The University of Wisconsin has announced it will not cooperate with the RIAA in identifying 15 students suspected of illegally downloading music online.
The RIAA seeks UW's help because the RIAA only has anonymous IP addresses, which UW has the ability to match the IP with the offending internet user. However, UW has taken a stance that it has no legal obligation to assist the RIAA, and will not forward pre-litigation settlement letters from the RIAA to the anonymous students.
According to Brian Rust, UW's Division of Information Technology communications manager, "It’s basically saying that the recording industry may think the person or people who may have used this particular IP address might have done something wrong,” Rust said. “That’s two ‘mays’ and a ‘might’ — and the university can’t punish a person on that basis.” Rust states that if the RIAA wants the identities to be disclosed, the RIAA can file a subpoena and seek disclosure that way.
Interestingly, the RIAA has had moderate success in seeking universities' assistance. Universities see it as a way to free up unnecessarily used bandwidth, and also as a way to avoid being dragged into litigation themselves. But outside of schools, the RIAA has seen a different side. Corporations like Verizon have refused to disclose user identities in the past and succeeded (and this case is closed, as the US Supreme Court has denied Certiorari and will not hear the case).
However, in what may be a change of tide, UW is standing up and challenging the RIAA's request. And the RIAA is not pleased. Jenni Engebretsen, the RIAA's communications director, writes that if UW will not oblige the RIAA's request, "Students would lose the opportunity to settle any future claims against them at a substantially discounted sum and with the benefit of no public mark on their record."
Source: Badger Herald