this time, Peterson said. Restricting Internet traffic could adversely affect “legitimate research and scholarly activity.”

Though the University has received complaints of copyright infringement before, these have not usually pertained to file-sharing.

These incidents were usually settled between the University, the student and, if necessary, the aggrieved party. Bernard said there have been virtually no problems in the past with student compliance in these areas.

Peterson and Bernard advised students to consult the educational resources provided by the University —including websites, symposia and lectures. RIAA could possibly come to campus to speak about file-sharing. … “

After a recent district court ruling against the record labels, many internet service providers are refusing to turn over the names of the “guilty” until the RIAA goes to court filing legal documents of a full subpoenaa – the University should do the same:

“In Friday’s ruling, the federal appeals court said that Internet providers, such as Verizon, EarthLink and America Online, do not have to turn over the names of their customers unless music companies go to court and submit to the regular process of obtaining a subpoena. The industry had been relying on fast subpoenas, under the auspices of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, to find out the names of those they suspect of online music piracy.” (From this December Wired story)

Let’s not forget that most musical artists are ambivalent about the lawsuits: only the really big acts like Metallica stand to lose money from fewer record sales. As I understand it, many small-scale artists actually support file trading, since they make most of their money from concerts anyhow, and their serious fan base will buy cds regardless if the material is avaliable online.

Also of note from the Ann Arbor News: “President’s speech splits U-M campus” and police think they’ve caught the man responsible for the recent purse-snatching on State Street.

Author: Rob