File-sharing punishment doesn#039;t fit crime

by Beacon Staff • April 4, 2007

The settlements are certainly better than the alternative: lawsuits that could result in six-digit fines.,Fifty Boston University students recently learned the downside to downloading when the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) slapped them with pre-litigation settlement offers for illegally obtained songs.

The settlements are certainly better than the alternative: lawsuits that could result in six-digit fines.

But the students implicated will still lose a substantial amount of cash, which they likely don't have, considering BU's undergraduate tuition currently stands at $34,930 a year.

Major Internet providers such as Verizon and Comcast refuse to give out the names of their users to the RIAA, in the interest of protecting their customers.

So, too, should BU and other colleges, including Emerson, in order to act in the best interest of their constituency. Unfortunately, BU gave up the students' names when approached by the RIAA.

However, these institutions are not the only ones at fault. As any student with a cable connection knows, obtaining the Radiohead discography-one of the few major bands not currently available for legal download-is as simple as the click of a torrent.

Despite its ease, it still equates to theft.

Although there is no indication our school will be notified next, it's a distinct possibility that in the near future, on- and off-campus Emersonians could be hit with hefty fines because they didn't want to pay for the new Pussycat Dolls album.

But Emerson students-the future creators of movies and media that students could download in the future-should be respectful of artists' rights and their desire for compensation.

Apple's iTunes offers millions of songs for under a dollar each, and lesser-known sites like emusic sell MP3s from up-and-coming acts for even less.

And if you really need a copy of "Hail to the Thief," here's a novel idea: take a walk to Newbury Comics and drop $13.99 on the CD, and get rewarded with the lyric sheet and artwork contained within, in addition to some new tunes.

Song-sharing has been around since the time of the mix tape and isn't going away anytime soon.

But students can protect themselves by only swapping amongst friends in the flesh, not anonymous IP addresses.