Wednesday, April 30, 2008

RIAA Targets GW Students' Family Money with 123 Copyright Infringement Notices in a Week

GW normally receives a trickle of copyright infringement notices from the RIAA. But last week the school received 123 individual notices of songs and movies illegally downloaded, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported.

This comes on the heels of a subpeona earlier this school year of names of 19 students accused of copyright infringement. One of them spoke to The Hatchet about it.

Spikes in notices are happening across the country, but aren't matched by an actual increase in file sharing. Wired got it wrong when they posted that the RIAA was targeting Midwestern universities.

Instead, the RIAA is targeting the rich ones.

Why go after GW students? Is it really because we download more illegal music and movies than other schools? More likely it's this simple: students' families are most likely to have the money to settle outside of court.

It's costly for the RIAA to go through the court system and actually prosecute individuals for violations. With the average family income of GW students over $100,000, my hunch is the RIAA bets that families of GW students are more willing and able to fork over the dough to keep their children out of the legal system.

Lawyer's fees are expensive for the RIAA. If they can get a $3,000-$5,000 settlement for the investment of a postage stamp, that's a pretty damn good ROI.

Other schools mentioned as having increased spikes - Indiana University, University of Cincinnati, and University of Wisconsin-Madison - all have average family incomes over $100,000, as well. I doubt that's a coincidence.

Of all the school's named in various reports around the 'net, it's interesting to note that the most expensive university in the U.S., GW, has seen the greatest deluge of notices. Other schools only had increases in the teens.

Yet while the students' families may have, on average, more money to spend, processing all of these notices is taxing on the university. If the number of notices continues to rise, it will add hours of additional work each week for employees. Scott A. McVey, associate director of system and network support, said:
"When we're dealing with a hundred of these notices, it's a big hit."
As if we all needed another reason to hate the RIAA.

My suggestion? Download Coldplay's latest song. It's free, legal, and awesome.

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