todd 7Each year millions of students populate college campuses excited to kick off their college career.  These students bring with them the latest technology including: smart phones, laptop computers and tablets.Using these devices  students can share files, download free apps.  Explore “illegal” websites containing  free pornography, movies and music.  Despite the skill set the student possesses they are, for the most part, uninformed and misguided as to what the laws are regarding piracy, copyrights and the  downloading of protective property rights of others.

Piracy:  Music piracy is the copying and distribution of copies of a piece of music for which the composer, recording company did not give permission or consent.

Copyright infringement:  Copyright infringement is often associated with the terms piracy and theft. Copyright infringement is the use of works protected by copyright law.

(Title 17, United States Code, Sections 501 and 506): provides severe civil and criminal penalties for the unauthorized reproduction, distribution, rental or digital transmission of copyrighted sound recordings.

Civil penalties: could cost you thousands of dollars in damages.

Criminal penalties: could leave you with a felony record, together with possible jail time up to five years and fines up to $250,000

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is the trade organization that supports and promotes the creative and financially vitality of the major music companies.


As a  criminal defense attorney located in a college town, I represent students who receive letters from the copyright owner threatening legal action in court unless they agree to a settlement ranging from $1,500 to $4,500. I have settled cases for as low as $300.00 and as high as $750.00. The settlement can vary depending on the amount of downloaded material and the willingness of the owner(s) and agencies to settle.

The following is a typical scenario whereby a student finds himself/herself in an illegal download case:

  1. Student arrives in the dorms, apartments or housing complex to begin their college year.
  2. The student has access to an internet connection via Wi-Fi, cable or Ethernet cord.
  3. The student or someone utilizating their network connection proceeds to illegally download music, movies and video using widely known torrent software.
  4.  The copyright owner, or the company that owns the rights to the illegally downloadedmaterial, identifies your devices IP address (often due to the use of torrent software on part of the student). Additionally, the owner obtains information through  subpoena power, obtaining a list of the IP logs/addresses directly from the website  in which student downloaded from.
  5.  Once the student is identified, the copyright owner files a lawsuit in federal district court and The copyright owner through additional subpoena power orders your (ISP) INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER, TO DISCLOSE YOUR NAME AND CONTACT INFORMATION BASED ON THE IP LOGS.  The IP logs connect the illegally downloaded material to an IP address, and your ISP can connect that IP address to the student because the IP was assigned to your internet connection at the exact time of the illegal activity (downloads).

Next:  You receive the threatening letter discussed above regarding legal action if a certain sum is not paid by the student.

What are my options if I am on the receiving end of one of the threatening letters?

A.  You should immediately notify your parents that you received such a letter.

B.  Consult with an attorney who understands this area of law.

C.  You can negotiate the settlement amount.

D.  My experience with clients is that they will settle the porn cases to avoid an embarrassing lawsuit.

E.   I have seen cases where the student ignored the letter and no further action came from the copyright owner. (do not reply upon this and always consult with an attorney)

F.   If you ignore the letter and fail to consult with an attorney you could be sued costing you more time and expense compared to settling the case.

CYBERCRIME is a term for any illegal activity that uses a COMPUTER as its primary means of commission. The U. S. Department of justice expands the definition of CYBERCRIME to include any illegal activity that uses a computer for the storage of evidence”    source: TechTarget

Attorney, Todd L. Levitt, has been representing students for more than 22 years, in the area of criminal defense, student related issues and all cybercrimes via the internet. For more information or to speak to an attorney call 989-772-6000,,