Yale has emerged unscathed from the latest round of file-sharing lawsuits against college students, but as students at Harvard and Princeton prepare to answer the recording industry’s charges, officials warn that a much larger anti-piracy campaign is in the works.
Eleven students from Harvard and 25 from Princeton were among the 405 college and university students nationwide sued by the Recording Industry Association of America last week in its latest wave of claims against individuals suspected of illegally swapping music online. In addition to the 18 campuses already receiving “preservation orders” in anticipation of subpoenas, RIAA spokeswoman Jenni Engebretsen said the association will soon target 140 additional campuses across the country, but she could not say whether Yale is on its list.
Though Yale has not been subpoenaed for the personal information of suspected infringers, University technology officials said the general file-sharing complaints from entertainment companies have more than doubled in recent weeks.
“Sometimes we’ll get two or three or four a day; we used to only get one a day or every other day,” Information Security Officer Morrow Long said. “Still, our current system works pretty well. We don’t have to report anybody’s names.”
Yale’s current policy is one of internal management, Long said. When a complaint is reported, Information Technology Services officials track the offending IP address to a source and send its owner the equivalent of a “cease and desist” letter that they must sign and return. A second offense requires the student’s residential college dean to sign off on a similar letter, and in rare cases, a third offense results in the loss of network privileges.
Spokesmen for both Harvard and Princeton said their respective universities intend to fully comply with the RIAA subpoenas. Harvard spokesman Joe Wrinn said students in Cambridge are being encouraged to delete the offending material, and Princeton spokesman Eric Quinones said his university expects to meet the May 9 deadline set by the RIAA as an example to other potential offenders.
“The university has made it clear to students that copyright infringement must be taken seriously, both through our published policies and through outreach efforts to educate students about this issue,” Quinones said. “We will continue to make students aware of the serious consequences of violating copyright laws.”
Engebretsen said the lawsuits specifically target students using “i2hub,” a program that accelerates downloads through the high-speed academic network “Internet2.” Long said Yale’s minimal use of the program was one factor in the lack of suits against its students, but he said ITS officials’ practices of “packet shaping” — limiting peer-to-peer connections to a certain speed and transfer rate — are likely more effective in preventing students from raising red flags.
“There’s probably a certain amount of file-sharing here, but … we don’t monitor it, we don’t look for it, so we can’t really say what scale it’s on,” Long said. “Just the normal [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] procedure seems to keep it to a pretty low level.”
Annalee Newitz, a policy analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the RIAA’s methods of obtaining IP addresses on i2hub are still unclear, since only universities and a few corporations use the network. University or corporate officials may be granting RIAA personnel access to the network, but Newitz said such charges remain unproven.
The Motion Picture Association of America has followed the RIAA’s lead, suing students at 12 universities in similar “John Doe” cases without prior knowledge of the defendants’ identities. MPAA spokeswoman Kori Bernards said that Yale students may have been spared from these charges because of the University’s partnership with the legal file-sharing program CDigix and what Long called an “education campaign” regarding the dangers of copyright infringement.
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