Congressmen Who Took Money From The RIAA Send Chiding Letters To Universities

“If we do not receive acceptable answers, Congress will be forced to act,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee after sending a chiding letter and “survey” to 20 U.S. universities thought to have the “greatest amount of online piracy.”

Lamar’s threats were vague but are definitely not connected to the fact that in the last election cycle, he received $7,500 in campaign contributions from the RIAA Political Action Committee as well as $2,000 from the Warner Music Political Action Committee. A group called “Texans for Lamar Smith”pocketed a cool $1,000 from Andy Lack, the Chairman and CEO of Sony/BMG, as well as another $1,000 from the Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. Political Action Committee.

Brian Rust spokesperson for UW’s Division of Information Technology, agreed to participate in the study. From the UW Badger:

“We’re glad that they’re asking us before action, but I don’t think we are as irresponsible as their press release and letter implies,” Rust said. “UW-Madison and all of our peer institutions have gone to great lengths to notify people, warn people and post notices via e-mail.”

Rust questioned whether the committee completely understands the complexity of sharing prevention without intruding on the educational initiatives that use similar technologies.

“There are many legitimate uses of file sharing,” Rust said. “If we prevented anyone from sharing music files, what would happen to music appreciation classes that involve downloaded legitimate files? They’d be pretty unhappy, and we’d hear about it.”

Howard Berman (D-Calif.), a co-signer of the letter told Variety: “By answering the survey, universities will be required to examine how they address piracy on their campuses.”

Berman received $3,500 in contributions from the RIAA PAC. He also grabbed $2,100 from David Geffen, $2,100 from Jeffrey Katzenberg, and $2,100 from Steven Spielberg.

Even though Berman is from California, he received $22,700 from 23 individuals living in New York. People like: BMI/Executive Robert L. Ahrold, BMI/Sr. Vice President Marvin L. Berenson, Homemaker Clarissa A. Bronfman (she was good for $4,200!), , Edgar M. Bronfman (another $4,200!), and Robert A. Iger, the CEO of Disney.

Sorry it that was boring. Here’s an excerpt of the letter from Variety:

The letter noted that while five House hearings into the problem have revealed “modest progress” by some campus administrations, they have also yielded “substantial evidence to question the commitment of some institutions to adopt and, more importantly, implement policies that will actually contribute to a reduced incidence of campus digital piracy. The fact that copyright piracy is not unique to college and university campuses is not an excuse for higher education officials to fail to take reasonable steps to eliminate such activity nor to appropriately sanction such conduct when discovered.”

Survey questions include the following:

* “Does your institution have an ‘acceptable use’ policy that includes an unambiguous prohibition against illegal peer-to-peer file trafficking of copyrighted works through the use of campus computer and networking systems?”

* “Please describe, in detail, your institution’s formal policy or procedure for processing and responding to notices of infringement received.”

* “Beginning with the 2002-03 academic year and for each school year thereafter, please identify the number of student violations of your institution’s acceptable use policies that involved illegal downloading, uploading, or file trafficking of copyrighted material. Please also note the number of works whose copyrights were infringed.”

Reps for the motion picture and music recording industries welcomed announcement of the letters and surveys that went to Columbia, Pennsylvania, Boston U., UCLA, Purdue, Vanderbilt, Duke, Rochester Institute of Technology, U. of Massachusetts at Boston, Michigan, Ohio U., U. of Nebraska at Lincoln, Tennessee, South Carolina, U. of Massachusetts at Amherst, Michigan State, Howard, N.C. State and U. of Wisconsin at Madison.

Meanwhile, the RIAA has sent out the next batch of “settlement letters” to universities. There are some new ones on their list. 402 letters were sent to: Brandeis, Duke, Iowa State, Northern Illinois, Syracuse, and Tufts Universities; the Universities of Georgia, Iowa, Southern California, South Florida, and Tennessee; the University of Texas at Austin; and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Congress threatens colleges [Variety]
Congress steps into RIAA feud [UW Badger]
RIAA Sends More ‘Prelitigation’ Letters [Chronicle Of Higher Education]


Edit Your Comment

  1. nffcnnr says:

    This does not surprise me, Lamar Smith is shady. Typical radical religious right-wing Republican serving his wealthy corporate constituency.

  2. Falconfire says:

    Ahh typical congress. Nice to see criminals can make a decent living in our country by being in charge of it.

  3. jaewon223 says:

    Who thinks he’s wearing a toupee?

  4. holysmoke says:

    you think since he received a whopping $1000 he is bought and paid for???

    $1000 is chump change to politicians. I’m sure he is getting a whole lot more behind the scenes to do their bidding but no way for a grand.

  5. Scott says:

    Might want to let him know what we all think-

    Washington D.C. Office
    2409 Rayburn House Office Building
    Washington, DC 20515

    or an email – He makes you jump through hoops

  6. Dibbler says:

    jaewon223 said: Who thinks he’s wearing a toupee?

    That’s exactly what I was thinking when that mugshot popped up on the screen…

    Writing him a letter may just get me added to the RIAA list. I think I’ll write a letter to MY congressman letting him know that I don’t like this guy and he shouldn’t either. i.e. Stay away!

  7. tvh2k says:

    Lamar is so corrupt it’s ridiculous.

    By the way, sorry for the comment abuse but I had to say it:

    Yeah RIT — represent!

  8. royal72 says:

    dear agent… err… representative smith,
    please feel free to fuck yourself and the greedy douchebags you are representing. i’d like to offer a few points of advice if i may:
    a) get rid of the hair piece. you’re bald, that’s ok, and nothing to be ashamed of.
    b) if you’re gonna be in bed with big business, choose a better partner. these guys are the crystal meth fiends of big business and that makes you guilty by association.
    c) don’t you have something more important to work on, like steroids in baseball?

  9. gamble says:


    I do.

    I also think he looks like gollum.

  10. crayonshinobi says:

    What a tool, in both the literal and figurative sense.

    Further proof that US copyright laws were not enacted and enforced by our representatives, but bought and paid for by special interest groups (read cartels).

  11. yahonza says:


    “Typical radical religious right-wing Republican serving his wealthy corporate constituency”

    Err, except the letter’s cosigner is a democrat.

  12. crayonshinobi says:

    @yahonza: hear hear. Neither side of the aisle has a monopoly on greed and corruption.

    Furthermore, it was Clinton who signed into law the DMCA made by a republican congress. Apparently, the one thing that both republicans and democrats can agree on is that the proletariat have too much freedom.

  13. slapstick says:


    Typical radical religious right-wing critical reading skills!

  14. oldhat says:

    WOW! Is that all is takes to buy off a congressman? Shit, we can all piece up right now and buy him!

    Oh, wait, that’s right…the “donation” are just a down payment. His friends and family get jobs with the industry for his servitude…and he will get a really posh job when/if he gets thrown out of office.

    Ah, government corruption at it’s banal core…aka Thursday.

  15. yahonza says:


    Very true. That is why I love consumer self protection (like the Consumerist itself), but I am deeply doubtful of the ability of politicians to “protect” us.

  16. TechnoDestructo says:


    It being not-unusual for a Democrat doesn’t make it any less typical for a religious right Republican.

  17. mac-phisto says:

    it could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly american criminal class except congress.

    -mark twain

  18. nffcnnr says:

    thanks, Techno. :o]

  19. Trackback says:

    Cory Doctorow: Caines sez, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Howard Berman (D-Calif.) are sending threats to 20 universities if they don’t provide “acceptable answers” to what measures they are taking to prevent illegal file sharing.

  20. Stepehn Colbert says:

    Someone needs to find a way to hurt these people…real bad.

  21. j-o-h-n says:

    Dear Prospective College Student, the RIAA has done you the service of researching which colleges and universities have top-notch networks. Please consider one of the following schools: Brandeis, Duke, Iowa State, Northern Illinois, Syracuse, and Tufts Universities; the Universities of Georgia, Iowa, Southern California, South Florida, and Tennessee; the University of Texas at Austin; and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  22. Lewisha says:

    I’m a board member of USC Free Culture and had the privledge of taking a seminar with Cory Doctorow, a visiting Fulbright professor @ USC’s Public Diplomacy program and advisor to USC FC. Believe it or not, we had success politicizing the undergrads; Cory’s been amazing and one of our goals next year is a public action against Berman.

    So Stephen, we’re working on it. Check out our blog:

    If you want to take a public action, join our flickR group. Already 140 cc pics and we need to take some of Dirty Berman’s office location.

    They’ll go down eventually –
    Remember what Public Enemy #1 said….

  23. oldhat says:

    @Stepehn Colbert: It’s crazy, but how about we actually enforce existing laws? And actually research and vote?

    And shouldn’t you be a tad more sarcastic, Colbert? You’re way funnier on tv.

    I miss the pie-in-the-face vigilante…he was cool.

  24. Trackback says:

    Because US colleges are such quiet and well-ordered places, the House of Representatives have decided they might as well send nineteen of them a long, rambling questionnaire to find out what they’re doing about filesharing.Curiously, the US government tried one of these last year, but many schools…

  25. Trick says:


    This does not surprise me, Lamar Smith is shady. Typical radical religious right-wing Republican serving his wealthy corporate constituency.

    Yes Sir! Thank god we have a Democrat keeping it real. I for one thank the open and honest Democrat Howard Berman (D-Calif) watching over those damn Neo-Cons.

    What a tool you are, dude. You actually think Democrats are better than Republicans. I still wonder how you even managed to turn on your computer? Did tell you how?

  26. Adam Rock says:

    Dianne Feinstein took $4000. She is the one that started the PERFORM Act that’s forcing the Internet Radio stations to shut down. What a #&@#$%@&%*@#$ing @*&#^!#%^$@^#%$$*&@^$*.

  27. Itsumishi says:

    I’m not from the U.S (I’m in Australia) but I read a lot about what is going on there via boing boing and various news papers, etc. Also I am going to be there in August. Woop!

    The best thing about American Law is your wonderful Cival Liberties, unfortunately it seems that each year your’ governments (both Republican & Democrat) seem to chip away at these laws until there will eventually be none left.

    It seems to me that your country’s laws have been going steadily down the Toilet since about Nixon (although I don’t know too much about your politics in the later 70’s and 80’s). Unfortunately Australia’s Prime Minister’s head is so far up George Bush’s arse that our Country has steadily been heading through the same pipes to eventually wind up in corporate crap land.

  28. oldhat says:

    @Adam Rock: Dianne Feinstein is proof that men and women are the same: she’s just another lousy, war-mongering, corrupt senator. Might as well be a dude, congrats, women, you are just as bad.

    Also everything wrong with the senate…it’s almost a lifetime gig*. California can do so much better.

    * hahaahahah—-Santorum—-hahahahaha

  29. MentalDisconnect says:

    @oldhat: Strangely, there seem to be a lot more men screwing things up- maybe because they’re rarely in positions of power….