Recording industry likely to subpoena Dartmouth College over illegal downloads

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(Host) Dartmouth College has been notified that it will likely be subpoenaed to turn over the names of individuals using its computer network to illegally download music. The subpoenas are part of a stepped up effort by the recording industry to thwart the practice.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Recording industry officials say colleges and universities are hotbeds of illegal downloading. Students tend to have lots of time and free access to high speed Internet service.

That’s why it’s not uncommon for universities to receive notices from the Recording Industry Association of America, or RIAA, alerting them to people using the college network to illegally download and share music over the Internet. By law, the college must order the person to stop. Dartmouth College receives about two dozen of these so-called “Take Down Notices” every month.

But in more extreme cases, the RIAA has been filing lawsuits. The association has told Dartmouth that it will issue subpoenas in six instances of file sharing at the college. It’s not clear if the individuals are all students, or also include faculty or staff.

Jonathan Lamy of the association says he can’t talk specifically about Dartmouth, but Lamy says the federal subpoenas are sought in the most serious file sharing cases.

(Lamy) “We do file lawsuits against real egregious cases of illegal file sharing – people who have hundreds or even thousands of songs on their hard drives and are offering them to the world.”

(Zind) Lamy says the RIAA has been filing the suits at a rate of more than 500 per month for the past year. He says the association has also been working with colleges to cut down on illegal downloading.

Dartmouth General Counsel Robert Donin says the college has been distributing information to students about the consequences of illegal file sharing in an attempt to address the problem.

(Donin) “The information has had some affect and I think in particular the news about the issuance of these subpoenas has probably had more of an affect than anything else that’s happened.”

(Zind) Donin says in most cases the lawsuits cost illegal file sharers anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000. Jonathan Lamy of the RIAA says the suits also send a clear warning to people who are illegally sharing music.

(Lamy) “Even though the lawsuits are not our primary means of trying to encourage people go to legal music services, what we’ve learned is nothing else can really get people’s attention and help them focus on this issue.”

(Zind) Lamy says in the future the RIAA plans to target an increasing number of students using college networks for illegal file sharing.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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