The Recording Industry Association of America, after a key Federal court victory this summer, can obtain a court-ordered information subpoena requiring AU to reveal the identities of individuals who engage in illegal file sharing, according to Justin Perillo of the University General Counsel.
In June, the D.C. Federal Court ruled in favor of the RIAA in RIAA vs. Verizon Internet Services. Verizon was required to release the names of four subscribers who had copyrighted material on their personal computers.
“American University will comply with the law and if served with a valid subpoena, will comply with the subpoena. The target of that subpoena - whether student, faculty or staff - will have to face the consequences of his or her activities,” Perillo said in an e-mail.
The RIAA plans to use the subpoenas to file lawsuits against “individuals who are making substantial numbers of music files available on peer-to-peer networks,” Amanda Collins of the RIAA said.
Perillo said he has not received an information subpoena to date but the RIAA has issued subpoenas for student identities at MIT, Boston College and Loyola College.
According to Collins, the RIAA has been gathering evidence of illegal file sharing since the end of June but could not comment on specific cases.
Prior to the RIAA’s victory, it issued complaints against Internet Service Providers with subscribers who illegally downloaded files.
“Last spring we received on the order of 170 [complaints] that we had to deal with ... with the return of the students we’ve seen a resumption of complaints,” said Eric Weakland, director of Network Security.
Weakland said his office documents who the person was, has them review the University’s “Acceptable Use Policy” and delete the files. Repeated violations would result in suspended network use privileges. Network security then reports back to the Office of General Counsel who notifies the RIAA that proper action was taken, as required by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.
Under the DMCA, the liability of service providers for copyright infringement is limited if it removes the files.
“It’s my role to assure the Office of General Counsel that we have done our due diligence under the DCMA and secured safe harbor for American University,” Weakland said.
The University’s agent for the DMCA is notified by the RIAA when there has been an alleged illegal download of a copyrighted work on the University’s network, Perillo said.
For users who continually violate the University’s Acceptable Use Policy, Perillo is forming a “copyright school.”
“I have been developing the ‘copyright school’ as a short review session to clarify the basics of copyright law. If a user understands the basic concepts of copyright law, then the user may be less likely to illegally download copyrighted material,” he said.
Colleges, universities and the music and film industry have also taken action in the form of a joint committee to address illegal file sharing on campus, Collins said.
“This joint committee serves as sort of a clearinghouse for information for the higher ed. community to help us enforce the law and also educate their students about the consequences that illegal activity on the Internet can hold,” Collins said.
The committee is comprised of university representatives, higher education executives and music and film industry executives. They focus on educating students about their responsibilities, technological solutions to internet piracy and the development of legal, campus-based entertainment services.
Collins said she expects the first round of lawsuits to be filed approximately eight to 10 weeks after the court decision was reached in June.
With such an aggressive campaign by the RIAA to end Internet file sharing, Perillo said, students need to know the facts.
“Students need to be aware that illegal downloading of copyrighted music, computer and movie files is a violation of federal copyright law and copyright owners take it seriously,” he said.
According to Perillo four students were sued last year for illegally downloading music files and forced to pay fines ranging from $12,000 to $17,500.
Collins said the RIAA is uniform in its targeting of University networks and traditional ISP’s, adding that “no one is above the law.”