When the RIAA comes a-knockin’
Written by Bwog Staff
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.
When 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.