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Illegally Sharing Music Could Cost Big Bucks

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
May 2, 2007

Computer and Information Services has agreed to comply with a request from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to forward letters from their attorneys to users who access the Internet through UNH—from work or elsewhere-- and who allegedly pirate copyrighted music, games or DVDs.

The move by RIAA is the latest in its crackdown on people who are sharing copyrighted material that they haven’t paid for. This campaign involves notifying Internet service providers like CIS of alleged copyright infringements and asking them to pass the letters on and to warn against deleting the files—now evidence-- before either a lawsuit is settled or an agreement for restitution has been reached.

Currently, RIAA has penned 413 pre-litigation settlements letters to 22 universities. UNH has received 17; 16 are aimed at students and one, at an employee. As of March, of the lawsuits RIAA has pending, 400 are against college students.

While UNH will not provide IP addresses to RIAA without a court order, Tom Franke, assistant vice president and CIO, says counsel for UNH has advised that the letters can be forwarded.

“We are simply acting as a conduit,” Franke says. “We are not bound to do this for RIAA, but we want our clients to have a chance to respond to the letters if they choose to do so.”

An email to the alleged UNH offenders included the attached RIAA letter and reminded recipients of the university’s IT acceptable use policy. (To read go to http://www.unh.edu/cis/aup.html#appro.) Students were also told they could get legal advice from Joanne Stella, a UNH Student Senate attorney. (MUB 115, 2-1712).

The e-mail to students is co-signed by Franke and by Anne Lawing, senior assistant vice president for student and academic affairs. The cover e-mail to employees is co-signed by Franke and by Sharon W. Demers, assistant vice president for human resources.

“This is not just a technology issue,” Franke noted, “so it was important to work with these other key officials to determine the best approach.”

RIAA offers abusers the chance to settle their claims out of court for a reduced amount. The U.S. Copyright Act imposes minimum fines of $750 for each offense.

Each letter lists details of the suspected piracy, including the IP address, the peer-to-peer (P2P) network used in the file sharing, the songs copied--including artist, recording title and album title--the number of files, and the names of the copyright owners.

Additionally, there are instructions not to delete the files or the P2P program. However, a Web site address (www.musicunited.org ) with information on how to disable the program is listed.

RIAA's campaign gets its legs from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which was passed in 1998 and extended copyright laws to the digital environment. According to RIAA, worldwide the music industry loses more than $4 billion a year to piracy. The RIAA’s approach to the problem has sparked much controversy, and the current initiative is no exception.

Part of the issue —and, perhaps, for some, the confusion—is that some music can be legally download from the Internet. What’s more, it’s okay for a consumer to buy a CD and store the music on their MP3 players. What can’t be done legally is the uploading of files, peer-to-peer.

P2P sharing is made possible with applications such as Madster (formerly Aimster), BearShare, Freewire, BitTorrent, LimeWire, Morpheus, NeoNapster, Warez P2P and XoLoX.

Franke reminds users that if they are using the university’s network for Internet access from any place on campus, the IP address can be traced back to UNH. In addition, those who access UNH systems from off-campus using the VPN (Virtual Private Network) services are using a UNH IP address.

“Anyone who uses VPN is well aware that they are using it,” according to Franke. “What they may not realize is that all their activity is passing through UNH’s network. As a simple rule, if you are going to do something you would not do on campus, you should disconnect from VPN first. This includes leaving your VPN connection while others use the computer.”


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