How Not To Get Sued By The RIAA For File-Sharing
(And Other Ideas to Avoid Being Treated Like a Criminal)
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) announced on June 25, 2003, that it will begin suing users of peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing systems within the next few weeks. According to the announcement, the RIAA will be targeting users who upload/share "substantial" amounts of copyrighted music. The RIAA has stated that it will choose who to sue by using software that scans users' publicly available P2P directories and then identifies the ISP of each user. Then, using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the RIAA will subpoena the ISP for each user's name, address, and other personal information in order to sue that user.
To find out whether your name has been subpoenaed from your ISP, check out our Subpoena Query page.
More information about the RIAA lawsuits and responses to them, check out our RIAA v. The People page.
While there is no way to know exactly what the RIAA is going to do, who it is going to sue, or even how much music qualifies as a "substantial" amount, users of P2P networks can take the following steps to reduce their chances of being sued:
Make sure there are no potentially infringing files in your shared folder. This would ordinarily mean that your shared folder contains only files 1) that are in the public domain, 2) for which you have permission to share, or 3) that are made available under pro-sharing licenses, such as the Creative Commons license or other open media licenses, and
Remove all potentially misleading file names that might be confused with the name of an RIAA artist or song (e.g., "Usher" or "Madonna") from your shared folder.
Disable the "sharing" or "uploading" features on your P2P application that allow other users on the network to get copies of files from your computer or scan any of your music directories. We hate this option, but it does appear that it will reduce your chances of becoming an RIAA target right now. For instructions on how to do this for particular applications, EFF suggests (but cannot guarantee) the following links:
The RIAA appears to be targeting subpoenas at users who allow their computers to be "Supernodes" on the FastTrack P2P System (used, for instance, by KaZaA and Morpheus). In order to further reduce the risk of having your ISP subpoenaed or of being sued yourself, we recommend that you make sure your computer is not being used as a Supernode. To learn more about Supernodes and how to make sure your computer is not one, look here: http://www.whtvcable.com/fasttrack and http://helpdesk.princeton.edu/kb/display.plx?ID=9245. See also Disabling the Supernode function with KaZaA (PDF 331k).
If you receive notice that your ISP has been subpoenaed for your name and address, consider contacting www.subpoenadefense.org, where you can find information about how to defend your privacy and a list of attorneys willing to help. Contact your ISP and ask the people there to notify you immediately if they receive a subpoena seeking your identity.
If you receive a cease and desist letter from the RIAA, consider contacting Chilling Effects, where EFF and several law school clinics are creating a gallery of cease and desist letters along with basic information about the claims being made and your rights online.
Don't like the idea of turning off file-sharing or changing your file names to prevent stupid robots or RIAA employees from mistaking your files for infringements?
Neither do we!
Join EFF's campaign to make file-sharing legal while getting artists paid:
Contact your Congressional Representative and demand that Congress hold immediate hearings on ways to save P2P technology and file-sharing while ensuring that artists get paid.
Learn more about alternatives. EFF's peer-to-peer web pages gather together some of the best ideas and describe how similar sorts of technology changes have been handled in the past.
Tell a friend, family member, colleague or even stranger on the street about the damage that the RIAA is doing to the Internet, innovation, and consumer choice. There are over 57 million Americans who use P2P file-sharing -- more than voted for President Bush -- and millions more worldwide -- so chances are good that the person sitting next to you on the bus, walking beside you on the sidewalk or driving in the car in front of you is using file-sharing, too. Start the conversation.
Join EFF and support our efforts to protect file-sharing.