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The dangers of file sharing on a college campus

Free music for millions has been disabled by federal law. Credit: Device Magazine

A first-hand account of the aftermath of illegal downloads

By: Angela Romano, Co-Editor-in-Chief

During Natalie Pike’s last week as a freshman at Purdue University, she received a thick packet in the mail informing her that she had been sued for $100,000 by six different record companies. She was accused of downloading 12 songs off of LimeWire, a peer-to-peer file sharing network in which
users share music and video files.

The six record companies–Atlantic Recording Corp, Virgin Records America Inc, UMG Recordings Inc, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Maverick
Recording Co. and BMG Music– had sued 15 students at Purdue for breach of copyright.

Pike’s father contacted a lawyer and reached a settlement with the record companies; they had to pay $5,000 within six months. Now a senior in college, she has been repaying her dad ever since.

“I was an idiot and didn’t even block the shared files,” Pike said. “I know a ton of people who simply blocked the shared files and never got caught, but then again they could have been lucky and I just wasn’t.”

Pike’s experience isn’t unique. The Record Industry Association of America said the association has filed more than 35,000 individual lawsuits against users of file-sharing systems, with people usually negotiating a $3,000 to $5,000 settlement. While users of LimeWire
have been getting sued since the company was established in 2000, 13 record companies won a lawsuit in May 2010 against LimeGroup,
the company who owns LimeWire, for copyright infringement.
With the damages portion of the trial scheduled for May 2, the RIAA asked New York Federal Judge Kimba Wood to settle the dispute in
regards to the amount of damages they should receive; they have demanded $75 trillion in damages.

About 11,000 songs have been identified as “infringed” material, and each song has been downloaded thousands of times. The RIAA said it should be compensated for each individual download. In Judge Wood’s 14-page ruling, she said $75 trillion in damages was absurd. She rejected the notion that LimeWire should pay up to $150,000 for each download of the 11,000 songs, which was what was included in the RIAA lawsuit.

“An award based on the RIAA calculations would amount to more money than the entire music industry has made since Edison’s invention of the phonograph in 1877,” Wood said in her ruling.
“The court will permit the RIAA to seek one statutory award for each infringed song,” Wood said.

This means LimeWire could still be liable for damages totaling about $1 billion.

Music artists are divided in their views of fi le-sharing Web sites. A national survey of 2,755 musicians found that, while a vast majority of
musicians said online file sharing should be illegal, some of the musicians surveyed also said that the Internet has made it possible for them to make more money from their art and piracy hasn’t made them lose that great of a profit.

Dominican senior and musician Iliana Incandela said file-sharing Web sites allow new artists to get recognition.

“For musicians like myself who are just beginning, LimeWire is an excellent resource to put new, independent music out to the public,” Incandela said. “It’s a great way for others to sample your music, and for an artist to build a fan base. At the same time, it is unfair to the artist not to
be compensated for their work.”

LimeWire is the latest peer-to-peer fi le-sharing company to field the entertainment companies’ wrath. Record companies have already successfully sued Aimster, Napster and Grokster.

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