Student Legal Services

So you think that music is free, do you? Well, perhaps you want to think again.

The Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) has begun aggressively initiating legal actions against individuals engaged in illegal peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. This year, Many students here at The University of Michigan, as well as student at numerous other universities, have been targeted by the RIAA for illegal peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. In the past, students have also been targeted by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Under copyright law, violators can be held liable for up to $150,000 per violation, and it will cost the students thousands of dollars to settle the lawsuits out of court. Several students have agreed to settlements in the neighborhood of $5000.00 in the last three months.

Do not be fooled into believing that illegal file sharing will not be noticed. The RIAA and other copyright holders use automated methods to identify infringements, and even small amounts of sharing can be detected and tracked to a student’s IP address. U of M, in compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), acts quickly when notified of alleged copyright infringements occurring from a computer connected to the campus network. If the RIAA or other copyright holders issue a subpoena to the University seeking the name and address connected with a particular IP address, the University will release this identification information unless the student files a Motion to Quash with the federal court and this Motion is granted. Release of this information will enable the RIAA and other copyright holders to pursue a lawsuit against the student.

While there is no way to know exactly what the RIAA is going to do, or who they are going to sue, students can take the following steps to reduce their chances of being sued. Do not install LimeWire, KaZaA, Blubster, Grokster, BitTorrent, Gnutella, iMesh, CuteMX, Scour, FreeNetfile, or any other music or movie file-sharing software on to your computer. While file-sharing software may itself be lawful, there is usually a copyright on the music, video, or other files being shared. The file sharing is a violation of copyright law unless the copyright owner gives explicit permission. If you have such a program on your computer, remove the program and all music or movies that you have downloaded. Make sure that there are no potentially infringing files in your shared folder. Simply disabling the “sharing” or “uploading” features is not sufficient. Make sure that your computer is password protected to limit access to your computer and thereby preventing others from downloading music or movies onto your computer. For assistance with removing peer-to-peer file sharing applications and copyright infringing materials, contact your departmental computer support professionals.

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