Sophomore Daniel Peng's ordeal with the RIAA may be one step closer to completion. His lawyer, Howard Ende, said he expects announcements today regarding the lawsuits brought April 4 against Peng and three other college students for operating network search engines. However, Ende said he could not comment on the specific nature of the developments.
Peng and Ende have been in negotiations with RIAA lawyers. "It would be really expensive to litigate," said Peng, who has avoided commenting publicly since the filing. "I would like to reach an amicable settlement."
Though he was unable to comment on the specifics of the case, Peng said he was hopeful but uncertain about the prospect of a settlement.
According to Ende, Peng does not want to go to trial on ideological grounds. A trial would set a legal precedent, but it would be a long and difficult process with an uncertain outcome.
An admission of guilt is out of the question in any possible settlement, Ende said.
"Dan continues to believe, as I do, that he did nothing wrong," he said.
But without a legal precedent, the RIAA would be able to continue to intimidate search engine operators with the threat of lawsuits.
Ende cautioned, "This intimidation, it's not just instilling fear, it's fear and loathing."
Over the past few weeks, the lawsuits — one against Peng and two against other college students who operated network search engines — have attracted national attention, prompting the CBS television magazine 20/20 to dedicate this Friday's episode to the battle being waged over digital music.
Among those interviewed for the show were five University students with various connections to the digital music debate.
Alex Rosenfeld '03, a DJ for WPRB radio, was one of those students.
"I think people just have to see through the scare tactics," he said. "The record industry doesn't have the resources to chase after everyone on these campuses."
According to Rosenfeld, the students interviewed by CBS all thought the suits brought against Peng and the other college students were "absurd." One of the students, a member of a band on campus, was particularly irritated by the suits because search engines like Wake exposed his music to a large audience, Rosenfeld said.
According to Ende, the correct solution would involve more discussion and less legal action. Current tactics have led to a situation in which the industry is "fighting for its life," he said.
"What they should be doing is sitting down with institutions of higher education . . . to work out some reasonable solution," Ende said. "They shouldn't be suing college students who they just pick out of a hat."
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