RIAA, MPAA to sue file sharers

The Motion Picture Association of America has announced that it will begin filing lawsuits against individuals responsible for unlawfully swapping movies on the Internet.

Billy Wong

“Illegal movie trafficking represents the greatest threat to the economic basis of moviemaking in its 112-year history,” MPAA President Dan Glickman said, speaking at UCLA during a planned announcement. “People who have been stealing our movies believe they are anonymous on the Internet and wouldn’t be held responsible for their actions. They are wrong.”

In November, the MPAA announced 750 new lawsuits targeting students at 13 university campuses, none of which are in the University of California system. The recent MPAA decision mirrors that of the Recording Industry Association of America, which began suing individuals for illegally downloading music in the fall of last year.

“We began filing lawsuits to help stem the onslaught of piracy that was devastating the record industry,” said Jonathan Lamy, a spokesperson for the RIAA. “Thousands of jobs were being lost; it was having a real impact on the people making music. Record stores were closing.”

The recent crackdown on illegal file sharing has focused, in large part, on university students.

“We felt it was important to extend our efforts to college campuses due to the high levels of illegal file sharing,” Lamy said. “Students need to understand that there is a law, and [there are] consequences for acting against that law.”

In order to file lawsuits against individual students, the RIAA has subpoenaed universities to release the names of those people illegally sharing files through campus Internet connections.

“School is no different than a normal [Internet service provider],” Lamy said. “We know the songs a person has illegally downloaded. Once fixed, we ask to issue a subpoena and the ISP responds with a name and address.”

After acquiring this information, the RIAA issues a letter to the student notifying him or her of the lawsuit.

“The student can then either settle the case or it will be refiled as a named defendant,” Lamy said. “Settlement means that the student not engage in [illegal downloading] again plus pay monetary compensation.”

The average settlement for such a case is approximately $3,000, according to Lamy.

“Universities have been cooperative,” Lamy said. “This litigation is a means to an end … to bring down the level of piracy so legitimate business can compete and flourish.”

Some students have expressed outrage over the lawsuits, however.

“It’s ridiculous,” Thurgood Marshall College senior Kelly Colbin said. “These rich companies shouldn’t be stealing from students. They aren’t going to stop it. The technology is so good that they might need to start making money in other ways.”

Other students have expressed concern regarding their personal privacy in the dorms.

“I find it really unsettling,” Sixth College sophomore Laura Diaz said. “I don’t think the school should monitor our activities or give out our personal information to anybody.”

Current UC policy forbids the downloading of copyrighted materials. Students found violating such rules could face UC disciplinary action, ranging from the permanent loss of their network connection to having their case referred to the Student Judiciary Committee.

Last year, UCLA was among the universities served with a subpoena related to the RIAA suit.