RIAA Targets File-Sharing in the Workplace

Just weeks after training its
anti-piracy guns
on universities nationwide, the Recording Industry
Association of America’s (RIAA) war against the file-sharing networks has
spread to Fortune 500 companies.

Attorneys for the RIAA have sent a letter to about 300 U.S. companies,
warning they could face “significant legal damages” because their networks
were being used to “illegally distribute copyrighted music on the Internet.”

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by internetnews.com, was sent
out along with a complete package detailing specific alleged piracy
activities. Part of the detailed packet sent to specific companies includes
the computer location of the offending material with its Internet Protocol
(IP) address and a list of the works illegally offered.

A spokesperson for the RIAA declined to identify the companies that
received the unprecedented warning.
Approximately 20 percent of the companies were in in the medical-related
field, 20 percent in manufacturing and 35 percent to technology firms. The
rest went to corporations in a variety of unrelated sectors.

In the letter, signed by RIAA president Cary Sherman, the RIAA said investigations found that IP addresses assigned to
the targeted companies were used to log onto the FastTrack network (the
online peer-to-peer network that hosts KaZaA, Grokster and iMesh) to offer
up copyrighted sound recordings for others to download for free.

“Obviously, such infringing conduct must stop. These acts of
infringement could expose your employees and your company to significant
legal damages. Indeed, federal copyright law imposes stiff penalties for
acts of infringement,” Sherman warned. The RIAA VP said copyright owners
can collect statutory damages of up to $150,000 per copyrighted work
infringed as well as legal costs and attorneys’ fees, making it clear
damages can also include all of the profits earned by an infringer plus the
actual damages suffered by the copyright owner.

“In addition, infringers risk relinquishment of any equipment used in
manufacturing the infringing copies. The consequences for not taking
action, therefore, can be quite serious,” he admonished.

It is not the first time the RIAA has targeted network administrators to
help with the battle against illegal file-sharing. In January, the
association sent a letter to college administrators seeking the
co-operation
of sysadmins to eliminate the peer-to-peer networks from
campuses.

The latest tactic to put the onus on the network admins has been roundly
criticized
in some quarters for forcing the grunt work of policing
against copyright infringement on the private administrators.

Despite those criticisms, the RIAA is pressing ahead and sources say the
internal investigations could lead to more letters and warning being
dispatched in coming weeks. The association has also enclosed sample user
logs showing lists of infringing music files made available on FastTrack by
specific employees. “We also attach a CD-ROM containing the entire log of
files offered by that employee. Note that this information reflects
information we found based on a very limited search and could well indicate
that this activity is widespread on your network,” Sherman noted.

He told the companies that the problem of online copyright infringement
in the workplace extends beyond legal liability. “As we highlighted in a
recent letter and corporate policy guide to the CEOs of the Fortune 1000,
the dangers of permitting music piracy in the corporate environment can also
include security risks to the network,” he said.

The association cautioned that the disclosure of sensitive corporate
information to third parties, importation of viruses, increased bandwidth
costs, slowed Internet connections are all harmful side effects of allowing
file-sharing at workplaces.

“We encourage you to adopt and fully implement employee policies and
technical measures that prevent copyright infringement on your corporate
network, as we will continue to monitor for infringing conduct and take any
appropriate legal action necessary to protect our rights.”

The RIAA claims an estimated 2.6 billion illegal downloads of
copyrighted works occur each month, some at workplaces in the U.S. “Because
of high-speed connections and huge bandwidth, corporate computer networks
are tempting and fertile ground for employees who illegally trade music
using an unauthorized peer-to-peer network,” the trade group said.

News Around the Web