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readyman
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PostSubject: Read this here!   Fri May 29, 2009 3:44 am

The RIAA has recently begun an aggressive legal campaign against college and university students who engage in illegal filesharing. If you have a filesharing program installed on your computer, you are at risk of being fined thousands of dollars -- even if you aren't actively using the program to download content . Below are some tips for protecting yourself.

Background

This year, Williams has received over 100 notices from the entertainment industry identifying IP addresses of computers on campus that correspond to users who have been caught engaging in illegal file sharing. These notices have basically been cease and decist letters. The Collge contacted the person who was caught file sharing and notified the entertainment industry when the problem was rectified. Names were never turned over to people outside the College, and the matter was dealt with internally.
Now, the RIAA is moving away from sending out cease and decist letters and has decided that it will pursue legal action whenever it catches someone violating a copyright held by one of its member labels. So, they are now sending out "pre-settlement" letters in place of the old notifications. The letters explain that the RIAA intends to subpoena a college's internet records so that the RIAA can deal with individuals themselves. However, it also gives students a chance to come forward voluntarily and settle the case before it ever goes to court. This can be done online at p2plawsuits.com. Some schools are refusing to forward these letters along to students, but most schools (including Williams) have decided that students should be made aware of the impending legal action against them. If the College receives a pre-settlement letter that identifies you, the College will forward the letter to you. This does not mean that the College thinks you should settle the case. The College will not be providing legal assistance to anyone against whom the RIAA takes action, so if you receive a pre-settement letter, you may want to talk to your own lawyer. Students at Bates and Swarthmore have already received pre-settlement letters. On average, settlements have cost students $4,000. Previous cases that have gone to court have cost students around $15,000. An example of a pre-settlement letter is posted here.
Both the FAQ on the website the RIAA has set up for settling claims and the pre-settlement letters themselves make legal statements that are debatable. Specifically, it is not yet clear whether or not you have an obligation to preserve evidence against you simply because the RIAA has sent you a pre-settlement letter. This is an issue you might want to discuss with your lawyer if you are accused.
At the moment, the RIAA is transitioning. So, some old style letters are still being sent out. This can make the situation very confusing. Some people have received cease-and-decist letters one week, only to receive pre-settlement letters about the same files the next. If you receive a cease-and-decist letter (which does not threaten legal action), it might be in your interest to not only stop sharing the file, but to delete it entirely. This might help avert some of the legal issues mentioned in the point above.
Unless we are more conscious of P2P copyright violations, the 100+ notices that the College had to deal with this year will become 100+ students getting pre-settlement letters next year. 9 pre-settlement letters have already been sent to students at Williams.
First time offenders will not be treated any differently from repeat offenders. In fact, intentionality isn't even an issue. If you've ever installed a P2P file sharing program on your computuer, you might be violating copyright law inadvertently, because P2P sharing programs turn your computer into an Internet File Server. The University of Chicago has posted a site that explains how you keep your file sharing programs from sharing your files against your will.


Tips for Protecting Yourself

The only way to ensure that you wont get sued is to stop filesharing copyrighted material altogether. Please see the U. Chicago website for instructions on how to disable the most common filesharing applications. Haverford College has compiled a list of legal music stores from which you can purchase songs. However, if you decide to continue filesharing despite the risks, you should probably think about the following:
It is illegal both to upload and to download files, but you're much more likely to get caught if your computer is constantly serving as a file server that other computers are connecting to for content. So, if you make sure that you aren't uploading files (again, see the U. Chicago site) your risk will be reduced.
Torrents are decentralized, but everything you do over the Internet is still trackable. Using torrents does not protect you from a lawsuit.
Data sent directly from one machine on the college network to another machine on the college network never goes off campus. Using an FTP client to move files between local computers is safer than using P2P File Sharing Networks. SCP, and SFTP are safer still, since they use encryption.
On campus, iTunes users can share music legally by streaming it over the network. To share your music, go to the ``Sharing" preferences panel and check the "Share my library on my local network" box. There is a limit on how many people can access your computer per day if you don't password protect your library. A workaround that will let you share with everyone is to check the "Require password" box, but then specify what the password is in the "Shared name".

We Need Your Feedback

Right now, the RIAA is really the only one who knows for sure what networks they're monitoring, what they're on the lookout for, how much they're getting for settlements, and pretty much everything else about how this pre-settlement letter campaign is going to unfold. WSO is considering setting up a website that would allow students here (and if we can coordinate with similar groups at other colleges, perhaps elsewhere as well) to post information about any pre-settlement letters that they receive. The idea is that such an information repository could be used by students (and maybe even their lawyers) to identify patterns in the RIAA's actions. If you think that such a service would be useful or that the site is a bad idea, please send an email to root@wso.williams.edu explaining your opinion, or feel free to post it on the discussion boards.
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PostSubject: Re: Read this here!   Mon Jun 01, 2009 7:10 pm

interesting, i wonder what the students will think of this when they get interupted from class. this is rather neat to see the outcome because of the ammount of people that are students doing this Smile
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