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University Responds to RIAA $98 Billion Lawsuit Against Student. 


04-12-03 antiGUY
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As we reported last week, The RIAA launched the next wave of their assault against illegal online music piracy when they filed suit against several university student for copyright infringement. The RIAA claimed that over 1 million illegal files were involved and sued for $150,000 per song. 

One student targeted was Joe Nievelt who attends Michigan Tech University. If the RIAA wins their suit against Nievelt and is awarded the $150,000 per song then Nievelt is looking at a judgment estimated at $97.8 billion dollars. 

Michigan Tech University President is upset over the lawsuit and says that his school has worked with the RIAA in the past to track down and stop piracy from occurring within their networks but this time the RIAA by passed school officials and filed the suit against one of their students without even talking to the school before hand. 

Curtis J. Tompkins, President of Michigan Tech University wrote the following response letter to the RIAA earlier this month. 

April 4, 2003

Mr. Cary Sherman
Recording Industry Association of America
1330 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036

Dear Mr. Sherman:

In response to your letter of April 3, 2003, I offer the following comments.

Michigan Technological University has been a partner with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) since the inception of the Soundbyting campaign. We have used your materials, methods and procedures to help educate our students on all aspects of copyright law.

We have programs in place to help educate our students on their responsible use of the Internet and its technologies with respect to intellectual property issues.

Our orientation sessions, freshman hall programs, and acceptable-use policies all cover the copyright issue. We also understand that no matter how much education we provide, people will still break the law.

For this reason, we have procedures in place to deal with situations when we are properly notified through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). We cooperate fully with all DCMA requests by suspending the connection of the offending machine and moving the offender through a disciplinary process in the Office of Student Affairs.

This process includes a one-hour presentation on copyright law with respect to the Internet. Students are then required to clean up their machine and compose a letter to the company filing the DMCA stating that they have attended the presentation and complied.

In your letter dated April 3, 2003, you refer to a letter of October 3, 2002, sent to all university presidents. Your last line in that letter reads

"We stand ready to be of assistance in any way you might find helpful."

Our Information Technology department, upon receiving this letter, contacted your office twice by phone (leaving messages for Jonathon Whitehead) and three times by e-mail in an effort to update our reference materials and procedures with you.

Your organization responded to none of these messages.

I believe that we would not be facing this situation with Joseph Nievelt today had we been able to gain your help in providing additional information to our student body. We have cooperated fully with the RIAA, but in recent months, have not seen the same from your organization.

You have obviously known about this situation with Joe Nievelt for quite some time. Had you followed the previous methods established in notification of a violation, we would have shut off the student and not allowed the problem to grow to the size and scope that it is today. I am very disappointed that the RIAA decided to take this action in this manner. As a fully cooperating site, we would have expected the courtesy of being notified early and allowing us to take action following established procedures, instead of allowing it to get to the point of lawsuits and publicity.

It has been stated by your office that this is "a bump in the road" between the RIAA and Michigan Tech, and that we will move on from here. It is unfortunate that you choose to trivialize the problem in this manner. It is not a bump in the road for Joe Nievelt or Michigan Technological University.

Taking all of this into consideration, we realize the seriousness of the allegations against Mr. Nievelt and will cooperate fully in resolving this matter.

Sincerely,

Curtis J. Tompkins
President

Thanks to Tinfoil Music for the text of the letter.  .




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