The RIAA strikes back

After trying to work with college administrators in its quest to stop computer owners from trading songs on file-sharing networks, the Recording Industry Association of America filed a lawsuit Thursday against four college students it claims were hosting servers for these networks.

The latest lawsuit by the RIAA is intended to shock file-sharing users into the reality that trading files online is a felony and is punishable by stiff fines or jail time.

Before this lawsuit was filed, the RIAA would send letters to individual schools informing them that users on their networks were participating in possible copyright infringements.

Administrators would then be allowed to take whatever disciplinary actions they felt necessary.

In this case, these steps were not pursued because the RIAA said the four students named in the lawsuit were committing such serious offenses that it felt the need to address the problem.

The students identified in the complaints were Aaron Sherman and Jesse Jordan of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Joe Nievelt of Michigan Technological University and Daniel Peng of Princeton

Penalties sought by the association amount to $150,000 for each copyrighted work that was downloaded.

The suit alleges that the students ran networks using the file-sharing programs Phynd, Flatlan and Direct Connect, which allow users to search a listing of files from various other users.

The lawsuit goes on to state that one of the students distributed 27,000 music files, while the other three ran networks offering 500,000 files, 650,000 and more than one million music files.

This would leave the student sharing one million files with fees in excess of $150 billion for furnishing a network.

An official at one of the schools mentioned in the lawsuit has publicly announced his displeasure with the actions of the RIAA.

Michigan Technological University President Curtis Tompkins sent a letter to the RIAA to express his annoyance with the association for not first contacting the school.

Tompkins accused the RIAA of knowing about the problem and not contacting the university before seeking litigation against the Michigan Tech student.

Most universities have taken actions to cooperate with the RIAA in its pursuit of individuals who are found to be in copyright violation.

Some schools, such as Princeton, have set up a Web site where individuals can file a complaint with the office of information technology, which will then investigate if any wrongdoing has been committed by the student.

These actions by the RIAA are sending a clear message to students and individuals across the country that the association means business. It is no longer willing to rely on individual schools to assist it in trying to put an end to piracy at colleges nationwide.