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Can RIAA really make a case against students/schools?

Recent studies highlighted on ars technica yesterday suggest that the RIAA and other groups pushing DRM technologies (most notably Media Rights Technologies, or MRT) may be vastly overstating the presence and damage of peer to peer music sharing and so-called stream-ripping.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor on

Recent studies highlighted on ars technica yesterday suggest that the RIAA and other groups pushing DRM technologies (most notably Media Rights Technologies, or MRT) may be vastly overstating the presence and damage of peer to peer music sharing and so-called stream-ripping. MRT has threatened lawsuits against Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, and Real if they do not license technologies related to saving streaming media content from the Internet (stream-ripping) while RIAA continues to pressure colleges to ban P2P file sharing, claiming damages in the billions of dollars.

However, a recent study by the NPD Group suggested that

"The 'social' ripping and burning of CDs among friends—which takes place offline and almost entirely out of reach of industry policing effort—accounted for 37 percent of all music consumption, more than file-sharing."

Doing the math, since MRT claims that stream-ripping is a bigger money loser for the industry than file sharing, the article points out that P2P sharing can only account for about a quarter of all losses to the industry. The article concludes by pointing out:

Canadian law professor Michael Geist showed a few weeks ago, claims about piracy rates can be wildly variable and downright fictional. High numbers are often used to support legal threats or calls for Congressional action, as in the MRT case. MRT has a lot to gain by overstating the threat of streamripping and, so far, has not showed its numbers. Both MRT and NPD agree, though, that P2P is hardly the music industry's biggest problem.

If industry groups have been continually overstating piracy rates and losses related to their major efforts directed at students and universities, this loss of credibility certainly makes it harder for educational IT departments to justify considerable expense, legal hassles, and interference with legitimate P2P applications associated with blocking file sharing on campus.

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