In file-sharing debate, fortunes rise and fall

by Zachary Goldstein | 11/11/03 6:00am

As the Recording Industry Association of America continues to bear down on illegal file-sharers across the country, Dartmouth has not gone unnoticed. The College has "seen a pick up in the number of complaints from the RIAA" in the form of Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown requests, according to Network Services Director Bill Brawley.

Although Brawley is receiving "a half dozen to a dozen" such requests each week, no subpoenas or lawsuits have been filed against students or the College.

But because the RIAA hasn't gone after any students at Dartmouth does not mean that all file-sharers are so fortunate. The RIAA filed a second wave of lawsuits this month, continuing to seek out "egregrious file sharers" who are "on average, distributing 1,000 copyrighted music files for millions of strangers on the Internet to copy for free," according to an RIAA press release.

After sending out 204 notification letters earlier in October, the RIAA filed 80 lawsuits Thursday, with the remaining 124 recipients having expressed interest in resolving the claims without a suit.

The first wave of 261 lawsuits was filed in September. Of those, 156 file-sharers have settled with the RIAA.

Immediately following the announcement of the lawsuits on Sept. 8, the RIAA announced its "clean slate" program through which individuals may be granted amnesty for previous illegal file-sharing transgressions.

Individuals interested in participating in the clean slate program are required to sign and notarize a two-page affidavit and pledge to "delete any illegally obtained music files and pledge to not download or distribute copyrighted works in the future," RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy said last month.

Currently, 1,000 people have come forward and submitted amnesty affidavits under the clean slate program.

The RIAA also lauded two recent trends in the illegal file-sharing community that it claims will eventually lead to a decrease in illegal file-sharing: awareness, and the arrival of a legitimate online music marketplace.

According to October survey data from Peter Hart Research Associates, the percentage of those polled who say it is "illegal to make music from the computer available for others to download for free over the Internet" has skyrocketed, from 37 percent in November 2002 to 75 percent in October 2003.

Additionally, the emergence of services such as Apple's iTunes music store, which is now available for Windows and charges 99 cents per song, and Napster 2.0, which is now a pay service, represent legal online music options.

"Awareness that file sharing is illegal and interest in legitimate online music services are both up, while traffic on the pirate p2p services is down," RIAA President Cary Sherman said. "Record companies are giving fans what they want -- exciting, flexible online services and a retail marketplace that offers great new music and great value -- and fans are responding."

Even as more settlements are reached in this latest round of litigation, the rolling process of finding illegal file-sharers, issuing subpoenas and filing lawsuits will continue, RIAA spokesperson Jonathan Lamy said.