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Stanford Turns DMCA Complaints Into Cash

Stanford University, the birth place of Yahoo! and Google, has come up with a lucrative way to deal with DMCA complaints from the MPAA and RIAA against its students: terminate their Internet service and charge a reconnection fee. First time offenders will be charged $100, a second offense will cost $500, and a third DMCA means paying $1000 and signing a letter idemnifying the school.

The school claims they get so many complaints that it takes three full time employees to sort through them all, and the fees will help pay for those resources. Schools fingered by the RIAA and MPAA as top havens of piracy have taken divergent approaches toward dealing with the problem. Some have banned P2P traffic outright, some have simply ignored the complaints from the industry associations, and others, like the University of Wisconsin-Madison, are demanding a formal subpoena before handing over any student information. But Stanford might be the only school that has tried to turn a profit out of it.

The RIAA has been more aggressive at targetting students for copyright infringement. Sending “pre-litigation” settlement notices to students, which threaten lawsuits and offer a settlement for a nominal fee (usually around $3000). Some have pointed out that these settlements are generally small enough that it is not worth it for students to go to court. Some people, however, suspect that US and international courts will soon find that the IP gathering and monitoring techniques used by the RIAA in order to get information about users to send out its “pre-litigation” notices are not legal.

Getting back to Stanford, the text of their policy says that piracy on their network has reached “unacceptable levels,” before mentioning that the MPAA recently named the school as one of “America??s top 25 worst offenders” in terms of piracy. The announcement from Stanford goes on to say that dealing with DMCA notices “is an irresponsible waste of Stanford??s resources.” That seems to imply that the DMCA and PR campaigns by the recording and motion picture associations are having the effect of causing ISPs to expend resources they don’t want to. And some, like Stanford, will pass those costs onto consumers. Do you think it is fair for ISPs (including educational institutions that offer Internet access) to do that?

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