RIAA Bullies College Students With P2PLawsuits.com

The RIAA is sending what amounts to a cease and desist letter to 400 college students at 13 universities. The letter encourages students to confess and pay a “settlement” at an RIAA website: P2PLawsuits.com. The website suggests using Mastercard, Visa or Discover to pay your fines.

NPR has a “Xeni Tech” report on the story featuring quotes from RIAA-boycotting editor Adam Frucci of Consumerist’s sister-site Gizmodo. It’s very much worth a listen, and if any of you out there have received a letter, we encourage you to scan it and send it in. Xeni’s report also includes advice from USC Law Professor, Jennifer Urban:

“It’s essentially a cease and desist letter. It’s a letter from a party saying, “We think that you are doing something illegal and we would like you to stop. The important thing for the student or another person who receives this letter to understand is that all this is is a letter that is claiming that the student is doing something infringing… If the university hasn’t turned over their names, then by going to this website and registering they’re going to be telling the RIAA who they are, and allow for the RIAA to follow-up with more action against them, because they’ll then know the identity.”

The P2PLawsuit website itself is rather frightening. From the FAQ:

What payment methods can I use?

Payments can be made by check or credit card (MasterCard, Visa and Discover).

What if I cannot pay the settlement amount immediately?

For those individuals who cannot pay the settlement in a lump sum, we will consider accepting payments over a period of time. There will, however, be an additional fee to cover the administrative costs of such a program.

Will my parents find out about this lawsuit?

If you are under 18, a parent or guardian will need to be involved in this process and sign the settlement. If you are 18 or older and you settle with us prior to being named in a lawsuit, it is your choice whether to notify a parent or guardian. Once a lawsuit is filed that names you as a defendant, it becomes a matter of public record.

Great. Pay the RIAA its hush money or they’ll tell your parents. —MEGHANN MARCO

P2PLawsuits

RIAA Focuses on Colleges for Anti-Piracy Efforts[NPR via BoingBoing]

Comments

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  1. muddgirl says:

    Ridiculous. Our IT dept used to send out “cease and desist” letters from Warner Brothers and other media production houses. We would just throw them away. Has the RIAA ever actually won a suit against someone?

  2. esqdork says:

    Is it me or does this seem like extortion? I don’t mean it in an outraged-consumer-sense but as a purely legal matter. Why is it okay for them to demand money based on their speculation that you broke copyright? I suspect that I am being ripped off by everyone from my employer to my local gas station but I don’t send letters demanding that they admit what they did and pay me money. Maybe I should.

  3. Christopher says:

    This is shameful and despicable. I’m sure the settlement amounts are exorbitant and they’re just preying on the ignorance of some college students. I wonder if they’re pushing more “scare tactics” because they’ve recently lost several cases or have had them thrown out.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am against illegally downloading music, but the way that the RIAA cartel operates they’re skirting the law and practically stealing from artists and consumers, and when they can’t skirt the law, they get the law changed so that they can. It’s like the pot calling the kettle black.

    I also wonder if the payments made to this website are legally binding? I know they state they’re settlements, but can a legally binding settlement be made by entering your CC information on some website? What happens if the RIAA changes their minds 6 months from now, can they still pursue legal action? This isn’t addressed in their FAQ.

  4. MissPinkKate says:

    The RIAA loves to prey on people they feel are too stupid to fight back. Blackmailing college students who haven’t done anything wrong by threatening to tell their parents is astonishing, but seems par for the course for them, don’t you think?

  5. karimagon says:

    I am amazed. I know the RIAA wouldn’t go after me, because my methods of illegally obtaining music do not involve the Internet, but this is ridiculous, and I feel for the students they are harassing. It’s beginning to feel like a witch hunt– does the encouragement to confess your crimes sound familiar to anyone else? And if they did go after me, the first thing I would do would be to complain to my parents about it.

  6. Skeptic says:

    I know the RIAA wouldn’t go after me,

    Silly person. You are assuming that the RIAA only sues people who are actually guilty…

    Well, actually their system for determining guilt is rock solid: people who sink and drown might be witches–er, infringers, but if they float they are definitely infringers.

  7. cedarpointfan says:

    Hmmm, is this website completely legitimate? It doesn’t seem to me that associations such as the RIAA would use GoDaddy.com for a registration. Just anyone can make letters, place an RIAA letter head on the top, and mail them out to unsuspecting college students.

    “Domain Name: P2PLAWSUITS.COM
    Registrar: GO DADDY SOFTWARE, INC.”

    Especially when they use private registration.

    Just a thought though, I’m probably completely wrong. That website just looks extremely amateur.

  8. Rahnee says:

    This makes me wonder if you use Allofmp3 or AllTunes to BUY your music can they get you for infringement since the sites are Russian and I’m sure they do not pay royalties. Your still paying for the music so are you breaking the law by buying from foreign websites?

  9. adamondi says:

    This looks to be the makings of an excellent practical joke, or a method of exacting revenge on someone you hate….

    Go and sign up people you don’t like at the RIAA’s extortion website and see how many of them get sued by name later on.

  10. Rahnee, your point causes me to reflect on recent decisions handed down from the United Nations council basically stating that Russia will not be allowed to join until they do something about Allofmp3.

    Then there was the Swedish police force being trained by an American FBI agent and a representative from the RIAA/MPAA. I forget my sources but these are all hot news topics. Shouldnt be too difficult to find them.

  11. Scuba Steve says:

    The sneaker net will never be defeated.

  12. That FAQ gets even scarier:

    If I promise never to do this again, do I still have to pay?

    Yes. The settlements are designed to recoup a very small piece of the massive damage inflicted on the music community as a result of piracy.
    Can I avoid this lawsuit if I immediately delete the illegal music and file-trafficking service from my computer?

    Can I avoid this lawsuit if I immediately delete the illegal music and file-trafficking service from my computer?

    No. Furthermore, once litigation becomes a possibility, deleting music files or the P2P service from your computer would violate your obligation to preserve evidence.

    What if I cannot pay the settlement amount immediately?

    For those individuals who cannot pay the settlement in a lump sum, we will consider accepting payments over a period of time. There will, however, be an additional fee to cover the administrative costs of such a program.

    I’m glad that I come by all my music legally. Dealing with this stuff would be a real pain in the ass.

  13. Firstborn Dragon says:

    Hmm… I wonder how they prove that a P2P service was used to gain illegal measures. Plus I notice they don’t touch on the fact that some of these services ADVERTISE themselves as legal.

    I mean really, if you have these programs that offer downloads of 1000s of songs, games, TV shows, and more for one low fee, to me that says it’s legal. I looked at one this afternoon, and there isn’t any indication it’s not authorized. So you pay their 15$ or whatever they ask a month, only to get hit with a lawsuit. Hmm…

    Wish I could find that site again. Because the way it reads it’s 100% legit, but the RIAA has gone after users of this server before. So why not go after it, and not users?

    Oh right. More money.

  14. cindel says:

    LOL! Are they serious? Some College Students can barely afford meals, you know living on Ramen Noodles and all.

  15. royal72 says:

    riaa go FUCK yourself and i mean that in the sweetest way.

  16. forgeten says:

    @muddgirl: I don’t think any suit as really ever gone to trial. Most of the time the Riaa gives the person a “good” deal to settle. ie instead of 100k only 10k.

    The whole thing about the riaa is stupid , I understand that they want to protect there copyright (lets pretend they are doing it for the artist) But suing customers is never a good idea. Unless these people are selling bootleg cds or are downloading stuff they would of purchased normally no one is losing money. They should send out nastygrams and be done with it. But no , they have to swing a club in a china shop and wonder why they have bad pr.

  17. How can this even be legal? They’re pretty much just sending people who allegedly downloaded music illegally an invoice.

    Why would anyone (who’s not too stupid) log onto that website and just send them money? Where’s the legal system? Who has been proven guilty? What paperwork is there to prove that you have paid your “bill”?

    I think this is a scam- probably the same as the Nigerian thing. If you made this site then phished a few thousand college students, you’d probably get more than a handful who would be intimidated enough to enter their credit card info. The GoDaddy.com part is the most glaring flaw in the project, aside from the missing legal grounds…

  18. Consumerist should investigate this. Apparently, you can call their “Lawsuit Information and Resolution Center” at 913-234-8181.

    From whitepages.com, that number is registered to SILCC in Overland Park, KS. What the hell is SILCC? Google yielded nothing relevent- aside from silcc.com, which is nothing the RIAA would be hosting.

  19. P2PLawsuits.com is not responding to hails, as I write this; neither is the company that bought the netrange it’s on from Qwest.

  20. magic8ball says:

    @Gettin’ Frank Solich Drunk Tonight! Who would be stupid enough to log in, admit their guilt, and agree to send them money? I teach college freshmen, and I can tell you the answer: college freshmen. I’ve known students whom I can easily imagine being so desperate to hide their perceived “legal troubles” from their parents that they would max out their credit cards or do whatever else they had to do to keep Mommy and Daddy from finding out. On the other hand, I can also imagine quite a few of my students running to Mommy and Daddy and asking them to pay to bail them out of their “troubles” … which I assume is what the RIAA hopes will happen.

  21. shoegazer says:

    Meh. I’d just change ISPs. I hope anyone targeted by this would be smart enough to involve the media, get a LOT of internet exposure and basically bring the case to a (properly clued-up) court of law. I may be hoping for too much, though.

  22. gardencat says:

    RIAA Quote:
    “We think that you are doing something illegal and we would like you to stop.”

    They think?

    I think The RIAA’s main message here is “scare tactics” for all college students to divert from uploading or downloading copyrighted music. This has been one of their main concerns all along.

    If this ridiculous charge is a legitimate and lawful complaint from the RIAA, then I hope the college students in question will be intelligent enough to seek legal representation before they ever decide to send them money.

  23. medalian1 says:

    retain a lawyer immediately

  24. crayonshinobi says:

    The RIAA is resorting to these despicable tactics because a recent decision found in favor of the defendant for reasonable attorneys fees.

    This potentially means that the days of the RIAA’s risk free lawsuits might finally be coming to a close. So instead of involving all that awful legal stuff, they want to settle out of court.

    Personally, I cannot understand how damages can exceed the cost of the property in question. How they can justify thousands of dollars in damages for something they sell for 99 cents is beyond me.

    The RIAA/MPAA loves running that commercial that “you wouldn’t steal a CD from a store.” etc. But honestly, you are better off stealing the physical media. At most you face a misdemeanor criminal charge and no civil penalty of thousands of dollars.

  25. BadDolphin says:

    When I worked for an ISP, we were nagged a lot about our users sharing files. But nearly all complaints were for music of the band “Incubus.” That band alone accounted for more such complaints than all other artists combined.

    Not to get off on a rant here, but that band is the absolute worst when it comes to trying to screw people out of their money.

  26. MeOhMy says:

    …designed to recoup a very small piece of the massive damage inflicted on the music community…

    What about the damage inflicted on the music community by the awful music that the RIAA’s member labels foist on society?

    I’m going to send a letter of my own:

    Dear Warner Brothers: I suspect that your release of SLAYER albums has caused irreperable harm to the music world. Send me $10M in unmarked bills now, or you are SO SUED!
    Your pal, Troy F.

  27. canuckistan says:

    More evidence that both the business model of the Record industry is dead and that America has become a country defined by frivolous lawsuits, predatory corporations and all above all else f’ing the poor right in the old cornhole.

    America: Derka Der. Git er’ done. Terrorists. Etc.

  28. DesertFox82 says:

    Also from the site’s FAQ:

    What is the advantage to settling before a suit has been filed?

    The settlement amount is generally lower if the case is settled before the record companies’ incur the costs of a litigation. Additionally, settling before the filing of a lawsuit will not result in a judgment. Any settlement that is negotiated after a lawsuit is brought against you in your name could include the entry of a judgment.

    Please excuse my legal ignorance, but can you “settle” a legal case when no legal case has been brought to court? Is that “settling” or just bending over?

  29. orracle says:

    Not a scam and absolutely true.

    My daughter is a freshman at a very large Midwest university and just received a letter “fining” her $3000 for illegal downloads and if not paid with 20 days, fines will increase and lawsuits may be brought. She was hysterical.

    I haven’t seen the letters yet so I can’t comment other than I will be calling a lawyer tomorrow.

  30. ironchef says:

    ironic how the RIAA uses legal spamming tactics to phish for easy settlements.

  31. shdwsclan says:

    @orracle

    Its actually really easy to get out of this.
    Change your mac address and use the keylogger defense…

    Ha…at my coollege, we use a high gain microwave antenna and we clone mac addresses to people in different buildings…so mac addresses dont clash, and they get letters and we dont….tada…