In 2007, thousands of college students, including about 100 from Ohio University, were sued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for illegally downloading music from file sharing internet sites such as LimeWire and Kazaa. Although most law suits were filed in Federal Court in Columbus or Cincinnati, The Center for Student Legal Services provided advice and assisted students in obtaining settlements with the record companies. Now, the Motion Picture Association of America and individual movie studios are following in the RIAA’s footsteps and going after people for illegal movie downloading.
In 2011, nearly 50,000 were accused of illegally downloading one of two movies, The Hurt Locker and The Expendables. To find out the identities of the people, movie studios hired law firms to issue thousands of “John Doe” subpoenas to internet service providers such as Verizon, Time Warner Cable and Earthlink, asking them to provide the IP addresses of the individuals engaging in illegal downloading activity. Most of them complied and handed over about 50 to 100 IPs per month. This strategy is tricky and often unfair because tracking illegal downloading through IP addresses doesn’t take into account that more than one person likely uses the computer(s) linked to that IP address. Also, more than one residence can be linked to one IP address, such as in a duplex or apartment building. (reference: http://money.cnn.com/2011/06/10/technology/bittorrent_lawsuits/index.htm)
The RIAA used the same strategy to identify illegal music downloads and in those cases, Ohio University was asked to turn over the IP addresses of students who illegally downloaded music using the Ohio University network. The same can happen with movie studios that are out to find individuals illegally downloading movies. In 2007, The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) compiled a list of the top 25 schools that engaged in movie piracy and Ohio University was number 18 on the list. (source: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2007/04/mpaa-names-its-top-25-movie-piracy-schools.ars).
In response to the 2007 file sharing lawsuits, Ohio University has de-prioritized file sharing programs on their network, making it more difficult to illegally share copyrighted files. They have also implemented technology that detects copyrighted content and redirects students to a legitimate method to obtain the desired media.
But if you live off campus and use an outside internet service provider, you should be especially aware of these lawsuits and remember that you can be sanctioned by the university for violation of Policy 91.003 – Computer and Network Use. Specifically:
“Misuse of computing, networking, information, or World Wide Web resources may result in the loss of computing privileges. Additionally, misuse can be prosecuted under applicable statutes. Offenses that are in violation of local, state, or federal laws may be reported to the appropriate university and law enforcement authorities. Users may be held accountable for their conduct under any applicable university or campus policies, procedures, or collective bargaining agreements. Complaints alleging misuse of computer resources will be directed to those responsible for taking appropriate disciplinary action. Reproduction or distribution of copyrighted works, including, but not limited to, images, text, or software, without permission of the owner is an infringement of U.S. Copyright Law and is subject to civil damages and criminal penalties including fines and imprisonment. Violators will be subject to university rules and regulations.” (source: http://www.ohio.edu/oit/security/copyright/)
Although most students settled their music downloading cases to avoid a lawsuit, the settlement price was still high, much higher than if they would have just purchased the music in the first place. The moral of the story? Just buy the movie.
Heidi Sochia, Program Coordinator
Contributors: Patrick McGee, Managing Attorney