RealTime IT News

RIAA Helps Nab Napster Felon

I'm starting to give up hope whether the Recording Industry Association of America will ever "get it." Ahead of Napster's opening arguments slated for early next month in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the RIAA has stepped up its tattletale efforts to start policing the dangerous criminal element living on college campuses everywhere.

Acting on a formal tip from the RIAA, the Oklahoma University Cowboys campus swat team raided the dorm room of a 19-year-old student. They were horrified to discover a trashcan full of empty beer cans buried underneath a mountain of unwashed laundry, two overdue credit card bills, a dilapidated pair of shower flip-flops, and a Pi Kappa Alpha pledge pin. So how come this slacker of higher learning may actually be facing felony charges and a new roomie named Bubba?

Our college friend is alleged to have downloaded more than 1,000 music singles to his hard drive while recklessly sharing them with friends and roommates using Napster. *gasp* As it turns out, colleges buckling under threat of lawsuits from music industry whiners are making Napster users public enemy number one. University officials made this grisly discovery after the RIAA sent a letter notifying the cowering Cowboys that it had detected a suspiciously high volume of music downloads to the campus' computer network.

OSU police Lieutenant Steve Altman said he's got his best computer forensic gumshoe on the case analyzing files on the computer's hard drive. So far, officials working the case have found a troubling and extensive collection of Barry Manilow's greatest hits, but were quick to note that their suspect does not appear to have been trying to profit in any way from the downloads.

Ok, folks. That's all the sarcasm from me. Now let me tell you a few things worth noting. First off, this so-called case is a big nothing burger. College campus police are typically little more than Keystone Cops who'd be hard-pressed to differentiate copyright infringement from a parking infraction. In this case, the investigating officers conducted a highly publicized bust on an unremarkable college student in an effort to fend off pressure from the sue-happy RIAA. Ultimately, there'll be no charges of substance filed against the student; but by that time, no one will be paying attention, and the RIAA will have long since moved on to harass some other university faculty.

Publicly, the RIAA claims its actions are simply part of its anti-piracy crusade. Privately, the trade group representing the U.S. recording industry is cheering OSU's move to consider criminal charges against the student. Quite simply, the RIAA is warming to its dual role as a new economy bully and the Internet's most vocal snitch. It hopes actions that bolster that image will help strike fear into hearts of evildoers everywhere. But in reality, the average kid in a candy store taking advantage of Napster, Gnutella, or Freenet, has nothing to fear from the RIAA now or ever.

The RIAA represents the $14 billion recording industry, with member companies that have a monopoly on creating, manufacturing, and distributing music in the U.S. With a simple 1 MB download, peer-to-peer users have virtually debunked a music cartel overnight. While the RIAA's cease-and-desist letters have made some headway scaring colleges into submission, its latest Nerf ball goon tactics will only serve to incite students. There's no group more irreverent and eager to challenge the establishment - whatever that establishment may be.

Unfortunately, early legal decisions have given recording industry proponents a false sense of security. After the courts rule against Napster in its high profile legal battle, another peer-to-peer riva