This is a court decision from the US District Court for the District of Maine. It was made on January 25, 2008. In the case, the RIAA sued 27 University of Maine students for copyright infringement, because of their use of the Gnutella file-sharing network. 9 of the students, referred to as “Does,” moved to dismiss the complaint, but in this decision the court rejected the motion. The court said that infringement consists of, “..downloading and distribution of copyrighted sound recordings,” and that “…record companies have the exclusive right to reproduce [the recordings].” Lastly, the court said that the students’ infringement was “willful,” and, “intentional.”
In the decision, the court explained how the RIAA discovered that these students were sharing files. It was explained that the RIAA hired a private company called MediaSentry to log onto the file-sharing network, and download music files from students who were sharing them. MediaSentry then gave the RIAA the students’ IP addresses and the files in question. The RIAA reviewed the list of files being shared to see if they were actually copyrighted material, and then listened to them to verify this. After this determination, the RIAA gave the IP addresses to the University of Maine and asked them to identify the students. The students were sharing from 81-2903 copyrighted files.
Learning exactly how the RIAA identifies infringers was extremely important to my paper. This case explains each step in the process of deciding to file the lawsuit, and what the RIAA’s definition of infringement is. These details allow me to make a judgement of whether or not I think the lawsuits are fair, which is one of the main discussions of my paper.
First of all, simply reproducing a copyrighted work should not be considered copyright infringement. If a person legally purchases a CD, and wants to copy the files to his or her computer, he or she should definitely be allowed to. If the user does not distribute these files, I don’t believe he or she is breaking the law. Secondly, once these files are being shared on a P2P network, the RIAA claims that they listen to every song to verify that it is indeed copyrighted material, but I question whether or not that is true. After reviewing thousands of file names, does the RIAA really take the time to listen to every single song?
Based on the RIAA’s process of finding infringers, it seems that people are getting caught for making files available on a P2P network, but not for actually downloading copyrighted files. For example, if I downloaded a thousand songs and took them out of my shared folder, the RIAA would not be able to discover my actions. Therefore, the people who upload files are considered criminals, but those who download and steal them are not necessarily prosecuted.
The students being sued had from 81-2903 shared music files, and this makes me wonder how these specific 29 students were chosen. Certainly there were other infringers who had more than 81 songs. Assuming this is true, the RIAA gives no reason why these individuals were chosen. It seems that the RIAA is suing people randomly, which isn’t a fair way to file lawsuits. There needs to be more specific criteria.