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Campus Crackdowns

Shutting down Napster, Grokster, and other filesharing systems has not made the problem of illegal file-sharing disappear. Moreover, illegal file-sharing has always enjoyed immense popularity among college students, so music industry officials began to concentrate anti-piracy efforts against these individuals. In December 2002, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sent letters and other warning messages to colleges and universities. College administrators pledged to work with the recording industry to prevent illegal file sharing. RIAA also announced an amnesty plan, available to persons who admitted to illegal sharing of files. Dubbed “Clean Slate”, the system required those seeking amnesty to destroy or delete all illegally downloaded copyrighted sound recordings, to refrain from downloading illegal recordings in the future, and to certify that they have not been sued for copyright infringement nor performed any downloading for a commercial purpose.

RIAA has also filed civil lawsuits against students who build their own Napster-like systems on campus. In April 2003, the RIAA filed civil lawsuits against four individual students at Princeton University, Michigan Technological University, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. According to allegations in these complaints, copyright infringement at universities is a serious problem. RIAA alleged that students made between 27,000 and a million songs available through their universities’ networks. The music industry also contended that statistics indicated that nearly 50 percent of the available computer resources at some universities were being used for unauthorized copying and distribution of copyrighted material. These cases were settled; defendants paid damages reported to range from $12,500 to $17,000.

The music industry continues to fight against unauthorized file-sharing. On December 15, 2005, RIAA announced copyright infringement lawsuits against 751 individuals, including students at Drexel University, Harvard University, and the University of Southern California. This announcement followed filings of more than 800 such suits in November 2005. Some of the RIAA lawsuits have been filed against unknown persons, so-called “John Doe” lawsuits. This initial approach is necessary because in 2003, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that RIAA could not require Internet service providers (ISPs) to provide the identities of users who had allegedly engaged in illegal file-sharing. Thus, RIAA initially files against the John Does where an individual cannot be identified. RIAA then requests a court order to force the ISPs to release the names.

Inside Campus Crackdowns