Record Industry Has No Plan to Seek Names of Students Trading
Copyrighted Songs
News bulletin from the Chronicle of Higher Education, 3.1.29

  In a case that campus-network administrators followed closely,
  the recording industry won an important legal victory last
  week that will help record companies ferret out music fans who
  illegally trade copyrighted material. But an industry official
  says the victory doesn't mean companies will start demanding
  the names of college students who pass song files around -- at
  least not yet.

  "We have no current plans to do that, but that doesn't mean we
  wouldn't in the future," says Cary H. Sherman, president and
  general counsel of the Recording Industry Association of
  America, a group representing record companies. "I can't rule
  it out."

  The court case pitted the RIAA against Verizon Communications,
  which had declined to turn over the name of a Verizon customer
  who had allegedly downloaded nearly 600 songs using KaZaA, a
  popular file-sharing system. The RIAA sued to learn the
  customer's name, saying the Digital Millennium Copyright Act
  required Verizon to reveal it.

  Judge John D. Bates, of the U.S. District Court for the
  District of Columbia, sided with the RIAA, ruling on January
  21 that Section 512 of the digital copyright act permits a
  copyright owner to send a subpoena ordering a service provider
  to reveal information about a subscriber. The subpoena doesn't
  require a judge's permission.

  The ruling prompted a flurry of speculation among college
  administrators about whether the recording-industry group
  would regularly present subpoenas to colleges demanding that
  they identify students who swapped music online.

  Mr. Sherman says the recording industry group has not
  presented subpoenas to colleges asking for the identity of
  students who share music online. When copyright owners
  complain to colleges about individuals who use campus networks
  to share movies or music illegally, the owners usually
  identify violators through the numerical Internet address of
  the user's machine. Colleges now receive hundreds of such
  complaints each month.

  Because the recording-industry group communicates periodically
  with college administrators about copyright infringement, it
  hasn't felt the need to demand that colleges hand over the
  names of copyright violators, Mr. Sherman says.

  "We are operating in good faith together to try to address the
  problem in a very productive manner. We would hope not to have
  to be going down the road we had to go down with Verizon."

  Nonetheless, Mr. Sherman says he believes that colleges
  qualify as Internet service providers under the digital
  copyright law. So the institutions can be subpoenaed to hand
  over the names of infringing students, he says.

  That point is not lost on Sheldon E. Steinbach, vice president
  and general counsel of the American Council on Education.

  If the court decision is upheld, "the message to students will
  be clear," he says. "We can find you, and you can be held
  personally liable for copyright infringement." Verizon plans
  to appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
  District of Columbia Circuit.

  But at least one college administrator speculates that the
  recording industry would be reluctant to pursue colleges.
  Tracy B. Mitrano, director of the computer policy and law
  program at Cornell University, says colleges would
  vociferously assert their traditions to uphold academic
  freedom, free speech, and fair use if the record companies
  asked for students' identities.

  "If I were in the entertainment industry and looking to
  enforce" the digital copyright law, she says, "I would more
  likely want to pursue a commercial Internet service provider,
  and perhaps one that has moved into broadband, because that's
  where this activity is moving."