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Marshall University loses fight against RIAA

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April 18, 2008

1:55 AM

Marshall University has failed in its attempt to block a subpoena related to illegal downloading, according to an April 16 Ars Technica online article. The subpoena seeks the names of seven Marshall students wanted for copyright infringement.

The university’s legal response came after the Recording Industry Association of America filed its most recent wave of lawsuits against college students earlier this year.

The RIAA filed a “John Doe” lawsuit against Marshall in February, entitled “Arista Records v. Does 1-7” and issued a subpoena asking the institution to disclose the identities of the seven students whose internet protocol — or IP — addresses were named in the lawsuit.

Marshall resisted the request, alleging that the RIAA made false representations in getting the subpoena and began the investigation for the students’ identities without the university’s knowledge or consent.

The university also argued that the subpoena placed an “undue burden” on the school, as four of the seven IP addresses identified were in rooms housing more than one student. For those rooms, the school could provide the name of the student whose computer had the specific IP address; however, it could not prove whether or not that student or another actually engaged in file-sharing activities without the “expense and inconvenience of an investigation.”

Attorneys for Marshall also argued that federal privacy laws prevented disclosure of identifying data and that the 1998 Digital Millennium Rights Act invalidated the subpoena. They also cited the July 2007 federal court ruling in which Judge Walter Kelly, Jr. refused the RIAA’s motion to subpoena the names of seven students from the College, citing the DMRA.

The federal judge in Marshall’s case ruled against the university April 14, making only one concession that amended the subpoena to ask for “identifying information with respect to the person associated with the IP address at the date and time of the alleged infringing use.”

While opponents of the RIAA’s legal campaign against students are upset by the ruling, they remain confident that the lawsuits will eventually become too difficult for the RIAA to pursue.

The College has faced two rounds of lawsuits filed against its students. 17 students in the past year have received letters from the RIAA requiring that they settle for $3,000 out of court or face lawsuits for much larger amounts.

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