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College Students Pay RIAA Big Time
May 01, 2003

Students settle file-swapping lawsuit with music industry

LOS ANGELES (AP) -Four college students who were sued by the recording industry for operating computer networks that allegedly offered thousands of songs for illegal downloading settled the lawsuits by agreeing to pay damages of as much as $17,500 each, music industry officials said Thursday.

The lawsuits marked an aggressive first step by the industry to go after individuals engaging in what music executives see as online music piracy.

It had previously only sued file-sharing services where much of the illegal copying and swapping of copyrighted works takes place.

``We believe it's in everyone's best interest to come to a quick resolution, and that these four defendants now clearly understand the seriousness with which we view this type of illegal behavior,'' said Matt Oppenheim, senior vice president of business and legal affairs for the Recording Industry Association of America.

None of the students admitted any wrongdoing under the settlement disclosed by the RIAA, the music industry's trade group. All agreed to cease distribution of copyrighted music.

Princeton University student Daniel Peng and Michigan Tech student Joseph Nievelt each agreed to pay $15,000 in damages to the RIAA. At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Rochester, N.Y., student Jesse Jordan agreed to pay $12,000, and fellow Rensselaer student Aaron Sherman agreed to pay $17,500.

``I don't believe that I did anything wrong,'' Peng said in a statement. ``I am glad that the case has been settled amicably, and I hope that for the sake of artists, the larger issues can soon be resolved.''

Attorney Howard Ende, who represented Peng, said the legal action was intended to make an example of the students.

``The suit was outrageous,'' he said. ``I don't think the suit was really about him, it (was) about sending a message, a message meant to intimidate.''

At least 18 other similar networks at universities have gone off-line since the RIAA sued the four students, Oppenheim said.

The RIAA said the students named in the suit were running their networks using university bandwidth. The schools were not named in the lawsuits. The lawsuit originally sought damages of $150,000 per song from the students.

Jordan's father, Andy Jordan, of Oceanside, N.Y., said his son was innocent, but he did not want to embroil the 19-year-old freshman in lengthy litigation.

``The furthest thing from his mind is trying to steal copyrights,'' Andy Jordan said.

He said $12,000 was a lot of money to his son.

``That's Jesse's life savings, how small is that?'' Andy Jordan asked. ``How much value is there to trashing his name ... in every city, in every country on the planet?''

Ende said the network his client operated was closer to a search engine than to Napster, the now-defunct file-sharing service that hosted directories of users' music files on its servers. Peng's network offered a variety of information other than music, the lawyer said.

``It was meant to facilitate the ability of faculty and students who wished to search (for) information that they had, and he basically created a search engine that made it easier to find,'' Ende said.

Oppenheim said the students' networks were not simple search engines.

``These were really in almost every respect like Napster,'' Oppenheim said. ``These students were running servers that were indexing for other students media files available for really a one-click download.''


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