Another RIAA Copyright Horror Story

I was approached by an undergraduate student last week. She had recently received a letter from the RIAA demanding that she pay them a settlement for infringement. They had the names of seven songs, the times when the songs were shared and an IP address associated with the sharing. The organization had apparently issued a subpoena to the University of Texas, as the settlement letter was able to specifically name her with information provided from the University that showed the IP address associated with her EID (UT’s electronic identification) at those times. Here’s the problem.

She didn’t share those files.

You see, she was never able to quite figure out how to connect her laptop- her only computer- to UT’s new restricted secure 802.1x wireless network while on campus. That is not unusual- I’ve provided tech support to several people about that very issue since the implementation of the network.

So, while on campus, she used other people’s laptops to log onto the wireless network. And she frequently left the computer while still being logged in to the network. It’s not difficult to forget to log out- you often have to actively clear the credentials from the computer, and the early automated installers that set up the network didn’t provide an easy way to do so.

If anything, she’s guilty of not following UT’s Acceptable Use Policy. Technically, other people were using her EID. The consequences for that, however, should be far different from the consequences for infringement.

She called the RIAA, and they weren’t interested in her story or any proof she might be able to provide. They told her to settle. She’s contacted UT’s Legal Services, but as the person who might have actually done the sharing is probably also their client, so they have a conflict of interest and couldn’t represent her. She’s contacted other attorneys and all the people that she could think of, but all the while the clock is ticking. She has 10 days. After that, the RIAA takes further action, and the costs go up.

At this point in time it looks like she might have to settle and pay thousands of dollars for infringement that she didn’t commit.


  1. Bookmarks about Copyright said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 7:46 am

    […] Another RIAA Copyright Horror Story – bookmarked by 1 members originally found by nanthalmindworks on July 09, 2008 […]

  2. BrokeCollegeKid said,

    July 16, 2008 @ 4:31 pm

    That’s unbelievable and very unfortunate. It’s too bad they’re not interested whatsoever in find the true culprit, or at least not punishing the innocent.

  3. hakilaki said,

    August 25, 2008 @ 10:55 am

    It was always like that – when elephants fight, the only thing that suffers is the grass.

  4. Peter Williams said,

    August 31, 2008 @ 2:14 am

    The RIAA and the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) have been working together to find educational business solutions for subscription service royalties, and it is expected that those efforts will continue.

  5. nancy said,

    November 19, 2008 @ 1:34 pm

    Sometimes Justice is in the eyes of the beholder. Its always hard to see someone get off for a crime you know they committed. thanks for sharing the story!

  6. Robert C - The Wholesale Products Guy said,

    January 5, 2009 @ 11:40 pm

    Some general and legal information in case any other student reading this post faces a lawsuit from the RIAA.

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation provides a wealth of information about RIAA lawsuits..

    RIAA v. the Students: An FAQ for “Pre-Lawsuit” Letter Targets

    Links For Finding A Lawyer That Defends RIAA Lawsuits

    The RIAA vs. John Doe..
    A layperson’s guide to filesharing lawsuits

    Regards – Robert..

  7. SpeedRacer2K said,

    April 3, 2009 @ 2:30 pm

    Just out of curiousity, has there been an update to this student’s subpeona with the RIAA?

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