The RIAA has continually received criticism for the tactics that helped bring suit against GW students. After gathering a list of offending IP addresses, the RIAA hands the information over to universities and expects them to match the computer's address to a student, and deliver a pre-litigation letter explaining the offenses.
The universities that comply with the RIAA argue that the delivering of notices allows students to have more time to determine a proper course of legal action. If settled out of court - which most cases are - the student could end up paying a few thousand, rather than a few hundred-thousand if the suit were to go to court. Tufts University uses this rationale when distributing notices for the RIAA.
While many universities work with the RIAA to deliver notices of illegal action, some universities are taking a strong stand against such tactics. The University of Oregon, for example, teamed up with the Oregon Attorney General to push back against the RIAA. Claiming that students often share internet connections, Oregon is arguing that is is nearly impossible to conclusively link an IP address to a single individual.
In a dorm room environment, roommates, friends and acquaintances often use our computers. And considering that robust internet connections at most universities allow one to download a song in less than a minute, criminal actions can be carried out with a quick click of the mouse. Oregon would say that unless the RIAA knows for a fact who was using the computer at the time that the copyrighted materials were downloaded, they don't have a case.
Here's the meat of the motion to quash the RIAA's tactics:
7. [We] have attempted to identify all seventeen alleged infringers and have been unable to do so.The encouraging bit about universities standing up to the RIAA is that its working. Harvard University has been increasingly critical of the strategy used by RIAA and has subsequently seen a complete end to pre-litigation notices being delivered to the university. Other Boston schools are still getting flagged, however Harvard remains untouched. Most likely, the RIAA is scared of fighting the crimson legal team.
8. Five of the seventeen John Does accessed the content in question from double occupancy dorm rooms at the University. With regard to these Does, the University is able to identify only the room where the content was accessed and whether or not the computer used was a Macintosh or a PC. No login or personally identifiable information, i.e. authentication, was used by the Does to access the University's network because none is required. The University cannot determine whether the content in question accessed by one occupant as opposed to another, or whether it was accessed instead by a visitor.
9. Two of the seventeen John Does accessed the content in question from single occupancy dorm rooms at the University. No login or personally identifiable information, i.e. authentication, was used by the Does to access the university's network because none is required. The University cannot determine whether the content was accessed by the room occupant or visitor.
The question now is, did GW have our best interest in mind when they agreed to match students to IP addresses for the RIAA? Should our university really be acting as the investigatory arm of the RIAA?