RIAA waits on student names in music lawsuits

    The presiding federal judge has not yet signed off on subpoenas seeking to link IP addresses to specific UCSD students, meaning that recording companies and students must wait to learn the identities of the 25 defendants charged in last week’s file-sharing lawsuits.

    “We don’t know the students’ names yet,” Recording Industry Association of America spokesman Jonathan Lamy said. “We will be going to court soon to request permission to issue the subpoenas, but that has not happened, or at least that request has not yet been approved.”

    An April 15 route trace to the 25 IP addresses listed in the 434-page suit showed that 15 of the addresses were assigned to current ResNet accounts. The remaining addresses were unassigned, and led to computers that were either not on during the trace or were assigned to a proxy server used by off-campus residents.

    According to Academic Computing Services Director Tony Wood, the campus’ IP addresses are dynamic — meaning that they change approximately every 30 days — so the current accounts assigned to the addresses listed in court documents may not necessarily represent the defendants in the suit. To positively identify the students, the RIAA will need to subpoena ResNet records listing the identities of students assigned to the addresses on the specific times and dates the recording companies allege students engaged in copyright infringement.

    Such subpoenas have not yet been issued.

    “We haven’t heard a peep out of anyone, as far as I know,” Wood said.

    However, five students with ResNet accounts that are currently assigned to the IP addresses listed in the suit told the Guardian they were among the roughly 50 people who have received RIAA subpoena warnings since January. They agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity so that their comments could not be used as evidence against them in the case.

    In documents filed with the Southern California federal district court, recording companies accuse the 25 “John Doe” defendants of illegally sharing between three and five songs each, in violation of federal copyright law. The songs listed in the documents vary in genre and artist, ranging from Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” and Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” to Outkast’s “Gangsta Shit” and Eminem’s “I’m Back.” Radiohead and Red Hot Chili Peppers made the most appearances on the list.

    Peter L. Wucetich, one of two attorneys from an Irvine-based law firm representing the recording companies, declined to comment.

    “I just hope this doesn’t happen,” said an Earl Warren College sophomore whose current IP address was listed in the suit. “I just hope it’s a bluff.”

    The student, who has 1,937 shared songs, said he has already uninstalled his peer-to-peer software in a deal with ResNet after being notified of a subpoena warning issued for his account several weeks ago.

    “Otherwise, they would have taken my Internet away and I would’ve been screwed,” he said. “It was a do-or-die situation.”

    Another Warren sophomore with a matching IP address said he notified his parents after receiving the subpoena warning and has contacted an attorney for help. However, like the other students, he said he has received no formal letter or notice officially serving him with the lawsuit.

    “I’m obviously going to have to pay for it,” he said. “I don’t know how I’m going to do it — I don’t have any money.”

    The suit asks for unspecified damages, requesting the court to reimburse the recording companies for court costs and attorney fees and grant them per-track damages for each song shared. Under federal law, the fine for each song can range between $750 and $30,000.

    However, in an online press conference with college newspapers, RIAA President Cary Sherman told reporters the industry has settled most of the suits for an amount that averages between $3,500 and $4,500, as long as the defendants acted cooperatively.

    “Suffice it to say that this is not a profit-making venture,” Sherman said, explaining that the suits were necessary to “educate” the public about the illegal nature and risks of file sharing. “If we have to litigate the case, or if the infringement is especially egregious, the settlement amount could be higher.”

    A Revelle College sophomore whose IP was listed in the suit said he would also likely try to settle out of court.

    “I can’t really do anything,” he said. “I’m a college student so I have too many things to worry about. I really hope someone fights it, but it’s not going to be me.”

    However, the student said he believed that the record companies are “fighting a losing battle” and that the suits would be unsuccessful in stopping the illegal sharing of music on college campuses.

    “I don’t see how the RIAA is going to stop file sharing,” he said. “There is no way they’re going to eradicate it. They’re just making enemies out of a whole generation of kids.”

    In addition to money, legal filings show that the recording companies have asked the court for an immediate order enjoining the 25 students “from directly or indirectly infringing plaintiffs’ rights under federal or state law.” If issued by the court, the injunction would require the students to delete downloaded music saved on their computers or transferred to any other device, such as an iPod.

    Acting on the advice of an attorney, the Guardian has chosen not to publish the user names or identities of the 15 students whose current IPs match those listed in the court filings until the defendants in the case have been formally served with the suit.

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