Files shared, lawsuits filed

Along with more than 1,000 other college students across the country, several Bates students got a real-world lesson in copyright law last spring when they were targeted for illegally sharing music over the Internet.

Peer-to-peer file-sharing services such as Limewire make it easy to share music files. But making it easy doesn’t make it right, says the Recording Industry Association of America. After finding sharable music files on computers at various colleges and universities, the RIAA sent letters to 71 schools, including Bates, asking that the letters be forwarded to the computers’ users.

The letters invited the users to settle out of court for undisclosed amounts or risk legal action. Bates complied with the request but did not reveal the users’ names to the RIAA, although they are known to be students, according to Gene Wiemers, College librarian and vice president of Information and Library Services.

Two Bates students apparently settled. In May, the RIAA filed “John Doe” lawsuits against five others, asking Bates to identify them so that legal action could proceed.

Legal proceedings were still under way at press time. Bates will not reveal a user’s name without a subpoena, but when presented with a lawful subpoena, “we will obey the law,” Wiemers says. Furthermore, “the College cannot protect students, or employees for that matter, who illegally share copyrighted materials with others.

“These threats have become a teachable moment in our efforts to help users understand intellectual property rights, but they present hard lessons for the students involved.”

  • June 30, 2007 update: Bates was presented and will comply with a lawful subpoena, reported the Sun Journal newspaper. Bates has notified three students accused of illegal file sharing that they have 14 days to challenge the subpoena before their names and other personal information is turned over to the attorneys representing recording companies.