So my daughter, the day her final exams are to start, is handed a letter by the dean of student affairs saying a law company is giving her 20 days to settle a copyright infringement case bases on file sharing on her computer before filing case in federal court. They want $3,000. I have not found much on the internet on this, but assume that they will settle for less. It seems what they really want is for everyone to cave as soon as possible. She broke the law, she was caught, I imagine she would loose in court and that that would cost lots more anyway. Two things she can prove is that she did not even have her computer on the day and time they say they found the files (and claimed she turned it off) plus she has no money. Does anyone know how low they will go to settle this claim? I would imagine the want something, but less than $3000 will do. I have a BIL who is a lawyer, so I can get a lawyer to talk to them. Anyone have experience with this? Also, why in hell is the dean of student affairs involved in helping the RIAA when I pay $45K per year for the school and due to privacy concerns they won’t give me her grades, let me prove I have medical insurance for her, or even give out her campus phone number to me. Are they getting a kickback? It seems strange that this school had 20 similar cases last year, 15 this year, but only 450 total were presued nationwide at Universities.
Wouldn’t your BIL be the best person to answer this? By the way, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Dean was getting kick backs. My college is being sued by the State of NY for taking alleged kick-backs on certain government loan programs. Go NY! - Jinx
The RIAA is running a shakedown racket. They send out settlement letters, and file lawsuits, based upon sketchy information that is often grossly in error. I’d try to find out what legal resources are available for students at your daughter’s campus.
See Protect Harvard from the RIAA by Harvard Law School Professor Charles Nesson and Wendy Seltzer, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society.
The Dean is involved because, if I recall correctly, the RIAA starts by going after the institution itself, asserting that the institution is facilitating the violation of the law by allowing its campus network to be used for illegal file-sharing. If the school cooperates in identification of the abusers of its network, then it can pass through the RIAA’s claims and avoid liability to that extent.
And if they won’t let you see your daughter’s grades, it’s only because your daughter won’t authorize them to do so. You might take that up with her, since you are paying $45K/yr to put her through her education.
While you are at it, don’t put any blinders on: if they have identified her as involved in P2P file-sharing, then they probably have a pretty good case, and it’s likely your daughter isn’t being up-front about her activities. Which, of course, does not mean she should just roll-over and die w/respect to the RIAA.
In any event, and this is the most important piece of information, TALK TO AN ATTORNEY IN YOUR STATE. Any advice you get from this or any other message board on legal issues is worth exactly what you pay for it, meaning not worth anything at all. Even from attorneys like me.
Not really. They haven’t successfully defeated anyone in court. The second someone shows they’re willing to fight back against their specious evidence, which usually just amounts to an IP address, they back down. The RIAA is in the business of using the legal system to extort college students who are terrified of court fees. They set the fruit pretty low hanging with their $3,000 settlement, in the hopes that most people will just suck it up rather than defend themselves.
OP: Here is a good website that should answer most of your questions.
How true it is. For the price of a xeroxed form letter, anything they get back is gravy. Some people will be so frightened that they’ll pay up automatically. Do you think the RIAA will engage high-priced lawyers to fight you if all they could possibly win is $3K? No way. Force them to prove every allegation. It’s a David v. Goliath confrontation. Fight the bastids.
Get a lawyer.
That’s the only advice you should take from people on the internet.
What I meant was that they have a pretty good idea that the daughter was involved in P2P file-sharing, probably involving copyrighted files. Not that the claim of the RIAA to damages was valid. In otherwords, I was advising not to believe the daughter when she said: I didn’t do it.
Hah! As a non-charter member paying $14.99, the advice I get is twice as good as yours.
Riaa = ???
Recording Industry Association of America.
Recording Industry Association of America
ETA: I should really learn to preview…
Thanks for the information so far. Has anyone actually been in the same position. Having received a pre-lawsuit letter?
I got what you meant. My point was that it’s rare that they have the mount of evidence to convict anyone in a courtroom. The majority of cases, they don’t.
How the RIAA finds victims is they scan P2P networks for IP addresses, log a handful at random, and go after them. The problem with this is that IP addresses change oftenand ISPs very rarely keep record of when the number was assigned to whom. In addition to this, IP addresses can be very easily hidden or faked, meaning there is a very, very good chance the person they’re going after can’t be linked to the crime.
What they bank on is fear of their corporate lawyers and the probability that the people whom they’re suing are guilty anyway and will settle, assuming the evidence is good.
That said, though, she’s in the prime demographic for people who download music, so the odds that she doesn’t are somewhat diminished. She probably did download music, but they probably don’t have enough evidence to convict.
You really should learn what you are talking about before speaking.
They do not have to “convict” anyone. These are civil lawsuits, not criminal. The burden of proof involved is simply preponderance of the evidence. In other words, if they have evidence that a person was involved in P2P sharing, and all you have is your say-so that you weren’t, unless the jury (or judge sitting as a fact-finder) prefers to believe your statements over the documented evidence showing your computer was doing what the RIAA says it was (relatively unlikely), you will lose the civil suit. Thus, you would have to either attack the credibility of the record of activity, or offer some evidence of your own to support your claims.
Which brings us to the other part of this: evidence of your computer being used. If we are talking about people who are just randomly out in the internet, your statements are valid. However, in this case, the evidence comes from the college’s network itself. In other words, the RIAA starts out by determining that a large amount of assertedly illegal P2P file-sharing occurred at Watsamatta U. They send the documentation of this to Watsamatta U. and tell that fine institution that it will be sued if it doesn’t identify the individual network users which engaged in the illegal activity. Watsamatta U., not wishing to appear like they condone illegal P2P file-sharing, and not wanting to pay for the rather substantial amount of such file-sharing that went on on the network, culls their records to find out which network users were involved in the activities in question.
Now THAT evidence is quite a bit more substantial than evidence based solely upon things like IP addresses. It’s a lot more controlled environment. The likelihood that your account is being used for illegal activity and you weren’t the one doing it is quite a bit smaller. Not non-existent, but certainly in the realm of more-likely-than-not. Which, coincidentally, is the standard that applies to the civil suit in question.
Which drags us back to my main statement: if the daughter is protesting innocence, I’d be skeptical. I’d at a minimum want to see what the college has in the way of evidence; if they have record of P2P activity by the account of the daughter, I’d tend to accept it as much more likely that the daughter is lying about things, than that she is telling the truth.
Which has absolutely nothing to do with the validity of the RIAA’s attempts to recover damages from P2P file-sharers. That is a wholly seperate issue, one which I advised in my original post that she shouldn’t just roll over on, and is the main reason to see an attorney.
To whom is the letter addressed? If it was addressed to your daughter, then why did the dean break the seal? And if it was addressed to the school, then why is the dean discussing it with your daughter?
My guess is that the RIAA is threatening to sue the school, and the school is trying to push it off on the daughter. In any event, the daughter should not discuss the allegations with anyone from the school. She should just ask for all the paperwork involved and tell them she needs to discuss the matter with an attorney and get back to them.
If the RIAA doesn’t have your daughter’s name, it might be safe to ignore the letter and take a wait and see approach. But obviously she should talk to an attorney who is familiar with these kinds of cases.
I’m well aware of the difference between a civil and criminal trial. These aren’t legal matters I’m talking of, but technical ones.
Where is your evidence to prove otherwise? They aren’t monitoring her college network for P2P sharing. There isn’t a trojan on everyone’s computer watching the upstream for “oops I did it again.”
Historically, they have gone after IP addresses. When those addresses are from college students, they generally contact the appropriate person at the University level, since 1) the university controls her internet and will be scared into thinking they’re liable 2) a letter from the university seems more threatening and 3) the univeristy can punish her in ways that the law can not.
If they have records of whom the IP addresses were assigned to when, they’re the exception, not the rule. Most ISPs do not keep records of this.
Which drags us back to my main statement: if the daughter is protesting innocence, I’d be skeptical. I’d at a minimum want to see what the college has in the way of evidence; if they have record of P2P activity by the account of the daughter,
And that’s what we’re arguing. I’m saying they probably can’t prove it was her.
I know. For the second time, that’s not what we’re arguing. I’m saying they probably don’t have any evidence.
Well, it just so happens that the date and time of the alleged illegal activity was mentioned in the letter. On that day, my daughter was out of town, with the rest of her college team competing in an athletic competition. That she was not around is easily documented. That there was no internet access where she was staying is easily documented. She left her computer at school, either turned off or hibernating so that it is fairly impossible that her computer was available to be interrogated by someone looking for active P2P use. Now the date and time on the letter could have been wrong, but to have actually caught her on that day and that time is impossible.
Another thing that really annoys me: Clearly, the lawyers involved wait specifically until the end of the school year, when everyone is involved with exams and the off to the four corners of the world for summer break so that the ability to gather evidence, and to organize with others accused is nil. Well, this is there job. However, the Dean of Students has a responsibility to the students, not RIAA lawyers. Refusing to deliver the letters until exams are over, or in the fall to any students not graduating seems the responsible thing to do. It seems as though the school attorney’s look at the situation, say that following the requests of the RIAA lawyers is the best means of the school staying out of trouble, and advise the Dean to hand them out. This is a civil matter. Surely there is significant latitude in when these letters are distributed. I think the school wimped out, to the detriment of the students.