RIAA Tells MIT Student To Drop Out Of School To Pay Fines

Cassi Hunt has recently been accused by the RIAA of being guilty of file-sharing. We all know what happens now: the RIAA will extort her for thousands of dollars (in Cassi’s case, $3750) as a “settlement” to prevent her having to go to court. Or, as Cassie puts it in her highly entertaining and witty account: ” Let us screw you over gently now, or with chains and whips in court.”

But get this. When Cassi mentions she can’t afford $3750, being an MIT student already up to her eyeballs in a lifetime’s worth of debt, the RIAA helpfully countered: So? Drop out of school so you can afford it.

We have no idea if Cassi’s guilty or not. Hell, she probably is — she’s a college student, after all. But leaving aside the martian moon man fallacy the RIAA always bases their extortionism upon — namely, that copyright infringement equals theft, and that downloaded mp3s equals lost money at the street rate of the price of the album, neither of which is true — the RIAA is suggesting that a fair punishment for a purloined Evanescence album is only to give up your dreams, aspirations, career and future. Or as Cassi put it:

The Recording Industry of America would rather see America’s youth deprived of higher education, forever marring their ability to contribute personally and financially to society — including the arts — so that they may crucify us as examples to our peers. To say nothing of wrecking our lives in the process. I finally understand what the RIAA meant when they told me “stealing music is not a victimless crime” — the victims hang for all to see.

Run Over by the RIAA, Don’t Tap the Glass [The Tech]


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  1. Special K says:

    Not all that much sympathy for her…though I hate the RIAA and they shouldnt have said that, she was a thief and was dumb enough to be using P2P, after the 100’s of ppl that have already been sued before her.

    Sour gripes!

  2. Danilo says:

    Bullshit, Special K. The RIAA extortion racket has absolutely zero credibility in choosing its victims. For every “reasonable” target, like a college-aged, tech-savvy person, the RIAA seems to have an equal number of ridiculous ones — like grandmas who don’t even own computers. Until properly established in a court of law, I’m not buying a single one of their victims actually did what the industry claims. They’ve got a list of IP addresses, deep pockets and vicious lawyers — but that’s about as far as it goes.

    I’m all for the rule of law, but the recording industry’s practices of victimization and extortion, coupled with their intent to pursue vigilante, less-than-legal electronic tactics to preserve their mediocre copyrighted works makes this group of thugs the defacto douchebags in any matchup you want to show me.

  3. Halo says:

    Not to mention, Danilo, that we all know priacy does not equal stealing, as downloading a song does not remove the original or deminish its quality.

  4. RandomHookup says:

    Don’t they realize that an MIT graduate will be able to pay that amount and interest without a problem _after_ graduation? That’s why the student loan biz doesn’t even blink on giving them just about all the money they need.

  5. Well, Special K, your point might have been valid IF there was any evidence she was guilty. But we don’t know: she may be, she may not be. She’s not swearing innocence, nor is she claiming guilt. In other words, she’s yet another target by the RIAA who either may or may not be guilty, but will be sued either way.

  6. Morgan says:

    Many people do just opt to pay off the RIAA, since the legal fees to fight them would end up being much more than the thousands the RIAA is already asking for. Here’s a description of the RIAA strategy: http://recordingindustryvspeople.blogspot.com/2006/04/how-
    http://recordingindustryvspeople.blogspot.com is a good blog in general if you want to keep track of the various lawsuits the RIAA has going on. It’s a good way to get pissed of at the RIAA if you aren’t already :)

  7. mrscolex says:

    You guys are ridiculous. There’s no doubt that she’s guilty — the RIAA gets it right more often than they get it wrong (believe it or not).

    Between stories of the RIAA serving old grandma’s “Who don’t even have a computer!” and Seven year olds “Who don’t know how to download music!” we think that the RIAA indiscriminantly sues people just to “extort” them. Obviously you guys don’t understand how it works:

    1.) RIAA sues anonymous John Doe.
    2.) RIAA Subpeona’s ISP’s for John Doe’s identity based on IP Address records. (This is tagged, not by what’s displayed on p2p software, but by actual RIAA developed software that trolls p2p networks)
    3.) ISP (in this case, perhaps the MIT IT department) gives up identity of John Doe.

    So either:

    1.) RIAA’s software got it wrong.
    2.) The ISP got it wrong
    3.) MIT IT guys got it wrong
    4.) She’s Guilty.

    There hasn’t been any point, that I’m aware of (Unless something has changed) where the RIAA has sued people for *downloading* music– they specifically target the people who share the music. Often times you have to download it to share it, so thats where the confusion comes in. The RIAA considers that if they can remove the sources of people sharing the music, then the problem more or less goes away.

    The grandma that was widely publicized had an internet account setup in her name. She was named as the John Doe because of her ties to the billing for the ISP account, even though she “doesn’t even have a computer”. Makes a funny story, but that’s the result of sensationalism.

  8. Morgan says:

    That’s not really the whole story, Mr. Scolex; to have committed copyright infringment, someone would actually have had to download a song from her- she actually has to distribute the song to someone else to commit infringement. And the person who downloads the song can’t be the RIAA or an agent of the RIAA, because previous case law for copyright says you can’t infringe your own copyright (based on a case where a judge shot down someone who went and bought an unauthorized copy of his work and then tried to sue the seller). So based on what I’ve read on copyright (and I’m not a lawyer, but I do read lawyers’ blogs about the matter), the RIAA can’t prove that she infringed without an independant third party coming forward as a witness, and she may well not have infringed if the song just sat in her shared folder and no one ever downloaded it. Further, the evidence that the RIAA puts forward in court is dubious screenshots that could easily be faked; in fact, piratebay has a program that will generate evidance exactly as compelling for an IP address and song title you care to use. Don’t be so quick to assume guilt just because the RIAA says so.

  9. Bubba Barney says:

    Copyright law = fun.

  10. mrscolex says:


    Where on earth did you pull that out of? There doesn’t need to be a third party to confirm that there has been infringement– the mere distribution of content is infringement in and of itself. This clearly implicates someone as a so-called “Direct Infringer

    Let’s get the facts straight as well– the RIAA never told anyone to drop out of college to afford to pay back the settlements– this was hearsay that was made by a person on an RIAA negotiation hotline (the woman referred to as bowie in the blog article).

    You know maybe if you’re in MIT and you’ve got your whole future ahead of you in a prestigious college you’ll think twice before being an idiot and turning your computer system into a supernode on a file sharing network.

    This girl does have legal recourse, and she should utilize the services that the EFF offers in her defense.

  11. Morgan says:

    Yes, distribution of content is infringement, but merely having files in a shared folder that someone could download files from is not. Until someone downloads the file, no distribution has occured. In previous copyright cases the owner of the copyright could physically witness someone buying or receiving an unauthorized copy, but how does the RIAA witness someone downloading a file without downloading it themselves? None of this even addresses how flimsy the evidence they bring to court is; they could be choosing IP addresses and song names at random, creating screen shots, and then using those screen shots to “prove” there was infringement.

  12. mrscolex says:

    The idea that the RIAA would doctor screenshots to prove guilt is patently ridiculous. I assure you they’ve done the math and most of the “evidence” that the RIAA has, flimsy or not, never has to make it to court– thus the point of the so-called RIAA “extortion” settlement. It’s a way out for the guilty party to avoid having to go to court, such as what Zi Mei is doing.

    The same line of “having the files in a shared folder does not prove distribution took place” is the same argument that Zi Mei, the programmer who’s fighting back against the RIAA used as his defense.

    This is akin to walking into the RIAA’s offices, taking their furniture, and putting it on the lawn with a sign that says “Free for all, come take it”. You didn’t personally distribute it, and the cops didn’t see the people come take the furniture, but there is enough evidence to indicate that illegal distribution took place, circumstancial though it may be.

    It has been pointed out that the RIAA’s case against Zi Mei is indeed a sloppy case with flimsy evidence, and indeed all of the RIAA’s cases against their users may be sloppy cases with flimsy evidence– but that doesn’t change the fact that Zi Mei (who is a programmer, whom I doubt isn’t so unintelligent that he didn’t know what he was doing when he was sharing the files (another defense made in that case)) is more than likely guilty.

    Yes you are innocent until proven guilty, and so was OJ..

  13. Morgan says:

    Zi Mei isn’t a defendant in any case and hasn’t been accused of copyright infringement. He’s assisting the lawyer of John Doe #8 in Atlantic Recording v Does 1-25 by providing technical expertise to show that metadata associated with a file doesn’t prove anything. The expertise of the defense’s technical expert should not stop the defense from saying the defendant “didn’t know what he was doing when he was sharing the files.”
    In addition, this is nothing like breaking and entering to steal furniture. A better metaphor would be making photocopies of a book and putting them on your lawn with a sign saying “come take it.” What you’ve done is publish the material (publishing is legally defined as “offering to distribute”), but you haven’t distributed it until someone walks up and takes one of the copies you’ve made. Since the copyright holder does not have the exclusive right to publish, only to distribute, no infringement occurs until someone takes one of those copies.
    Pages 7-20 of this pdf explain this issues and reference the case law behind it (it’s a response to an RIAA lawyer’s claim that just offering to distribute is enough to infringe).

  14. Morgan says:

    I just realized that the link I posted in the last comment didn’t work; here’s the pdf I was refering to: http://www.lifeofalawyer.com/riaa/atlantic_does1-25_replym

  15. mrscolex says:

    |I’ll take the loss with Zi Mei, I suppose I deserved that ;)

    and I’ll raise you a middle-ground agreement– since the case presumably hasn’t really been ruled upon, then its obvious that the opinion of the court hasn’t been resolved in this matter, that is to say, that we’re not really sure whether merely sharing files in the eyes of the law is defined as infringing use.

    I stick by my opinion (they’re all guilty and they know it) but I’ll adjust my phrasing to be more technically accurate.

    They’re all guilty of sharing files (except in the vastly oversensationalized cases of the Grandma, etc..). It has yet to be determined whether or not they’re guilty of breaking the law by doing so. If the law determines that their use was an infringing use so be it– have them all pay the fines.

    In the mean time I don’t have an issue with the RIAA trying to pursue settlements. It sucks to be the person on the receiving end, but, duh, don’t share files.

    In the case of Cassi, who started this whole topic, she doesn’t admit guilt of course, but she is in the process of negotiating with the RIAA. She even tries to pursue options about trying to work out payment plans — she goes on to detail these choice words:

    Your evil pirates are people too, people who enjoy music and almost always still purchase it legitimately. Each has an individual life and circumstances that deserve consideration, if not for the sake of empathy for your fellow man, then for the sake of business sense.

    Sure, if you commit a crime against someone, you should be held accountable. But I find it horrifying that anyone would single-mindedly and without compassion process people like a meat grinder set to purée.

    Cassi’s stance on this is clear: She knows that she is responsible but is frustrated that the RIAA isn’t taking her financial state into consideration.

    This would imply that Cassi therefore even holds herself guilty in this regard, and I think many of the people inherently know this and know what they are doing was wrong.

  16. Morgan says:

    I’ll agree that most of them are probably guilty. I’d say that there is probably a significant number that aren’t, because really, all the RIAA has is an IP address and a time. What if the clocks the RIAA are using aren’t set the same as the clocks the ISP uses to keep track of who has an IP at a certain time? That’s one’s a little far fetched, but far more common is what happens when a neighbor or someone parked nearby with a laptop is using your unsecured wireless connection to download the files? You get sued for something someone next door did. It’s just way, way to easy for someone who’s completely innocent to get sued here, and most people don’t have the resources to fight it out in court. I’ve read too many “I’m not awake at 4 am and don’t listen to rap music” (yes, some random woman in her 30s or 40s was accused of downloading rap at 4am; the grandma thing is hardly an isolated incedent) type stories to believe that the RIAA never makes mistakes.

  17. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    RIAA has no grounds for these lawsuits and they should ALL be dismissed en masse. You can always chargeback the settlement, change your name, and go to Canada.