University of Wisconsin-Madison Will Not Forward RIAA Letters To Students

Jason, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has written in to share what his school is doing in response to the RIAA P2PLawsuit.com campaign. In this campaign, attorneys for Sony, Universal, EMI, Warner Music Group and more sent letters to several colleges demanding that they be forwarded to students. The letter (PDF) threatens students with a lawsuit and instructs them to identify themselves and pay a settlement to the recording companies via the website P2Plawsuits.com.

UW-M has sent an email informing students that although they’ve been given letters to forward to students, they university will not comply without a written subpoena. Read Jason’s email inside.

Jason writes:

I am a student at UW-Madison as you can most likely tell by my e-mail address. I noticed an article a week or so back about the RIAA contacting schools and trying to have the schools voluntarily give up information reguarding its users. Well, since my school is #10 on the list, I assumed we would be getting contacting eventually also, and we finally did.

This is the e-mail, which was digital signed by the university:

The recording industry is threatening lawsuits against those who may have
engaged in illegal file sharing. They are currently targeting students who
live in university residence halls. Recently, UW-Madison and other
universities have been notified that they will receive settlement letters
that are to be passed on to the individuals whom the senders believe to be
guilty of copyright infringement. Consistent with current network
management procedures and our understanding of federal law, UW-Madison does
not plan to forward these letters directly to campus network users. We
will, of course, comply with a valid subpoena.

However, if the UW-Madison is given cause to believe that a student,
faculty or staff network user may have infringed on copyrights, it will
take action. University network policies empower the CIO to terminate that
person’s network access until the matter is resolved. The Dean of Students
office (for students) or supervisors (for employees) will be notified and
other disciplinary action may be taken, as appropriate.

Unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing of copyrighted works is illegal in
many circumstances, and a violation of the university’s Appropriate Use
Policy. Please be advised of your rights and responsibilities under these
rules. For more information, see:

Ken Frazier
Interim CIO,
UW-Madison

This e-mail seemed like more of a scare tactic then anything else to me. Well, I went to visit some friends for the weekend, and when I returned by internet wasn’t working. Tried to load Firefox and was directed to this page: https://netreg.resnet.wisc.edu/copyright.php Now that might only load if you are on the network, but it was basically the e-mail again, a button to accept the terms, and then you had to enter your login/password information, as if you are first accepting the internet terms of use.

Here is a copy paste from that page if it does not load:
AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM THE UNIVERSITY ABOUT COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT – PLEASE READ

The recording industry is threatening lawsuits against those who may have engaged in illegal file sharing. They are currently targeting students who live in university residence halls. Recently, UW- Madison and other universities have been notified that they will receive settlement letters that are to be passed on to the individuals whom the senders believe to be guilty of copyright infringement. Consistent with current network management procedures and our understanding of federal law, UW-Madison does not plan to forward these letters directly to campus network users. We will, of course, comply with a valid subpoena.

However, if the UW-Madison is given cause to believe that a student, faculty or staff network user may have infringed on copyrights, it will take action. University network policies empower the CIO to terminate that person’s network access until the matter is resolved. The Dean of Students office (for students) or supervisors (for employees) will be notified and other disciplinary action may be taken, as appropriate.

Unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing of copyrighted works is illegal in many circumstances, and a violation of the university’s Appropriate Use Policy. Please be advised of your rights and responsibilities under these rules. For more information, see http://www.doit.wisc.edu/security/policies/appropriate_use.asp. Also see the ResNet Appropriate Use Policy for more information specific to housing residents.

Ken Frazier
Interim CIO,
UW-Madison

(Check Box) I have read the above message about copyright infringement.

NetID:

Password:

Now this confuses me, it clearly states in the terms of use that illegal activity is not allowed. Why would they make us “sign” this new page before we can use the internet? Is this extra agreement is going to lead to them voluntarily giving up our information? or perhaps they are going to monitor and disable those who illegal download music.

I was just curious if perhaps you had received any information about other schools having to renew, and if there is any significance in it , or is it just an extra step to make sure the university isn’t held liable?

We’re not attorneys or anything, but we interpret this as a warning to students that they should stop using the university network to share files. No one can say the students were not informed. What do you think? —MEGHANN MARCO

PREVIOUSLY: RIAA Bullies College Students With P2PLawsuits.com

The RIAA P2PLawsuit Letter Sent To College Students

Comments

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  1. mfergel says:

    It would seem to me this is the University’s way of making sure they aren’t held liable for the file sharing. I commend them on their resistance to pass on the letters, although to an extent, making this statement comes pretty close but just in a broad way.

  2. cncpun says:

    I like what they’ve done. You can’t disagree with that, it’s not a scare tactic, it’s a letter basically saying “you guys messed up, we’ve got your back, but please stop b/c things might get worse and we might not be able to cover you down the road…”

  3. Seems to me they just want a way to verify that you have seen these rules and have a documented way that you agree to them. I have set up something similar where I work.

    I put a brief version of our electronic communications policy as a pop-up before users log on to their machines. They have to OK it and it acts as if they agree to the terms of our policy. As far as internet access, I have the option to publish the whole policy as a web page and force that to be the start page for their browser.

    That way you were provided the policy, instructed to read it and you have to agree to it with your UID and PW. Theoretically you’re the only one with that UID and PW so you can only be the one who agreed.

  4. Sudonum says:

    Courts have ruled that employees, and by extension in this circumstance, students, cannot be held responsible for rules or policies if they have not acknowledged in some way that they are aware of them. To me this seems like the University is just making sure that they have the “documentation” to prove that all users were warned.

  5. FLConsumer says:

    Good for the U of W on this one. Nice to see someone still remembering the laws of the country and following them. “Innocent until PROVEN guilty.” I doubt we’ll see the RIAA issue subpoenas in this case.

  6. IC18 says:

    In your face RIAA, I just want to see if these houndogs will actually get a subpoena, as if any reasonable judge would give it to them.

  7. Trick says:

    UofW has done the right thing. They have/will tell the RIAA to DIAF and warned their students that downloading certain types of music/movies is illegal.

    Students have not entitled to abuse the universities network. It is not a free speech issue or lame version of 1984.

    I am a system admin for a college here in California and the things students think they can do with our network is amazing.

  8. FLConsumer says:

    Looks like Terrorist U, a.k.a. University of South Florida, is all for the RIAA’s movement.

    http://sptimes.com/2007/03/19/Hillsborough/That_free_song_

  9. I am glad to see that we are calling this “attorneys for Sony, Universal, EMI, Warner Music Group and more” instead of the RIAA. Way to go consumerist. I hope this will start a trend of calling the atrocity for what it is and holding those behind this fiasco publicly responsible. I hope to see other websites follow your example in calling the RIAA by their actual names.

  10. kenposan says:

    Works for me. Way to go Wis-Mad

  11. Jason-Ryan-Isaksen says:

    Good for the university for not forwarding shake down letters. Sorry but if RIAA has a case they have to go through the trouble and expense of actually suing someone and getting a subpoena, not just sending an email or letter demanding money.

    On the other hand, the people doing the sharing/trading would never walk into a record store and stuff a CD in their coat, but on the Internet it gives a false feeling of anonymity so they do these things just because they think nobody will find out.

    Yes it’s wrong, it’s illegal, but the record companies have to take legal action, not just sending threatening letters for the college to enforce. It’s like they want the easy way out, skirting the law so they don’t have to pay for real legal action.

    I wish more colleges would have this policy and tell them that if they want to sue, do it the hard way and maybe you’ll break even with legal costs when it’s all done. Right now, sending “demand letters” and getting the college to look up their IP and send it to the student is ridiculous, a college isn’t under obligation to work for RIAA so they don’t have to file in court like anyone else who wants to sue someone.

    There’s no easy answer, wherever time is more valuable than money there’s going to be software or music/media piracy. It doesn’t justify a thing but only explains why it happens so much. Maybe if the recording industry wasn’t so old school, clinging to digital rights management and selling CD’s with one or two good songs and the rest fluff “filler” written by someone’s uncle, then charging $17.99 for the privelege it wouldn’t be such a problem.

    More artists should sell direct to the public online, that’s the future. Many accept contracts just to say they are “signed” and then the treadmill begins. They have to sell 10 albums to actually take home what they could selling one or a bunch of single downloads on their own. We’ll have to wait a while to see how this plays out.

  12. Schroeder says:

    Wow, exceptionally well played UWM.

    Bravo UWM, bravo. I am exceptionally thrilled that the college I am (hopefully) going to be attending next year is taking such a firm stand towards this; while I don’t partake in such activities (I don’t believe in stealing things just because I can’t afford to buy it, don’t want to pay for it, whatever. I like having hard copies of stuff I want, as well) this totally makes me happy to be associating myself with them.

    UWM – We don’t take no shit, even from the RIAA.

    I wonder how they’ll beat this one next time around.

  13. Lewisham says:

    As other people have posted, the other warning page is not anything for legality, but just so the students understand.

    I have worked at a ResNet, and you would be surprised how many students try to pull the “I didn’t know anything about these rules” tactic.

    And, to be fair, the RIAA were not wrong each time they sent us a letter. Obviously, having public IP addresses did not help the students.