Save Steve!

Today, I received an email from Steve Schwartz, a Junior at Columbia University about his plight with the RIAA.

He, like Delwin Olivan ‘08 on The Daily Princetonian, understands that he should not have been filesharing.

He further wishes he had the funds to fight the RIAA, but he just doesn’t have the money to do that because he’s in his junior year in college and needs to work towards helping to pay for his college tuition. And he really can’t afford the settlement of nearly $4,000 that the RIAA wants from him by July 18, 2006 to keep them from taking him to court.

On Steve Schwartz’ new blog, he has posted his tale of woe with the RIAA:

My name is Steve Schwartz, and I’m a junior at Columbia University studying political science and history. In my free time, I enjoy reading the news, jogging, and listening to music. However, listening to music (and my desire to share it with others) has gotten me into trouble. This was surprising to me, because ever since kindergarten, I was taught to share with others.

Further he writes,

I recently discovered that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has threatened to file a lawsuit against me for file-sharing on a network of university students called i2hub (formerly at The RIAA randomly chose 25 users from my school to punish and make examples to everyone else.

I personally am not so sure that his name was chosen randomly, and here’s why:

Steve Schwartz did confirmed that he wrote an article entitled No Kazaa in Congress back in October of 2003 in the Columbia Political Review. The article had some pretty plain talk about filesharing, the RIAA and their their sue happy stance, and also some information on entertainment industry contributions to politicians on Capitol Hill. There were also some statements in the article by Jason Schultz, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Fred von Lohmann, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Fontier Foundation.

EDIT:Steve wrote back about to say he didn’t think they knew who he was or that he wrote the article:

I don’t think that my article was the reason for the lawsuit against me though, simply because the lawsuits are “John Doe” lawsuits, the RIAA doesn’t even know who they’re suing until they subpoena the Internet Provider, or in this case, Columbia University for the individual’s name, address and phone number.

Here’s a quote from the article:

“[The lawsuits] are a move of desperation. The recording industry has tried to hold on to an old antiquated business model with an iron tight death grip for decades,” said Jason Schultz, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an internet-focused civil liberties organization. “They sell you music on a physical CD and thereby control exactly how you receive the music and where and when you receive it.”

A number of politicians have expressed worry over the aggressive manner in which the RIAA has pursued the lawsuits. Senator Norm Coleman, Republican of Minnesota Chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs’ Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, has begun hearings into the subpoena tactics of the RIAA. Such politicians no doubt recognize the benefits of staking out an oppositional stance toward tactics that have proved to be nothing but P.R. poison for the music industry.

And yet many legislators have stood by the recording industry in its unpopular efforts. Why?

Early in the article, Steve also stated, “I suppose I should just cross my fingers and hope that the Recording Industry Association of America does not see this article and sue me.”

As he stated on his blog:

I worked every week of summer in 2005 (14 weeks) to contribute as best I could towards Columbia’s $40,000 yearly tuition (including room and board). This coming summer, I will once again work every week. However, without your donations, this leaves me no earnings with which I can pay my college tuition.

He has a place on his blog to donate to his cause. Being a Junior at Columbia, he still has another full year of tuition to pay for before it’s all over….to the tune of $40,000. The nearly $4,000 that the RIAA wants will be equivalent to almost 10% of of his last year’s tuition.

Good luck Steve and I hope some folks are able to help you out on this….even if I hate to see the RIAA get one thin dime to further fuel their rampage against ordinary citizens in this country.

EDIT: An appropriate BoingBoing submission by Cory Doctorow:

99-word essay explains Fair Use

Norm sez, “I am in the midst of a ‘haiku essay’ project: each essay is exactly 99 words long, plus one for the title. With the Sony Rootkit, ubiquitous DRM and plugging the analog hole on everyone’s minds, I took this opportunity to make the fair use case in 99 words.”

I love music, movies, and books. I also love technology. I want to use technology to deliver the media I love anywhere, anywhen, with anyone.

This is fair use: I bought it, let me use it. I will tell all my friends about my favorite music. I might play it for them or even give them a digital version of a song. This is evangelism, not theft. This is advertising you cannot buy.

Restrictive copyright is like a vegetarian knife. You bought the knife, but if you cut meat with it, we’ll sue you. Excuse me? Let’s think again.

Comments on: "Columbia University Student Sued by RIAA" (2)

  1. [“And yet many legislators have stood by the recording industry in its unpopular efforts. Why?”]

    I believe it has something to do with political “donations” …

  2. LOL! You may be right epp_b!

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