RIAA Targets Michigan Students, Draws NPR Ire

    March 15, 2007

Privacy is a hot word around the blogosphere today; Google is protecting it and the RIAA is employing every trick in their playbook to circumvent a user’s right to privacy by pressuring ISPs and Universities to voluntarily hand over identifying information pertaining to users who are allegedly violating copyright law by sharing digital music over the school’s network.

Earlier today, the Internet rejoiced as Michael Crook was forced to eat crow and issue a public apology for his antics revolving around the DMCA. The celebration, however, was short lived as the face of true online tyranny, the RIAA, made its presence felt yet again by disclosing its intention to file suit against twelve students from the University of Michigan for copyright infringement.

Here’s an excerpt from the RIAA’s letter to the school, which can be viewed in its entirety in a Wired blog post by Eliot Van Buskirk:

On Friday, March 9, and Saturday, March 10, the University of Michigan received notification that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) intends to sue or receive settlement from more than a dozen members of the U-M community engaged in unlawful peer-to-peer file sharing of music over the Internet. The RIAA has designated these individuals through IP addresses, and the University is in the process of identifying and notifying them.

It’s a shrewd move by the RIAA, to be sure. I mean after all, college students have plenty of money just lying around to pay these kinds of settlements. Also, the fact that the RIAA has convinced the school to hand over the names of the students without even having to go through the trouble of obtaining a subpoena is an act of sheer genius, never mind the fact that such action is most likely a violation of due process.

Of course, not everyone is rolling over and played dead for the RIAA.

National Public Radio has decided to step up and take on the RIAA head on, challenging legislation endorsed by the entity that increases the royalty rates for streaming audio content — a move that is seen as a crushing blow to online radio sites that provide content from RIAA artists.

NPR VP of Communication, Andi Sporkin, issued some strong words for the RIAA which can be found in this article by Steve Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

This decision penalizes public radio stations for fulfilling their mandate, it penalizes emerging and non-mainstream musical artists who have always relied on public radio for visibility and ultimately it penalizes the American public, whose local station memberships and taxes will be necessary to cover the millions of dollars that will now be required as payment.

On behalf of the public radio system, NPR will pursue all possible action to reverse this decision, which threatens to severely reduce local stations’ public service and limit the reach of the entire music community. NPR will begin on Friday, March 16 by filing a petition for reconsideration with the CRB panel, the first step in this process. We ask that the online royalties be returned to their historic arrangement and that public radio can continue to provide its vital service to music discovery.

And in my favorite piece of RIAA news today, Consumerist is sponsoring a contest to determine the Worst Company In America. It’s been a brutal competition, but the finals have come down to Haliburton and the RIAA, with the latter currently leading the way with 58% of the vote.

You know, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has already taken care of one Crook that grossly misunderstood the Digital Millennium Copyright Act; perhaps now they can focus their efforts on the next batch of DMCA abusers, the RIAA.