When the RIAA comes a-knockin’

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After the RIAA initiated a series of lawsuits against Columbia students starting in February, students’ rights rose to the forefront of campus debates once again, stirring up controversy about the role of the university and privacy in the digital age. But what happened to those kids? Bwog asked Orlando Rodriguez, C’09, what it’s like when the Man sticks you.

sdfdsWhen did the RIAA tell you they were suing you?

So in late March- it was March 25th I think- I found that my internet was shut off. I called the computer people and they told me they had shut it off because of the RIAA. The guy sounded very serious and said, “Stop or they’ll sue you.” Then a week later I got a letter from the RIAA, which told me to go a certain website and type in my ‘case number.’

And that’s when you found out how much they wanted?

Yeah, it’s $3000. If you pay the money then the charge goes away, but if they take you to court they can charge you up to $150,000. It’s $750 per song because of all the extra crap, the videos and all that.

How many songs did you have?

It was less than a thousand, which was low. I’ve heard of someone settling for $8,000,

so I’m at the lowest end of the spectrum. Most of the settlements are around $5,000.

So they got you for having these songs downloaded?

It wasn’t that I was downloading, it was that I had shared too many. I never fixed my Limewire so that they songs weren’t shared.

How are you settling this? Did you hire a lawyer?

No, no lawyer. It’s too expensive, more expensive than I’m paying. My sister works for a law firm, and they told me my best course of action would be to settle. They give you two options: settle it now- through the Internet-

How, through PayPal?

Yeah! [Laughs] There’s a website you can go to- I forgot exactly what it’s called- and you can pay through PayPal. It’s like buying a product- I thought it was a scam at first! But within 20 days, you have to pay it all or set up a payment plan, for which they give you six months. It’s an extra $250 to do the monthly plan, so now I’m paying $3,250. It comes out to $540 per month, and if you miss a payment, they will double the whole thing. Yes- to $6,000. I spoke with a lady from the RIAA, because you’re assigned a specific agent or something, who told me they would be more lenient on me because I was a student though. My first payment is due in three days. [Laughs]

Do you think you’re being held up as an example?

Yes, well… What do they think they’re going to do? Attack everyone, when nine out of ten students download music? I don’t think they’ll actually take students to court over this, it would be like calling their bluff. I agree that students are the ones who they should go

after, though, and that we shouldn’t download music. I am willing to pay… But I think it’s unreasonable. And if I don’t settle, they can subpoena the school for more information.

How are you going to pay the fine?

Well neither the school nor the bank would give me loans because this is non-educational. I contacted my adviser and met with her, but the school isn’t going to do anything because this does not have to do with anything academically. I also come from a single-parent household… I’m working two jobs this summer to pay off a substantial part by the time summer’s over. I’m also trying to get my uncle to give me a loan.

What did your mother say?

She wasn’t upset, she just was just worried that this would stress me out on top of school work.


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  1. hahahaha

    Take that thief!

  2. KER  

    is this a sexual pun on having the Man stick orlando?

  3. orlandoo...  

    say it ain't so!!

  4. Jeez...  

    absolutely AWFUL compression on that image, Bwog. Eek.

    Hm...perhaps I should turn off LimeWire's sharing of my 3250+ songs...

  5. kudos

    way to handle it, orlando. good luck paying it off...

  6. awww  

    so terrible! orlando be strongggggggg :)

  7. No no no  

    Read their goddamn website. Don't settle, don't ever settle. You're essentially admitting your guilt and you're not even gaining any legal immunity.

    • Agreed  

      They will boss and bully you all they want, but I assure you they won't take you to court initially. They key is to fight from the start so they can't point to any admissions of guilt.

      Fuck them. Fuck them right up their Narc asses and don't settle!

      • but

        If you do end up going to court, what will be your argument? Would you focus on an argument based around not stealing or the fact that the RIAA's price per mp3 in the lawsuit is ridiculous?

        • nope  

          The argument is that the IP address identification doesn't prove that you had illegal music on your computer, which could only be absolutely verified by an inspection of the hard drive. Which if you have any sense has been wiped cleaner than a nun's confessional on Easter Sunday.

          • doesn't work  

            People have already tried that and it just angers the judge and he rules in favor of the RIAA.


          • spanish inquisition

            uh huh, maybe you're forgetting a recent case where the RIAA sued a guy whose account was linked to a specific IP.

            only, the service provider fucked up. it wasn't his IP address. it wasn't anyone's, if i remember correctly -- there was no way to prove a linkage between the individual and the IP in question as a result of an bookkeeping screwup.

            so the judge, then, got angry? ruled in favor of the RIAA? i don't understand your sweeping and uninformed generalization.

            the point is that there are one or more links between what the RIAA sees and who is actually behind an IP address. my best analogy would be, someone got robbed in front of your apartment, or house -- therefore, you robbed him, because it was in front of your residence.

            even a MAC address can be called into question. this is a hardware address, unique to individual computers -- unless it is cloned. there's no way to effectively establish a one-to-one correlation between a MAC address and a person, either, as a result of this.

            also: the RIAA hates establishing precedent when they know they're wrong. look how hard they've tried to avoid having their cases dismissed, with prejudice, due to their legal screwups.

            last: settling is stupid.

          • You Don't Read  

            Maybe you should actually read the article. Once you choose to fight the case and it goes to court the court will have your hard drive inspected. If you are actually guilty than the evidence will obviously be there if you don't erase it. If you choose to erase it it will become obvious that you have done so because of other evidence those programs leave. Once the court realizes you have done this it is considered tampering with evidence or obstruction of justice and the court will automatically rule in the RIAA's favor. If you don't believe me just read the link and you can probably find the actual case documents if you really care enough. Settling is only stupid if you are innocent like the defendant in the recent case you reference was. If you are guilty its probably best to settle.

          • mike  

            I think his point is that when you go to court, they'll ask to see the hard drive in question, so if you're actually guilty, you're going to be caught for it.

  8. damn, that

    sounds like good old-fashioned extortion to me...

  9. I'm too poor

    I'm too poor for a lawyer... boohoohoo; then maybe you shouldn't have been stealing


    • mike  

      What are you talking about? He's not complaining at all; he's actually maturely accepting his punishment and taking responsibility for what he did.

      "I agree that students are the ones who they should go after, though, and that we shouldn't download music. I am willing to pay."

  10. Britney  

    wants her schoolgirl outfit back.

  11. Do you keep

    Do you get to keep the music now?

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