Thanks to everyone who made last Monday’s launch party such a success! If you missed the party, we’ll be distributing the rest of the magazines (roughly 400 copies) across campus on Friday. Though they’ll be spread in a variety of locations, you can count on finding a copy in the second floor of Memorial Hall and in the gyms. If you can’t wait to get your DEcon fix, here’s an article to whet your appetite. You may also download a .pdf of the entire magazine on our website, at http://copland.udel.edu/stu-org/DeconMag/pi.html.
My Tango with the RIAA
by KATHLEEN HEBBLEWAITE
Normally, I don’t pay much attention to how I get my music. All I know is that I need that song now. To say that I love music is simplifying it. I need music. I know this sounds over-dramatic, but after going through a depressing drought over the summer, I’ve realized that music is how I get through the day. Whether I’m happy, sad, or one of the myriad emotions in between, I can always find a song that will go with it, make it better, or help it along. Broken Social Scene, the Gossip, Arctic Monkeys, Voice, some Mary J. Blige, whatever. I’m not making life-size models of the Velvet Underground in clay, but it seems I’ve developed an unwavering dedication to finding new artists with new sounds and new experiences.
So when I received a notification letter from an IT security goon telling me I was being sued for my enthusiasm for both music and saving money, it was kind of a low blow. I shouldn’t say sued, necessarily. The RIAA kindly made me an offer: $3,000 in forty days or they would bring charges against me for copyright infringement.
“IF WE DO NOT HEAR FROM YOU WITHIN FORTY (40) CALENDAR DAYS FROM THE DATE OF THIS LETTER, THEN WE WILL FILE SUIT AGAINST YOU IN FEDERAL COURT,” said Donald J. Kelso, a lawyer from Holme Roberts & Owen LLP.
Receiving anything that’s all in capitals usually causes me to panic a little, so you can imagine how much I was freaking out reading this letter.“Oh shit!” That was my main thought. I think I dissociated a little. I first read the letter while I was at my job in Philadelphia. It was late summer and I was just doing a routine email check.After reading the letter, I practically ran out of the office. I called the “Settlement Information Line,” where I was greeted by what sounded like a 16 year old trainee, who assured me thousands of people get letters like this every month.Comforting.I didn’t know what to do. I budgeted my money compulsively for a few days, and decided I would have to take their 6 month payment plan. Or I would have to take out a loan. Or…cry a lot. Maybe I could sell my back as advertising space on eBay.My iPod, which was happily full and used to being played all the time, was immediately shunned like it had the plague. I was specifically being accused of “distributing” more than 200 songs using LimeWire. I didn’t know that LimeWire opened up everything on your computer. I should have, but I didn’t. I’ve never had much luck with technology, really.
EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and Warner had made it clear: You stole $200 worth of music from us, so we will threaten to sue you for up to $750 per song. It was also clear that they had completely reconstructed a relationship that had previously been pleasant.
As a lifelong music customer, I felt targeted and disrespected. I understand that I had illegally downloaded music. I did not, however, feel that what I did warranted threats.
According to dear friend dictionary.com, extortion is “the crime of obtaining money by the abuse of one’s office or authority.” I can’t really see what the RIAA did as anything else.
After calling the number they gave me, I was called back several times by the same little girl, pressuring me to make up my mind as to payment. I ended up paying the amount online, through a convenient site that UD actually refers students to when they receive one of these extortion letters.
In retrospect, I should have just ignored the entire thing. At the time, though, I was scared. I didn’t know my rights. I didn’t know what others had done, and I was being threatened.
The university didn’t help either. I called a head honcho in the IT department to try to figure out what had happened and he never returned my message. The woman I talked to at the IT number said she couldn’t help me. UD basically gave me the letter and left me to deal with it on my own. Hands-off. Good luck, you rebel. Maybe they were angry that they didn’t catch me.
Interestingly enough, not all universities have decided to be tools of the RIAA. According to consumerist.com, the University of Wisconsin has refused to forward RIAA letters unless they can provide a valid subpoena. The University of Nebraska is charging the RIAA $11 to process each letter. After all, universities are not working for the RIAA. Right?
The impression I get from UD is that they’d give out your information if they were pressed. After all, we already have “stalker net” through the main udel site that gives out my address.
After paying the money, I got an additional slap in the face by UD by getting a “strike” which would put me on probation for my senior year.
You know, I only wanted some music. With CDs selling at a going rate of $18, it’s no wonder so many students download. What I really don’t understand is why these companies are targeting one of their prime groups of consumers. Why college students, who don’t have any money to begin with?
My guess is because they can. They’re big, powerful, and scary. They’re losing money in record sales. Why not be pro-active and extort as much money from their consumers as they can? A lot of people would rather pay the $3,000 than risk the expenses of a lawyer in court.
All the righteous anger aside, what I really am is disappointed. Music shouldn’t be associated with people like this.
On the positive side, a lot of people are smartening up to the RIAA’s threat tactics. The RIAA is getting denied and accused left and right. Soon enough, they’ll regret this strategy.
Until then, I still plan on being a music head. I’m not going to let the business-heads get in my way. I will never buy a CD from them again, though.
You hear that evil music overlords? NEVER AGAIN!
Now I need to mellow out to some…Rage Against the Machine.