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How the RIAA Targets Campus Copyright Violators 280

Posted by timothy
from the lures-them-in-with-jim-hawkins-dolls dept.
jyosim writes "The Chronicle of Higher Ed got a briefing at RIAA headquarters on how the group catches pirates. They just use LimeWire and other software that pirates use, except that they've set up scripts to search for songs, grab IP numbers, and send out notices to college officials. They claim they don't target specific colleges, though many feel that they do."
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How the RIAA Targets Campus Copyright Violators

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  • Target selection (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Walpurgiss (723989) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @01:34PM (#23392940)
    Like article says, they ensure that the infringer is in the US before bothering to send a notice, but I'd be willing to bet there are some US schools too that they try to avoid spamming with notices. Not so much selective targeting, but selective non-targeting.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @01:36PM (#23392970) Journal
    Prohibit using LimeWire to harvest tracking and identifying information!
  • by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @01:40PM (#23393044) Homepage Journal
    The article details MediaSentry's tactics but wasn't there a bunch of fuss earlier this year on how MediaSentry may actually be illegal in some states because they don't have an investigator's license? Does this mean MediaSentry is filtering out schools from states where they can't investigate people from? Or are they still collecting everything they can and forwarding it on to the RIAA, which still seems illegal on their part.

    http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/03/11/1427257 [slashdot.org]
    http://news.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/04/10/1542222 [slashdot.org]
  • by Drakin020 (980931) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @01:41PM (#23393064)
    After all Azerus has a section where you can see who is seeding and leaching. It shows IP info if I'm not mistaken. Can they not do this with Torrents? How does that differ from Limewire?
  • by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @01:45PM (#23393116) Homepage Journal
    Not to side with the RIAA and similar, but wouldn't you figure, if they have the power to use a copyright of a given item to sue you, that they also have the legal right to "distribute" said copyrighted material?
  • by closetpsycho (1175221) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @01:53PM (#23393224)
    IANAL, but I believe that they would only be able to if that particular method is laid out in the contract with the band. Otherwise, the bands could sue them for breaking the contract AND copyright infringement.
  • by sm62704 (957197) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @01:54PM (#23393246) Journal
    I just can't wait until all artists start their own publishing

    That's the real reason behind these suits. They can't possibly be afraid you'll hear top 40 crap, because if they did they wouldn't let the radio (easily sampled to better than iTunes or MP3 quality) play them.

    It isn't Britney they want to keep out of your ears, it's the indies. Note they don't say "illegal downloads" except when the context infers that all downloads are illegal? Their aim, mostly met, it to make you think they do indeed have a monopoly (or rather, cartel) and that all music is RIAA music. it worked on you, didn't it?

    "Piracy" isn't hurting their sales and they know it. The indies (and the gasoline and food companies) are eating their lunch. Most of us have only so many dollars to spend. If I buy four $5 CDs from the band that plays at the bar (professionally recorded and duplicated, with art and packaging) that's twenty dollars I don't have to buy an RIAA CD.

    Their only hope for survival is to kill the internet. Good luck with that.
  • by davidwr (791652) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @01:54PM (#23393256) Homepage Journal
    I assume the RIAA are already polluting filesharing networks with fake files, so why not do the same?

    Create an audio file with the same name as a popular song, have the first 7-8 seconds or whatever is legal be the same as the song, followed by an oral essay that critiques the song.

    Now, when they sue, not only will you have a bulletproof argument that the suit is without merit, you will have a good counter-suit on the grounds that they are trying to suppress legitimate free speech.

    At the very least, this will force the RIAA to listen to songs before filing suit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @01:56PM (#23393272)
    Does that mean you could legally obtain free content using a P2P client with a script that only downloads from RIAA IP addresses?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @01:56PM (#23393276)
    they do, but mediasentry and other agents operating on their behalf might not.
  • by maxume (22995) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:00PM (#23393334)
    Is it exhausting to constantly assume that large groups of people are motivated, competent and organized?
  • Re:How (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Koiu Lpoi (632570) <{koiulpoi} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:06PM (#23393418)
    By what I've seen of the RIAA, they could make good use of the choke on a bucket of cocks function [debian.org].
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:15PM (#23393574)

    ...according to RIAA spokeswoman Cara Duckworth. She also acknowledged that the RIAA can tell only when a song is being offered for users to illegally download; investigators have no way of knowing when someone else is actually downloading the song.

    This is why the RIAA has no legal case, and why they must resort to bluffs, threats, extortion, smoke, mirrors, and press releases.

    The song file has to be downloaded by another unauthorized person (RIAA investigators don't count) for it to be infringement. The RIAA itself admits here that they have no way of knowing if anybody else has ever downloaded this song. To properly win in court they have to convince judges and/or juries that despite this complete lack of proof that they were infringed anyway.

    It's all the Big Lie on their part.

  • by Yogiz (1123127) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:20PM (#23393640) Journal
    If you RTFA then RIAA doesn't make the mp3s available for download. It searches them and then checks who downloads.

    The RIAA maintains a list of songs whose distribution rights are owned by the RIAA's member organizations. It has given that list to Media Sentry, a company it hired to search for online pirates. That company runs copies of the LimeWire program and performs searches for those copyrighted song titles, one by one, to see if any are being offered by people whose computers are connected to the LimeWire network. --- The LimeWire software allows users who right-click on any song entry and choose "browse host" to see all of the songs that a given file sharer is offering to others for download. The software also lists the IP address of active file sharers. --- Using public, online databases (such as those at arin.net or samspade.org), Media Sentry locates the name of the Internet-service provider and determines which traders are located at colleges or universities.
    They do however download (and perhaps unintentionally share as well) the mp3s that they're not sure are the right ones. I doubt that RIAA will sue it's own investigators for copyright infringement but on the other hand, they seem pretty desperate. I wonder about "unintentional entrapment" however.
  • A humorous solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dyslexicbunny (940925) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:25PM (#23393734)

    In collecting evidence for those takedown notices, Media Sentry investigators do not usually download suspect music files. Instead, the company uses special software to check the "hash," a sort of unique digital fingerprint, of each offered file to verify that it is identical to a copyrighted song file in the RIAA's database. In the rare cases in which the hashes don't match, the investigators download the song and use a software program sold by Audible Magic to compare the sound waves of the offered audio file against those of the song it may be infringing upon. If the Audible Magic software still doesn't turn up a match, then a live person will listen to the song.
    So they have to check popular songs audibly if they don't match their automated tests. It is quite likely that RIAA pays Mediasentry for work hourly or files searched. So I had an idea and propose we need the following tools: microphones, bored people, and lots of computers to host.

    1) Figure out what music is currently quite popular.
    2) Make your own covers of it without instruments. Sing both the lyrics and the melody with interpretive musicianship. The worse it sounds, the better.
    3) Host as the file name.
    4) ????
    5) Waste their time!

    IANAL but I don't think you could get in trouble for posting fake songs up. Technically, you could claim you're helping fight piracy while making Mediasentry's job harder. I imagine the in worst case they ask you to cease and desist. Perhaps someone more versed in law can say if this is valid.

    Another option could be to simply use the band's name and make up fake songs with similar names to original songs with fictitious lyrics. This would replace step 2. Granted I believe they are solely looking for song titles.
    Ben Folds - Rocking the Penguin
    Beastie Boys - Ubuntu in Effect
    Whitney Houston - OSX will save the day
  • by mea37 (1201159) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:28PM (#23393760)
    Yes, but if they do, then downloading the copy they distribute within their rights is not illegal. If I offer you something I own for free, then it is legal for you to take it.

    Doesn't matter, though. That's not how they're using LimeWire (or other P2P clients), as the GP would've known if he'd RFTA.

    They're not making the music available; they're using the client to search for others who are making the music available.
  • Harvard anyone? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Weaselmancer (533834) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:36PM (#23393844)

    I seem to recall reading somewhere that Harvard has never been hit with one of these RIAA money grabs. Most probable reason being that there is enough talent there to rip the RIAA to tiny ribbon sized shreds in front of the judge, which would pretty much end their extortion racket.

    So, does that still hold true? Anybody at Harvard ever been hit with one of these?

  • Make your own song (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ninjapiratemonkey (968710) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:39PM (#23393880)
    1) record your own song
    2) rename it as a popular song: eg. Madonna - 4 Minutes
    3) they download it after it fails hash check
    4) sue them for copyright infringement
    5) ?
    6) Profit!
  • by Sechr Nibw (1278786) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:39PM (#23393884)
    It is being downloaded by RIAA's unlicensed PI firm. Does that count?
  • by Rockoon (1252108) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:52PM (#23394066)
    Put your own copyrghted material up, but name it the same as something that they are looking for. Let their cronies download it in their "validation" sweep (the article didnt actualy say that they validate??) Immediately have someone else download your copyrighted material from them. Instant lawsuit against the RIAA, am I right?
  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:54PM (#23394086)

    The indies (and the gasoline and food companies) are eating their lunch. Most of us have only so many dollars to spend. If I buy four $5 CDs from the band that plays at the bar (professionally recorded and duplicated, with art and packaging) that's twenty dollars I don't have to buy an RIAA CD.


    I agree. In addition, this is one big reason why their "lost sales" calculations are huge stinking loads of bull manure. The RIAA figures that 1 song downloaded (regardless of the legality of the download) equals one sale not made which means that much revenue not put in their pockets. You could easily use the same reasoning to prove that Indie labels cost the record labels money. Or that food store sales cost the record companies money. Or that oil companies cost the record companies money.

    Hey, there's an idea. Pit the Big Oil companies against the Big Record Companies/RIAA. Two Companies Enter! One leaves! We won't really be cheering for a winner so much as cheering for one of the companies to be beaten to a pulp.
  • by harvey the nerd (582806) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:54PM (#23394092)
    "We find what we find..." suggests that many schools do a better job of protecting their students from predators like RIAA, either by IT means, enforcement or policies. Perhaps we should be posting such valuable insights about IT safety at places like CollegeConfidential. e.g. "College X had 14 students mugged by the RIAA last year." Also it would be interesting to find out if any of the suicides or beserkers had RIAA extortion letters.

    Although some kids may need to reign in their activities, the RIAA methods' technological and litigation basis are unsound and dangerous. RIAA and their overlords need to be made recipocally accountable with the colleges taking more responsibility too.

  • Deception? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cipher_null (1286326) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @03:06PM (#23394236)
    I wouldn't be surprised if they "leaked" this article to misinform people to their detection methods. If you think this is their whole routine, then you let your guard down on other levels. Or it could be directed at Limewire. What better way to take out adversaries than "focus fire them"? "We find people using scripting methods mining Limewire data". People shy away from Limewire. /dust off hands Well one down.
  • by monxrtr (1105563) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @03:37PM (#23394690)
    Well the RIAA claims in TFA that they only download.

    The RIAA, in so far as they are also "making available", are making available with no clear demarcation of copyright, further complicating their liability well beyond mere "entrapment". So all those downloads from RIAA hosted files are perfectly legal. Making available man_on_the_moon.mp3 is no different than making available kennedy_moon_speech.mp3 whilst sneaking in a secretly copyrighted song into a title of a public domain presidential speech about putting a man on the moon.

    Could you imagine the copyright liability which could be created if you put your own copyrighted files into titles of public domain works and then sued everybody who downloaded or viewed those files? You could get rich off the RIAA by putting your own homemade songs into file titles the RIAA deep packet inspects, by definition copies and views, as they check to see whether the files are copyrighted, and sue for statutory copyright damages. It would be absolutely no different then suing everybody who clicked on or linked to your webpage.

    In fact if you download and upload every single file on the internet and "deep packet inspect" those files by viewing or listening to them, you are doing exactly what the RIAA is doing and clamoring to be done with "deep packet inspection" software. It's no different if it done automatically by a program or manually by individual eyes and ears.

    So I was correct all along, the RIAA is indeed downloading and "deep packet inspecting" based on file titles alone, even attempting to submit "evidence" of screenshots of file titles. No doubt the RIAA is legally liable for $100s of BILLIONS for mistaken inspection and downloading of content that is not the copyright of RIAA members. If anybody were to subpoena the RIAA download and deep packet inspection records in a countersuit, those record companies will be BANKRUPT from distributing consumer copyrighted parodies and commentaries!

    All hail the the arrival of the Era of the Copyright Troll! Time to parody the hell out of everything that is copyrighted, and get paid outrageous legal sums for doing so! You will soon find that the RIAA is the biggest P2P "pirate" in the world (and they have tens of billions in assets -- go get your piece!).
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @04:20PM (#23395242) Homepage
    "In collecting evidence for those takedown notices, Media Sentry investigators do not usually download suspect music files. Instead, the company uses special software to check the "hash," a sort of unique digital fingerprint, of each offered file to verify that it is identical to a copyrighted song file in the RIAA's database. In the rare cases in which the hashes don't match, the investigators download the song and use a software program sold by Audible Magic to compare the sound waves of the offered audio file against those of the song it may be infringing upon. If the Audible Magic software still doesn't turn up a match, then a live person will listen to the song."

    In other words, they do not engage in unauthorized downloading and copyright infringement. Except when they do. Because they what sounds to them like a really good rationalization for their behavior.

    Which is exactly what their victims do.

    If the RIAA being straight arrows, they'd forego the downloading in those "rare" cases. Why is it so important to nail these "rare" that they will compromise their own principles?

    Perhaps, if the truth were known, those "rare" cases aren't really all that rare.
  • Re:Harvard anyone? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by es330td (964170) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @05:54PM (#23396520)
    My cousin is a student at the University of Texas in Austin and received (and paid) an RIAA extortion letter. Given that the UT Law school is often considered one of the very top schools for Constitutional law I really don't think that fear of the faculty is much of a factor in the RIAA's decision making process.
  • by arminw (717974) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @06:49PM (#23397130)
    .....to search for others who are making the music available.....

    Recent court cases indicate that "making available" is not against the copyright law. The **AA would certainly like that to be the case, so they and they alone are able to "make available" and nobody else. To violate copyright, there has to be an actual copy made by someone.
  • Re:Harvard anyone? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by neapolitan (1100101) * on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @08:38PM (#23397940)
    Recently living on campus (you can see some of my previous posts.)

    Piracy quite rampant just like any other university, and the students have rarely been served although it does happen.

    I agree that they figure high-profile university lawsuits are bad publicity, and Harvard does have many young lawyers anxious for a big win, and will not be easily intimidated, which is half of what the RIAA game is about.

    Several of the Harvard students I know have a method of sharing files via a VPN type construct (wasn't really heavily encrypted though, only member-authenticated IIRC), protected from the RIAA / internet. If several hundred people share their music, that is quite a collection. These "clubs" exist, and are very hard to find.
  • Re:Harvard anyone? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EdelFactor19 (732765) <adam.edelstein@a ... u ['rpi' in gap]> on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @11:50PM (#23399016)
    say what you will but somehow I'd imagine the industry is more afraid of the combination of happy to volunteer law students, alumnae, professors etc of harvard than UT austin; not to mention the extremely large bankroll and wealth in the general population there. the other question of interest is where did the top brass / lawyers for MAFIAA get their degrees.

    going lawsuit happy on the alma mater isn't usually looked upon to well. especially when on avarage harvard grads are a lot more likely to spend a whole lot more on MAFIAA products than the "average" UT grad. key word average. Plenty of great students and some great departments at UT, I may go there for grad work but as a whole? Although I do realize that UT Austin has one of the largest endowments (ifnot larget) for a public school.

    but then again its not whats true as much as what "popular stereotypical belief" is.

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