Illegal downloaders tracked

By Casey Ramsdell

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has decided to try a new method to put an end to the problem of illegal downloading and Northeastern is one in the latest series of universities targeted.

The university received 10 pre-litigation settlement letters out of 395 that were sent to universities nation wide.

Unlike Boston University, which recieved 46 e-mails in March and forwarded the letters to the appropriate students, giving them the choice to pay a $3,000 settlement fee, Northeastern will not forward the RIAA letters to the students.

The letters are sent to the university with the hope that officials will pass along the letter to the students which will give them “the opportunity to resolve copyright infringement claims against them at the discounted rate before a formal lawsuit is filed,” according to the press release.

The new system involve sending the pre-litigation letters, which are not actual legal documents, and asks the university to send the letters to the students., Northeastern refused. By sending the letters it would have to inform the RIAA of the students identity, which is something Northeastern will not do, said Bob Weir, vice president of information services.

Northeastern issued a notice to students and the Northeastern community about the RIAA’s new strategy.

“We return all letters to the RIAA explicitly saying that we didn’t deliver the letters,” Weir said. “Our policy hasn’t changed, the RIAA’s tactics changed.”

In the past, before the pre-litigation letter initiative, the RIAA would come to Northeastern and report an internet address that had been illegally downloading content, said Glenn Hill, director of Information Security and Identity Services. Once the university was alerted to the problem, they would contact the student and have a discussion about their actions. The university would never reveal to the RIAA the identity of the file sharer unless they were presented with a subpoena, Hill said.

Weir said no one monitors online content at Northeastern, which includes e-mails or network traffic. Illegally downloading content is a violation of Northeastern’s Technology Appropriate Use Policy, but Weir said because the university doesn’t monitor student content, students are responsible for their own actions.

“We do not police. We respond to a problem, we don’t go looking for it,” Weir said.

Northeastern tries educate students on policies surrounding downloading. Someone speaks to all students and parents at orientations about illegally downloading content.

“File sharing is an everybody issue, not just a student issue,” Weir said.

This is the first time Northeastern has received any letters, but other Boston area schools including Boston University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts have been targeted in past waves.

This is the fifth wave of pre-litigation letters that have been sent by the RIAA, which began their new initiative in February.

Erin Elkind, a middler music industry major, in response to the RIAA announcement, said “I was really shocked when I read that the RIAA was targeting universities. It seems like there are just too many students who download for them to reach every single one, which is not fair to the students that do get caught.”

Brian Bergeron, a senior music industry major, said he thinks the RIAA’s methods will not stop students from illegally downloading.

“The precedent has been set that the RIAA will continue to sue students, but there is no way they can hope to use these scare tactics to curb the illegal piracy of music,” he said.

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