Recording Industry Finds A New Battleground

In the two years since the Recording Industry Association of America declared war on file-sharing, something like 10,000 Americans have been sued for illegally trading songs over the Internet. So many, in fact, that new lawsuits hardly merit news coverage - a situation that has forced the industry to get imaginative to stay in the headlines.

The RIAA didn't have to look far. Thanks to Internet2 - a lightning-fast network shared by dozens of universities - students have been swapping files at breakneck speeds. Songs take mere seconds to download, movies just minutes.

Last week, the RIAA announced it would sue up to 25 students at each of 18 universities around the country, including Georgia Tech, for Internet2 file-sharing. Because the identities of the offenders aren't known in most cases, they're are listed as John Doe. Universities can expect subpoenas forcing them to identify file-swappers.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, sort of an ACLU for the Internet, believes that such subpoenas can lead to a violation of Internet users' privacy. Fred von Lohmann says the EEF, for which he is an attorney, has been trying to persuade universities to dump the logs that identify which computer is using the network at a specific time. That way, the RIAA would be unable to target specific individuals.

But so far, universities still maintain usage logs, which are key pieces of evidence in the RIAA's lawsuits.

Von Lohmann says that for the recording industry, the lawsuits are more than symbolic; with settlements averaging between $3,000 and $5,000 each, they're becoming a revenue generator.

"From a cost perspective, they're a perpetual motion machine," von Lohmann says. "And there's no public relations reason to stop them. If the bad press was going to scare them off, it would have scared them off by now."??

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