Wednesday, December 24, 2008

RIAA to Stop Lawsuits

After two years of lawsuits aimed at the students of Ohio University and other colleges around the country, the RIAA has now decided to stop the lawsuits. They are now striking up an agreement with Internet Service Providers to stem the illegal downloading.
This was front page news in The Columbus Dispatch (via the AP), and The Post has the full story as well.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

This Time Around: Author's Input

So, what do I, the writer of this blog, think of the investigations and the fiasco that overtook Ohio University these last few years? Well, I decided I'd take the last post of this project to let you know.
I wanted to be able to see and present all the facts before I claimed to have any opinion, lest I seem uneducated and biased on the situation. 
I have to say, I was wary of digital music from the start. I'm what anyone would consider a purist; I love buying cds not just for the music, but also for the booklet of music lyrics, thank yous, photos, and random stuff the band wants to put in for art's sake. I still know what a record (some of the older generations call them "albums") is, and I own a few Beatles LPs and 45s myself. But music has always been a major part of my life, so I had to adapt just like everyone else. 
But even though I check iTunes and other digital markets for songs and albums, I have always had a strong feeling that if you truly like something, you should want the creator to benefit so they are encouraged to make more. This is especially true, since a lot of the bands I like started out underground, or, in the case of my all-time favorite band, were huge in the mainstream, then settled into the indie scene as they matured. 
When the illegal downloading scandal began, not just at OU but around the country, I was one of the people that watched in awe. All these peers that had had no qualms about sharing files, knowing full well it was illegal. We all lie from time to time (understatement of the year, I know), and bend the rules, but it amazed me how blatant this was. 
I can understand shaking fists at the record companies who hoard the profits and suck the fun out of music. By all means, keep doing that, fight the man and all that. But taking the recognition (and yes, the money) from the creators, even in this economy, never seemed justified to me. Sure, some of the songs that were being stolen were by "artists" that I never particularly liked, and I hardly considered them musicians, but it was their work. This means the writers and producers as well. 
      Not to mention I was appalled to see people stealing from some of the bands my mother cringes to see me worship. Not paying for The Beatles??? Pete Townshend (guitarist and genius from The Who) would never stand for this. With all the hemming and hawing from Axl Rose and "Chinese Democracy," you won't pay for Guns 'n Roses when they weren't a train wreck??
     Eminem is one thing, but come on. 
     Of course I'm kidding. But if you're willing to write me a nasty comment explaining the merits and reasons Eminem will be immortal in music, shouldn't you be willing to buy the music too?
     On the subject of the actions taken here at Ohio University, I agree with Aaron Baker, who felt the university had not done enough to protect its students. Many of the universities that were implicated put up much more of a fight than OU did when asked to hand over the names and IP addresses of the file-sharers. But I think OU was a little busy trying to recover and reprotect its students' Social Security numbers that it was having trouble floating under the weight of all the scandal. 
    Who knows if the illegal downloading will ever stop? I, for one, am pessimistic that it will ever end entirely. There will always be ways around the P2P sites and even through the locks iTunes and the record companies are putting on the songs. If you are even a little technologically savvy, there are ways around it. There's only so much systems like CopySense, Ruckus, and the others can do. In fact, the RIAA might be enlarging the wound by going after these people, because as we all know, some people take "don't do this" as "do it some more and see if you can get away with it."
    I think the paid services on downloading sites like Rhapsody are a step in the right direction, but, frankly, the once rebellious and targeted Napster is now creepy in its formality and corporate approach. The days of fighting the man may be numbered with the all the "security" that checks up on us as much as it protects us.
    But all of this might never have happened if the problem hadn't ballooned to the size it is now. Okay, the government would have probably figured out how to do it anyway, fine. But it is my feeling that the musicians (besides Lars Ulrich) want to be left alone and let you listen to the music as much as you want, wherever you want. Like it or not, they need money too, so they can continue avoiding a day job.
   I hope you enjoyed reading this blog, and it informed you as well. You can bet I'm going to keep looking into this situation, and what the rest of the colleges are doing. Is the RIAA going to stop searching out you evildoers? I don't think so. There will always be something to read about it. 

Rock on,

S. Tebben

OU Technology: What Has Happened Since?

        As of deadline time, OU's technology department hadn't returned the numbers of illegal downloads as of the current year. But according to Sean O'Malley, the IT Communications Manager, the university "has seen a huge drop" in complaints from the Recording Industry Association of America.
"Now...we're blocking the [illegal downloading] before the RIAA can send the letters. All the complaints we now do see are resolved before it gets to that stage," O'Malley said. 
O'Malley also said that Ruckus has not shared the statistics of the amount of downloading done by OU students. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

Shake, Rattle and Roll: Students Affected

                             S. Tebben

There were many outcomes of the litigation letters and lawsuits that canvassed the University. Many people just settled for the amount, rather than sink into a hole of debt fighting the lawsuits. Here are just two examples of students who were caught.

(Photo used with permission)

Aaron Baker was a Freshman when the RIAA came knocking on his door. Now a Junior Political Science major, Baker was actually caught twice, once by the RIAA, and once by Ohio University. He was living in the dorms as all Freshman do, and says it was another case of "I didn't think it would happen to me."
"All my friends used...Limewire and Ares, and I even know upperclassmen that had never gotten caught," Baker said.
Baker said he knows of one other person who was fighting it, but they eventually settled for $3000, just like Baker.
Like many of the students caught on campus, Baker received a letter from the RIAA warning him that a lawsuit was imminent if he didn't contact the lawyers and negotiate a settlement. Baker's parents paid this fee, and no lawsuit was filed.
Later on, Baker's Internet access was shut off by the University, when their CopySense technology captured his attempts to share music files. Luckily for Baker, the only steps that were taken were to give him a warning to remove the software from his computer or his Internet privileges would be permanently revoked. When he removed the software, the Internet was released and he has since learned his lesson. Even though he is now living off campus, he says he doesn't want to take the chance of seeing litigation again.
Looking back on his experience, Baker says he understands the RIAA's reasoning, but felt the University could have done more.
"The RIAA had a constitutional right to do what they did, but I think the University didn't look out for their students," said Baker, about OU's releasing the names of those illegally downloading music.
Baker also said he went to legal services and was told they "couldn't do anything."

Unfortunately, Ryan Payne didn't have it so lucky when he was caught illegally downloading songs. Though he also settled out of court with the RIAA, the $3000 he had to pay ended up with larger consequences.
Now living in Columbus, Payne had to take a year off from OU, and his debts from the RIAA litigation were a large reason why.
The process was the same for Payne as it was for Baker, except that Payne only dealt with the RIAA, and never the University. He received his letter, and was given a deadline to respond. He thought about fighting it, but in the end he settled as well.
"It wasn't even worth it, especially because it wasn't even me that downloaded the stuff, it was mostly my friends," says Payne, "I knew tons of people who were doing the same exact thing, but they didn't get caught."
Payne hopes to return to OU this year, without his downloading software.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Oh the Outrage!

Here are some videos on the situation here in Athens.
The students' point of view:

A cry from the rock stars:

And another point of view:

Okay, this one's just for fun.

Friday, October 31, 2008

iTunes prices on the rise?

I was asked about iTunes in one of my comments on the first entry, so I thought I'd post this article about iTunes potentially raising their prices. I think this will have a major effect on music piracy, even with the RIAA litigations still ongoing throughout the country. This plus the economy does not spell happiness for the music industry, which is already flailing under monetary struggles.
Here's the link to the CNN article, for those that are interested. It's from 2005, but the discussions are still ongoing today, and this is a good overview of what is happening now as well as then.

Monday, October 27, 2008

RIAA Then and Now

In the days when there is a decline in almost everything because of the economy, the music industry is feeling the heat as well. With an increase in the price of cds and the burgeoning technology readily available to college students like me, there is the temptation to go somewhere else for our musical needs. Some of these places weren’t exactly legal places to go either.

Logo copyright Ohio University

As a student of Ohio University and an avid music fan, I followed the controversy that riddled our campus in 2006 and 2007, when the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), representing record companies worldwide, began investigations, sending out waves of pre-lawsuit letters that were to be forwarded to the student by the school for the more the 1200 notices of music piracy. In this way, a student “can settle the record company claims against him or her at a discounted rate before the lawsuit is ever filed,” according to RIAA documents. In the initial wave of letters, Ohio University was sent 50 letters, the most of the 22 universities in the investigation. The RIAA’s “deterrence and education” initiative is further explained by the RIAA website.
If the students did not respond to the pre-litigation letters, lawsuits were filed.
During this time, the university attempted to stem the problem with new technology and tougher rules. In August of 2007 they introduced the music downloading service Ruckus, which did infinitely better than the previous university-contracted music service, Ctrax. As of September of that year, more than 4700 OU students registered for the service.
OU also added CopySense, a program which controls peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing, to their network. According to Audible Magic, the producers of CopySense, it can “identify and block illegal sharing of copyrighted files while allowing other legitimate P2P uses to continue.”
There have been some strong opinions of both services, but I found a particularly interesting blog that shows how the system works, albeit through a clearly biased opinion against the system. Nevertheless, it does a good job of explaining the system. It also mentions Ohio University’s use of it.
After sending out litigation letters and introducing new technology, Ohio University quickly fell down the rankings of RIAA music sharing complaints. Things seemed to have calmed down, but what happened in the long-term as a result of those lawsuits and the barrage of negative attention for Ohio University?
That is what I intend to find out in this blog. I will report on those that were sent the litigation letters and give an objective perspective into what they went through as a result of these litigations, such as how it affected their life as a student and their future. I will also report on life at OU since the RIAA scandal, and hopefully give a small view of where digital music is headed in the future, and how the students here feel about it since the fear of litigation.
In my research for this entry and for future references, I will use local media sources, such as the Athens News and the independent, student-run newspaper The Post. I work as a Music Critic for The Post, however the RIAA investigations were researched by a different department, so I had no involvement in the stories that I will list here. I feel the local papers will be the best to convey the effect of the scandal, more than the much broader view of the national media.

Sources used in this post:
"The RIAA One Year Later"
“RIAA Shifts Attention from OU to Ohio State”
“OU takes drastic action to nip file-sharing in the bud”
“OU student body drops far down RIAA list of accused music pirates”