GW hands over names of alleged illegal downloaders

Wednesday, June 4

The University handed over the names of several students targeted by the recording industry for illegal music downloading last month, prompting record companies to withdraw a federal lawsuit and seek settlements out of court.

Liz Kennedy, a spokesperson for the Recording Industry Association of America, said it is normal procedure for the RIAA to dismiss cases after obtaining the names and addresses of alleged illegal downloaders. GW complied with a subpoena to turn over the names of the nine anonymous students by May 12 – after the court denied an attempt by one of the students last month to dismiss the subpoena.

The RIAA plans to contact the nine students with a settlement opportunity in the near future, though the new deals will not be as generous as the settlement offered before the court proceedings began, Kennedy said.

If these nine students do not agree to settlements within a specified time period – usually about ten to 20 days – the recording industry will likely sue them individually for copyright infringement, Kennedy said. She said the record companies try to give people time to settle so they can “avoid a public lawsuit.”

“Settlement opportunities always exist,” Kennedy said. “(The RIAA) prefers to be reasonable and settle with individuals outside of court.”

Although the original RIAA list of anonymous illegal downloaders included 19 students, GW was able to eliminate a few duplicate names and those students who had already reached settlements, University spokesperson Michelle Sherrard said.

Of the 29,000 lawsuits the RIAA has filed against illegal downloaders, more than 10,000 of them have resulted in settlements, Kennedy said. Though these suits consist of students and non-students alike, the organization’s Web site states that “college students represent a disproportionately high percentage” of illegal downloading.

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