Last week, Princeton was subpoenaed for the names and information of almost forty students, in preparation for lawsuits the RIAA is bringing against them against them. On Monday, the Nassau Weekly’s Jessica Woods sat down with one of the accused to find out the real story.
Jessica Woods: So tell me about [your] Legal Defense Fund that I’ve heard so much about.
The Accused: Well, seeing as I’m going to have to spend at least a thousand dollars to defend myself against the RIAA, I figured I’d start selling t-shirts or something. I mean, I was only sharing, not stealing.
JW: I think that’s an important distinction. Did you deal mainly in movies or in music?
TA: I did both, but I am only being sued by the record industry people, although I have heard that the Motion Picture Association of America has begun to step up their prosecution. Thank goodness I’m no longer connected to my sharing device, and will not be getting in trouble with them unless they already have a subpoena on its way.
JW: So if you can just disconnect from your “sharing device,” what keeps you from just erasing all of it? Do they know what you have?
TA: Umm, that’s called obstruction of justice; that’s how Martha Stewart and Richard Nixon got in trouble. And the office said explicitly in the email not to do that.
JW: The email from the RIAA?
TA: The RIAA emailed Princeton who emailed me.
JW: Did the RIAA choose some IP addresses at random? How did they select these people?
TA: I don’t even know how I was selected. Personally, I don’t think I’m a big sharer but maybe I am. They chose these IP addresses and decided to subpoena Princeton for the information about who the students are who have these IP addresses.
JW: So all the users were Princeton students?
TA: In this specific case I’ve heard that there are about forty defendants or something. I’ve spoken to a few kids–so far all Princeton–but the RIAA has done it before; they file hundreds of lawsuits like this a year, if not thousands.
JW: Who goes to law school to spend their lives filing these rote lawsuits?
TA: Actually, they don’t even employ lawyers anymore. They just employ paralegals because the stuff is so simple. They just churn ‘em out, left and right.
JW: What are the results for the RIAA? What’s in it for them, if they keep suing, and everyone keeps sharing?
TA: I don’t think there’s any possible way that they’re going to stop file-sharing, but what I think they are going to do is stem it a bit, to slow it down. I know people who, because they’ve heard about this, have stopped for a little while. And yeah they will start doing it again but they have temporarily paused. There is a sense of fear that you’re gonna get slapped with a lawsuit.
JW: Does it seem like more of a scare tactic, then?
TA: They target a university community and they get the word out and people get scared and they stop doing it for a little while.
JW: So do you think that that’s the point as much as limiting the copyrighted material that’s out there?
TA: I think that’s the point. It’s not about the money. In most cases they settle for a couple thousand dollars.
JW: How do your parents feel about it? Are they prepared to step up with a couple thousand dollars? I mean, are they file-sharing types?
TA: They’ve actually been pretty supportive. I was worried that they would be really angry. Because I had all these crazy plans – delete all my files, blame it on my roommate, that sort of thing – their attitude has been pragmatic. They were just like, ‘That’s obstruction of justice.’ So… they’ve been pretty supportive as long as I don’t do anything stupid.
JW: Does Princeton OIT have an official position, that it’s wrong, or that this sort of thing is just inconvenient?
TA: It’s against the University policy.
TA: Yeah, infringement of copyright law. That was mentioned to me, but I think the university feels bad enough for me that I think they’re not gonna take any action—cross my fingers.
JW: It would be really annoying to get probation for file-sharing.
TA: I think the University’s policy is that it needs to be a series of offenses—they needed to have warned you before, and they’ve never warned me before.
JW: Sort of like their policy on date rape.
JW: So what kind of files were you actually sharing, if you can say? I mean, were you looking at kiddie porn?
TA: It wasn’t kiddie porn. There was no porn.
JW: Were you downloading stuff that hadn’t come out yet? Brand-new pop hits?
TA: I was only using it to download stuff I wouldn’t have bought anyway.
JW: That’s a good point, I mean, you’re not gonna buy that sweet new Lindsey Lohan…
TA: Yeah, I wasn’t about to go buy Lindsey Lohan Rumors, or Britney…I’m not really worried about Britney, and, you know, like, paying her.
JW: She just puts her shit out there anyway, if you know what I’m saying.
TA: Yeah she does.
JW: And apparently she’s pregnant?
TA: She is kinda fat. I think she’s just trying to explain why she’s fat.
JW: And then she, like, loses the baby in tragedy and emerges a star.
TA: She goes to one of those two week centers where you lose like thirty pounds.
JW: Do you think the RIAA executives go to those sort of like colon-cleansing clinics?
TA: I don’t know, does it cost four thousand bucks? Cause that’s how much they’re gonna get out of me.
JW: Did you have pirated movies that weren’t in theaters yet?
JW: Did you have music that wasn’t released yet?
TA: No, not as far as I know. Well, I did have a lot of Fitty [rapper 50 Cent].
JW: I wouldn’t worry about the RIAA if I crossed Fitty. I’d worry about the gun slinging.
TA: Yeah, I had pop stuff, and indie stuff that no one downloaded from me anyway. Like, who downloads Stella Star?
JW: Did they catch you from people uploading from you?
TA: I had the sharing function open so people could upload from me.
JW: Which program did you use, if you’re at liberty to say?
JW: Oh, that’s the hot new one.
TA: That’s the one with all the universities. You need to have a university IP address. They had never prosecuted people who had used it before—you need to have a university IP address and somehow the RIAA hacked into that, or bribed some fucking douchey student to let them to look at their stuff.
JW: Honestly, that was like the promised land of file-sharing–I thought it was really safe.
TA: Yeah, it was, but I was in the first string [of lawsuits].
JW: This is actual breaking news. There’s never been news in the Nassau Weekly before, but here we go. I2hub: don’t do it. How does that affect DC++?
TA: I’m aware of a lawsuit involving DC++ so they did that too.
JW: So they’re doing DC++ and i2hub at once?
TA: That’s my impression, I’m not totally positive.
JW: So, are they just making a point or are they making money?
TA: My impression is that they’re breaking even. Cause they’re using paralegals, and paralegals don’t get paid a hundred bucks an hour, they get paid like ten.
JW: Twelve on a good day.
TA: Yeah, fifteen if they’ve got tenure or some shit.
TA: But what I think is really sad is that the people who they target are college students. Like, they’ll sue 40 kids at BU. They’ll sue 100 kids somewhere else. It’s not like they’re going after adult professionals. They’re going after students who don’t have money.
JW: Do you have a closing message for our readers?
TA: Don’t get sued (glances around Mathey courtyard). Look, there’s Silas. Is he playing volleyball? Yes!