Student Targeted for Illegally Offering Song to be Downloaded

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LOGAN, Utah (AP) -- A Utah State University student could soon have to pay thousands of dollars to the Recording Industry Association of America for illegally making a song available to download.

USU officials believe this is the first time a student at the school has faced legal action from the organization.

The school received a letter last week saying the RIAA would soon offer to settle with the student. If the student, who has not been named by school official, agrees to pay, he or she will not be sued.

A settlement offer of about $3,000 is likely, according to Bob Bayn, information technology security team coordinator.

Bayn said he isn't sure why this student was targeted.

"This student didn't do anything different than many others," Bayn said.

Each year, USU receives about 80 letters from the RIAA asking that students remove music files that they are offering through file-sharing software.

The school is contacted because it is the students Internet service provider.

USU then notifies the student, who is responsible for removing the file.

In September, Bayn got the letter regarding the student facing the settlement. He went through the normal procedure and believes the song was removed. The RIAA then sent a letter saying a settlement offer was coming.

"I was concerned that this could happen before it happened and am concerned that it could happen again," he said. "There are a number of economical ways to get music online without having to buy a whole CD to get one tune that you like. The attraction of free versus cheap isn't worth the risk, it appears now."

Bayn said anyone offering music files online should stop, though the risk of getting a letter from the RIAA is small.

"The thing that concerns me about this whole scenario is that despite the information we try to provide, I don't think that students understand that when they use a peer-to-peer file sharing program, they become a provider (of free music)," he said. "That is going to bite them."

USU Instructional Technology professor David Wiley said the RIAA is taking the wrong approach.

"The way to your customers hearts is not to sue thousands of them randomly," he said.

Wiley cited one case where the RIAA prosecuted a 12-year-old child for file sharing. The case was eventually settled for $2,000, which was paid by the child's supporters.

The negative publicity from that lawsuit, and the hundreds of others, is not worth it, Wiley said.

Meanwhile, the amount of file sharing has not slowed.

Wiley feels the music industry needs to change the laws and find a new business model or "they will wake up and find they're out of business."

Religious studies and speech communication major Joe Phippen said he feels strongly that this adaptation is essential. He said he would consider going to jail rather than pay a settlement to the RIAA.

"It would be civil disobedience," he said. "People can say that file sharing is wrong because it's illegal, but was Rosa Parks wrong for not sitting in the back of the bus (because it was illegal)?"


Information from: The Herald Journal

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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