The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is, no doubt, one of the most widely despised organizations in the United States. Their lawsuits and threats have reached into the lives of thousands. Their shrill denunciations of peer-to-peer (p2p) file sharing continue unabated despite evidence that such methods actually accompany increased music sales and exposure for artists. Indeed, it has become practically imperative for a burgeoning band to make tracks freely available online, on MySpace, for example.
The RIAA, which represents not artists but rather the handful of corporations that wield control over virtually the entire American music industry, has, over the past year, stuck its tendrils into the Hopkins community. They demanded that some 35 students cease file-sharing activity.
The students in question were sharing files using the Direct Connect protocol, or DC++ as the more popular and widespread version of the software is known. Whether you choose to share files illegally is up to you, although we certainly do not encourage it. There are many other options for conveniently and cost-effectively acquiring music and other media, particularly as the iTunes store has continued to expand.
However, if you are going to share files illegally, at least be smart about it. DC++ users on the campus network should confine their activity to said network. The University will not reveal your information to the RIAA unless you are tracked sharing files outside the confines of the residential network. The University also won't protect you if you are caught, nor should it.
You might also consider using an alternative file-sharing service. DC++ is an antiquated technology. Other options, particularly Bit Torrent, are vastly superior in most cases. Best of all, Bit Torrent supports encryption. If you use encrypted torrents, the University usually cannot throttle your bandwidth, nor can the RIAA inspect your traffic.
Encryption is not perfect, however. Ultimately, whatever you do online is probably known or knowable. For those who value privacy, that is a shame. But even so, the best option remains to be alert, and, probably, just purchase your music legitimately.