The University received a subpoena Wednesday ordering it to disclose the names of three community members being sued by the recording industry for copyright infringement. The suit only identified them by a network-assigned number known as an Internet Protocol (IP) address.
A copy of the lawsuit and information obtained through Internet tools indicate that the students being sued are seniors Jackie Kempel, Blair Labatt and Claire Miller.
Members of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed the suit late last month, alleging that three University network users were infringing copyrights over peer-to-peer file-sharing networks.
The students either declined to comment or did not return phone calls or emails, and the University declined to confirm the names.
The suits are part of an ongoing campaign by the RIAA to thwart file-sharing of copyrighted material. But not one of more than 2,000 actions taken by the RIAA against individual network users has led to a court case, with most ending in settlements of about $3,000, RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy said.
He declined to say how the disclosure of the names would affect the case.
The University contacted the users involved on Tuesday, before receiving the subpoena but after receiving from the recording companies a copy of the lawsuit including the IP addresses and notification that a subpoena would be coming.
"Once we had the complaint in hand, and the IP addresses were available to us, we were able to ascertain the [identities of the] individuals who are associated and contact them," said Clayton Marsh '85, a lawyer in the Office of the General Counsel.
The Daily Princetonian obtained the names behind the IP addresses through ordinary Internet tools.
A tool known as "reverse DNS lookup" allows Internet users to find out the network name of a computer identified by an IP address.
OIT's Peter Olenick, manager of networking services, said the University permanently assigns IP addresses to student computers in dormitories.
For student IP addresses, Olenick said a reverse DNS lookup returns a computer name containing students' network identifiers, often in the form of their first initials and last names.
Reverse DNS lookups performed on the IP addresses in the complaint returned the network identifiers of the three students named above.
But this process gives information only about the computer's registered owner, not about the person using the computer at the time of the alleged illegal activities.
In the suit, the recording companies are seeking to recover statutory damages for copyright infringement, as well as court costs and attorneys' fees.
Statutory damages can be assessed in amounts ranging from as little as $200 per work infringed — when defendants are completely unaware that their actions are illegal — all the way up to $150,000 per work in cases when the infringement was willfully committed.
RIAA spokesman Lamy said that the targets of this latest round of suits, some 477 people in all, were sharing 900 songs on average.
The goal, he said, was to make clear the RIAA was going to aggressively fight online piracy.
"[Our] objective isn't to win a lawsuit, but to send a message of deterrence and hopefully encourage people to turn to a legit online music service if that is how they want their music," Lamy said.
On Tuesday afternoon, the recording industry provided University lawyers with a copy of the lawsuit as well as a judge's order to expedite the issuance of subpoenas.
At that time, industry lawyers told the University that they would soon serve the subpoena, which orders the University to identify the users associated with the given IP addresses.
At that point, the University contacted the affected students.
Earlier on Tuesday, before receiving the materials from the recording industry, Marsh said his office did not plan on actively seeking the complaint in order to notify the students involved.
"It is not generally the University's practice to undertake additional diligence in terms of obtaining complaints that have been filed in connection with subpoenas [not yet] served on the University," he said.
However, the expedited pace of the suit led to the contact of the students, he said.
The University has until May 26 to reply to the subpoena.
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