RIAA Files Lawsuit, Eight Targeted For Infringing Copyright

The Recording Industry Association of America has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against eight defendants at MIT, according to Massachusetts District Court filings.

The lawsuit, filed on June 14 on behalf of 11 recording companies, comes on the heels of 23 pre-litigation letters that were sent to MIT in May. The pre-litigation letters warned recipients that the RIAA could file a lawsuit if they did not settle accusations of copyright infringement outside of court. According to a press release from the RIAA, the defendants named in the case were "those individuals who did not settle during the pre-litigation period."

The eight defendants were identified by their IP addresses and times of alleged infringement, according to filings in the Federal District Court of Massachusetts. The accused MIT network users are being sued over allegedly sharing a total of 61 files from a variety of large recording studios including Sony BMG Music and Capitol Records. (See table of IP addresses and shared songs on page 10.)

Six of the eight defendants are located in dormitories, including Baker House, Burton-Conner, East Campus, MacGregor House, and McCormick Hall. There were two non-residential IP addresses identified: one in E40 and one in NE49 (600 Technology Square). On June 20, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the charges against the user of Baker House IP

On June 21, the trial judge consolidated the lawsuit against MIT network users into a case that includes users at other local colleges, including Boston University and the University of Massachusetts.

The trial judge also granted a discovery order, allowing the recording industry to serve a "Rule 45 subpoena" and obtain the "name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, and Media Access Control addresses" for the defendants. A MAC address is a unique address assigned to a computer's network card.

The discovery order gave MIT seven days to provide the subpoenaed users with a "Court-Directed Notice Regarding Issuance of Subpoena," which then gives the recipient 14 days to challenge the subpoena before their personal information is released.

MIT's official stance on RIAA lawsuits and subpoenas is available in a statement released in 2003 by Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD '75 and then Vice President for Information Systems James D. Bruce. According to the statement, "MIT is required to reveal the identity of members of our community … if we receive lawfully issued subpoenas" and MIT "notifies such individuals and provides them with a copy of the subpoena before the information is released."

According to MIT's Information Services and Technology Web site, users who receive subpoenas should contact an attorney "as soon as possible" and not delete copyrighted material since that "may expose [the user] to additional liability."

According to the RIAA, after obtaining information from the subpoena, counsel will offer the defendants a second chance to settle out of court, but "at a greater sum than for those who settled in the pre-litigation phase." Those who choose to settle will remain anonymous, with only their IP address, the date of alleged infringement, and shared songs publicly available.

The Tech last reported on RIAA lawsuits against MIT in October of 2005, when the recording industry filed suit against six MIT users. At the time, the RIAA did not send pre-litigation letters but did offer defendants a chance to settle out of court.

The original case, 07cv211100-NG LaFace Records, LLC et al V. Doe 1 et al, is now consolidated under lead case 04cv12434-NG London-Sire Records Inc. et al V. Does 1-4.

Court filings, including lawsuit exhibits and requests for discovery, are available at