University Responds to RIAA $98 Billion Lawsuit Against Student.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Curtis J. Tompkins
to Tinfoil Music for the text of the letter.