By Dalton Karwacki
The number of letters to Rider students from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) concerning illegal music distribution has risen to more than 340.
Since Sept. 1, Rider has received 344 letters from the RIAA about students illegally uploading copyrighted music, up from approximately 250 two weeks ago. The letters sent out this year reflect nearly a 30-fold increase from last year, when the University received only about a dozen such letters.
These letters inform the University that its network is being used to distribute copyrighted material, and that action should be taken to address this (see excerpt). They warn that the unauthorized music should be immediately deleted in order to avoid legal consequences.
RIAA officials could not be reached for comment.
In the event of legal action being taken for illegal music distribution, Keith Kemo, director of the Office of Community Standards, said that the University, as well as the student, could be liable.
“We take it seriously,” he said, noting that the University and the student could be fined. He said the University would seek reimbursment for the cost of the fines from the student.
Moreover, if students were to disregard the warning, Kemo said that the offense would fall under section 3.1 of The Source, which deals with unauthorized use of the University’s network or computers. There are three potential levels of punishment, numbered one through three, one being the most severe.
“The University could expel [the offender] from the University permanently or suspend for a period of time with a level one,” Kemo said.
A level two violation could earn temporary suspension from the University or a loss of housing for resident students. Level three could include a loss of housing, community restitution or temporary social restrictions, among other things.
Of the 344 letters, some are duplicates, meaning some students have received multiple letters, according to Tim Fairlie, the director of network and communication services for the Office of Information Technology (OIT).
“There have been several where multiple letters came for a single song, or multiple songs within the same time period, or just plain duplicates, but no letters that would indicate anyone failing to respond to a notice,” Fairlie said.
One male junior, who asked to remain anonymous, said he has not received a letter but the idea of getting one has not influenced his behavior.
“The letters haven’t really made me share music less, mostly because I haven’t gotten one,” he said. “If I got one, I would probably stop.”
According to Kemo, there has never been an instance of a student refusing to comply.
“The fact is, over the past 10 years, we have not had a student not comply with the request of the University in that regard,” Kemo said. If a student disregarded the letters, “it’d kind of be uncharted water.”
According to Kemo, the most likely penalty would be a level three penalty resulting in a loss of network privileges.
“We could turn a student’s network connection off,” Kemo said. “I think that would be appropriate if they continue to fail to comply. That would probably be carried out after a consultation with the Dean [of Students Anthony Campbell] and probably Tim Fairlie.”
Suspension or expulsion are less likely, according to Kemo.
“Would we suspend or expel a student? I don’t know, probably not,” he said. “Some of it would depend on the student’s history. If they have a history of failing to comply with things and violating University policy, then the sanctions for this incident would go up. If this is the first thing they’ve ever done at the University, we probably would not seek a suspension or an expulsion.”
According to Kemo, a large reason for illegal music distribution is ignorance, either of its illegality or the fact that it can be traced back to an individual.
“Students may be unaware that they’re doing something illegal or, more importantly, that they can get caught and that the outcome can be so significant,” Kemo said. “There are students who have been fined a lot of money by the RIAA, and once they hear that, they are very quick to comply.”
Campbell laid out the University’s stance on the issue.
“Obviously, we want students to enjoy their music, but we want them to do so legally,” he said. “Basically, what you’re doing is electronic theft, and we’re hoping that our students will pay more attention to a strong, sound ethical base and make the right choice.”