I have personal experience with this whole thing, as the RIAA tried to get me kicked out of college. First, in my opinion, the RIAA is a criminal organization...and now I get to explain how.
I started college at Clemson University. At the orientation, they told us CDs were the most commonly stolen items. The way I figured, I own the CDs, so can dump them to my computer as MP3s to not have to bring my CDs. That way, if the CDs are not at Clemson, they cannot be stolen.
Fast forward not quite a month into the first semester. My firewall logs what I thought was an ATTEMPT to get into my computer. Given all the attention Napster was getting, I made sure not to have Napster, Morpheus, Kazaa, Scour, had no servers on my computer and was sharing no folders or hard drives or files. In essence, my computer was locked down. Anyways...I get this message from the university network telling me my session has expired so I needed to log in again. So, I tried to log in again and it wouldn't let me. So I called DCIT (campus network types) and asked what was going on. They said I had been found guilty of doing something to violate computer misuse policy. I asked what I had done and they refused to tell me. If anyone has ever read THE TRIAL, by Kafka, this is sounding eerily similar.
After several hours of going back and forth with them, I gave up. I called the student judicial system office and they said they WOULD NOT set up a hearing for that week, though they could have. Basically, I was suspended from class since assignments were turned in through the network. The hearing was set for almost a week and a half after I was kicked off the network...and still didn't know why.
I thought it wise to call my dad then realized I had been using www.dialpad.com
(it was free then) and had no long distance service there, no calling card, no cell phone. I had no way to call home. Luckily, he called soon after this all began, and I explained it to him, so he started his own investigating into what was going on. He also came for the hearing.
Morning of the hearing comes around...at 2 AM, the fire alarm was pulled and my room mate didn't lock our door. My credit card and ATM card and cash got stolen. My worries about the possibility of being robbed were well-founded. Good thing I didn't bring any CDs.
At the hearing, the "judge" told me she had been presented with evidence that I was distributing music for profit. I was confused for a moment, then just started laughing, as there was no evidence. I whipped out the printout of my firewall log. My dad pulled out his notes and the printouts he had forced out of Clemson employees. Apparently, the RIAA had hacked into my computer and found my MP3 collection, dubbed it illegal and told Clemson to get rid of me. Neither Clemson nor the RIAA bothered to investigate the legality of the files or to even ask if I had the CDs the files came from. Hell, the RIAA even laid claim to my friend's music, and he certainly hasn't signed with an RIAA lackey label.
So we provided the CDs (my dad brought them from home), the firewall log showing the time, date and IP of the guy who hacked my computer and an email from a DCIT employee. In the email, Barbara Bergman commits defamation per se as she emails other employees, warning about the "criminal" (yes, she referred to me as "the criminal" and then named me) on campus. I also got some emails from a dean referring to me as the criminal. The "judge," not knowing a damned thing about computers, looked over our stuff and apologized for my "inconvenience." Obviously, I was rightly found not guilty of wrong-doing. She ordered DCIT to put me back on the network and contacted my professors about letting me do make-up work or exempting me from the work I missed.
DCIT refused to put me back on the network. 2 weeks after the whole thing started, using the threat of a lawsuit, I forced them to get me back on the network. However, the ordeal with DCIT was not over. They pinged my computer with their servers (all of them). My firewall was picking up incoming traffic more than 20 times that of the most active downloader/server hoster in my 10 floor building. My computer started crashing and logged a few times it was accessed. Suddenly, my computer turns into nothing more than a giant paperweight. Clemson denied wrongdoing.
When this was over, my dad pointed out to the Clemson legal council that they handled this very poorly and that in order to violate my computer, the RIAA had to violate the Clemson network. Clemson contacted the RIAA, wanting to know how, exactly, they could have legally accessed the Clemson network. The RIAA never responded.
My dad and I seperately contacted the RIAA, asking various questions about how they access locked down computers and the like, and we included evidence from our encounter. The RIAA did not respond.
Given my experience, I cannot believe the RIAA is anything but a criminal organization. They claim to uphold law while they TRAMPLE it, violating property and privacy. They must think they are above the law, given the fact they don't think it necessary to even talk to a university's legal council (counsel?). I hope the RIAA and all the labels it covers burn in hell for eternity...and then some. They deserve it.
As it turns out, I caught those who robbed my room. They were 3 football players and are currently serving time in prison.
If anyone wants complete copies of the letter the RIAA sent about me, I have them available in many formats.
This latest round with the RIAA will only hurt them. Notice the more action they take, legal or not, the worse their image gets. If I catch them scanning any of my computers, they're looking at a hefty lawsuit, even if they do have more money and lawyers than me. It's the principal of the thing and I have right on my side...and lots and lots of logs on discs and disks not accessible to networked computers.
If you want music, borrow CDs from friends and rip them to your computer. Buy used CDs. Go to concerts. Use local networks, NOT net accessible, to swap files. Use the little 128MB USB storage things to swap them...burn MP3 CDs and trade. Whatever you do, DO NOT buy CDs from labels the RIAA covers. There is a memberlist of labels on the RIAA's website. They provide us with the blacklist, conveniently.
And to conclude, I would like to say I wish only the worst for the RIAA and their labels and employees. Eternity in hell is too good for them.