RIAA, MPAA target student file trading on Internet2

The RIAA and MPAA target college students using Internet2 connections to trade copyrighted files.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) on Wednesday separately will file lawsuits against college students that are allegedly using an Internet2 peer-to-peer service for illegal file trading.

The RIAA will file copyright infringement lawsuits against 405 college students, while the MPAA will do the same against an undisclosed number of college students. Both groups are targeting college students who have allegedly used their schools' high-speed Internet2 networks to trade files illegally using the Internet2 P-to-P service called i2hub, the trade groups announced separately Tuesday.

In addition, the MPAA said it will also name defendants in a number of lawsuits it filed previously against unnamed P-to-P users.

The students in the RIAA lawsuits, from 18 colleges across the U.S., used i2hub to share a total of 1.5 million files, the "overwhelming majority" of those files copyrighted, according to Cary Sherman, president of the RIAA.

On Monday, at 4:23 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, there were 7,070 users connected to i2hub sharing 99.2T bytes of files, according to the MPAA. "Ninety-nine terabytes is enough storage space to hold all the movies that are available in a local Blockbuster store, yet people are swapping those movies entirely free," said Dan Glickman, the MPAA's president and chief executive.

College students seemed to believe they were shielded from RIAA lawsuits by trading music files on the closed Internet2 network, built by a consortium of universities to aid with university research, Sherman said. The RIAA limited this round of lawsuits to no more than 25 students at any one university, but the two trade groups have evidence of copyright infringement using i2hub at 140 colleges in 41 states, he added.

"I2hub has, for some reason, been thought to be a safe zone to engage in illegal activity," Sherman said during a press conference. "What we wanted to do is puncture that misconception and let people know that when you are on the Internet there's really no such thing as a safe zone for lawlessness."

I2hub issued a statement Tuesday, saying its creators do not condone copyright infringement. "Students across the globe utilize i2hub for many reasons -- help on homework, exam reviews, sharing ideas, and some have even found their significant other through the network," said the statement, e-mailed by Wayne Chang, chief executive officer of The i2hub Organization.

Both the RIAA and the MPAA declined to disclose how they identify users of i2hub and other P-to-P services, saying that describing their methods would hurt their ability to hunt down file traders in the future. The MPAA declined to disclose how many Internet2-related lawsuits it planned to file Wednesday.

"Whether we're filing 10 lawsuits or 10,000 is, we believe, irrelevant to the point we've been saying all along, which is this is wrong and you are not anonymous," said John Malcolm Sr., senior vice president and director of worldwide antipiracy operations at MPAA.

Both groups said they did not fault the developers of Internet2 for the file trading, but they said they hoped college presidents would take action to stop file trading on their Internet2 networks. Using Internet2, students can download a full-length movie in about five minutes, compared to an hour or longer using a cable modem or DSL (digital subscriber line) broadband service, Sherman said.

Glickman also called on the creators of i2hub to shut down unauthorized file trading. Chang, in an e-mail, disputed RIAA claims that it operates a central server where files are stored. "I2hub does not have the means to filter 'unauthorized files' on our network," Chang said. "We liken ourselves to AOL's Instant Messenger, or IRC (Internet Relay Chat), or even a hybrid of both. It would be the same to ask them to filter 'unauthorized files' on those networks."

Among the colleges targeted by the RIAA: Boston University, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ohio State University, Princeton University, and University of Southern California.

Including these new lawsuits, the RIAA has filed more than 9,000 lawsuits against alleged P-to-P users since September 2003.

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Grant Gross

IDG News Service

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