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RIAA Settles With Students

College file-traders pay up for digital music trading

The Recording Industry of Association of America settled its
lawsuits against four college students accused of running
file-sharing networks yesterday. Under the out-of-court agreements,
none of the four students will admit guilt, but all will pay
settlements valued between $12,000 and $17,000 and discontinue
their distribution of copyrighted music.

The suits, filed April 3rd, marked the first time the RIAA had
targeted individual file-traders, and initially sought billions of
dollars in damages. Daniel Peng, a seventeen-year-old Princeton
sophomore, Joe Nievelt, a junior at Michigan Technological
University, and Jesse Jordan and Aaron Sherman — two students at
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute — were accused of running
services similar to pioneering file-swapping outlet Napster that
together made available for download more than 1 million
copyrighted songs.

Peng, whose Wake software browsed the Princeton network for
shared files and then collected them, was specifically cited for
distributing songs by Bruce Springsteen, Blink-182 and U2, among
others. About 300 songs were named in the lawsuit against him.

Nievelt, who ran a service called FlatLan, talked to Rolling
Stone
at the time of the suit. “I really don’t have the kind
of money they’re looking for,” he said. “This is kind of a
ridiculously big lawsuit. It’s been a really big headache so
far.”

The RIAA didn’t, of course, get their billions. But by suing and
settling — even for tens of thousands of dollars — the industry
successfully made examples of the four students and sent an
intimidating message to file-sharers around the country. The
association’s representatives said that since the lawsuits were
filed a month ago, as many as eighteen other local file-sharing
services had shut down.

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