Sun, May 04, 2003 - Page 11 News List

Students settle in piracy lawsuit brought by RIAA

BIG FISH, LITTLE FISH In what many observers feel is a portent of things to come, the recording industry has started going after illegal downloaders


Four students accused by the US recording industry of pirating music online have agreed to a settlement in their lawsuits with music moguls locked in a war against piracy, lawyers said Friday.

The apparent victory for the record industry in their battle against Internet music piracy came just days after it lost a key case against makers of the software that allows users to swap music and film files over the Internet for free.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) agreed Thursday to settlements of between US$12,000 and US$17,500 from each student to be paid over four years.

The RIAA said the case was intended to discourage unauthorized music downloading on campuses across the US, a practice which the industry says costs it more than 2.5 billion dollars a month in lost sales.

The students -- Daniel Peng, Jesse Jordan and Aaron Sherman Joseph Nievelt -- agreed to pay the cash over four years in return for the dropping of the multi-million-dollar suit filed in early April but admitted no wrongdoing.

The four, from three different educational institutions including the prestigious Ivy League Princeton University in New Jersey, also agreed to remove the file-swapping Web sites they created and to refrain from downloading or distributing bootlegged copies of songs.

"The record industry felt they need to defend themselves against what has become a large economic problem for them and they chose this litigation to get their point across," 18-year-old Peng's defense lawyer, Howard Ende, told reporters.

"We worked with the RIAA to achieve a rapid and, I think, fair settlement," Ende said.

The attorney however urged the industry to stop going after a handful of individuals instead of the larger problem.

"Artists should get paid for what the do but I believe the industry needs to work harder to develop a method for assuring they are adequately compensated without resorting to litigating with college students or others."

Peng's attorney said the student was relieved to have put the lawsuit behind him so that he return his focus to his academic career at Princeton. "It was unfortunate as, to a large extent, he was a victim of circumstance," he said.

The recording industry said the lawsuits have already achieved the desired deterrent effect, adding that at least 18 similar Napster-like networks have come down in the month since it filed the lawsuit.

"The message is clearly getting through that distributing copyrighted works without permission is illegal, can have consequences and that we will move quickly and aggressively to enforce our rights," Matt Oppenheim of the RIAA was quoted as saying.

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