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May 05, 2008 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2008-05-05

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Monday May 5, 2008
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

be,, ichioan lEail13
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109




Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles and illustrations
represent solely the views of their authors.
Ripped off
RIAA claims noble intentions, but actually exploits students
hanks to the aggressive legal tactics of the Recording Industry Associa-
tion of America, in addition to worrying about finals, some college stu-
dents over the past to weeks have also had to worry about their criminal
records. Campuses across the nation saw huge spikes in subpoenas delivered by
the organization, including here at the University. This is the latest development
in a long history of unfair targeting of college students, a practice that is unfair
and only works to make a quick buck rather than facilitating any meaningful
legal decision.

Supreme slip-up
Voter laws fighting fraud severly flawed



Students who illegally
download files onto their
computers are often discov-
ered by the RIAA, which
then notifies their University.
When this piracy is done on
University property, such as
in dorms, violators can be
tracked by their IP addresses.
It is then the responsibility of
the University to notify the
students that they can either
take the RIAA to court or set-
tle outside of it.
While the average out-of-
court settlement of roughly
$3,000-$4,000 is hardly a
fate students would relish,
it's a much more appealing
option than taking the orga-
nization to court, which can
cost hundreds of thousands of
dollars. It's no surprise, then,
that students are known for
taking settlement options, a
fact the RIAA is well aware of
and uses to its advantage.
Not that the organization
will ever admit that. The offi-
cial story is that students are
notorious file-sharers. On the

RIAA website, the organiza-
tion admits to purposely tar-
geting students, claimingthat
according to "some recent
surveys" slightly more than
half of college students par-
ticipate in illegal downloading.
While file-sharing is hardly
rare on college campuses,
there's evidence to suggest
that this practice isn't quite
the epidemic the RIAA claims
it is. The Motion Picture Asso-
ciation of America, which
strives to protect intellectual
property rights in much the
same way the RIAA does,
recently admitted to overesti-
mating the amount of money
they lost due to college piracy
by almost 30 percent. If these
piracy estimates were so far
off, the legitimacy of ones the
RIAA uses as justification for
its actions should certainly
be called into question. The
accuracy of these numbers is
important - statistical errors
like the MPAA's indicate that
students aren't necessary the
problem, just an easy mark.

Unfair targeting isn't the
only beef students should
have with the RIAA. It is no
coincidence that the number
of lawsuits against file-shar-
ers increases dramatically
at the end of each semester.
The organization steps up its
dubious prosecution of these
offenses during exam time
because it knows that stu-
dents are less likely to go to
court over the matter when
they have to worry about
finals, too. With out-of-court
settlements netting the RIAA
several thousand dollars, it's
clear that the organization is
more focused on profit than
bringing about a case that
could change policy.
undoubtedly need to be set. If
the RIAA is serious making
this happen, it should pursue
an opponent with the time
and resources to actually go
to court. The current strategy
may be effective at exploiting
students, but it does little to
move toward real progress.

Candidates aren't the only
ones causing controversy
this election season. Fren-
zy over poll policies flourished in
the wake oflast Monday's Supreme
court ruling regarding voter iden-
tification laws. In a 6-3 decision,
the justices upheld the constitu-
tionality of Indiana's 2005 voter
identification law requiring that
voters show valid photo ID before
casting a ballot. Michigan, which
also requiresvoters toproducethis
type of identification before step-
ping into the booth, should not be
distracted by the Supreme Court's
decision, but instead use this as an
opportunity to reexamine its own
policies, prioritizing voter access
to polls to ensure that elections are
a representative as possible.
More than 20 states require
some form of voter identification
at the polls, including Michigan.
Photo IDs put an added burden
on voters. They cost money, and
generally require individuals to
take time off work to make it to
the Secretary of State's office dur-
ing its rigid hours. This adds to
the burden of voting and dispro-
portionately affects those who do
not have the need to acquire ID for
other reasons and lack resources
or transportation to do so simply
for the purpose of casting their
ballots such as senior citizens.
Although intended to combat
voter fraud, the necessity of these
policies has not yet been proven.
As the dissenting justices point-

ed out in the Indiana case, little
evidence has been brought forth
proving that fraud is occurring
at rates high enough to warrant
these measures, especially con-
sidering the barriers they create.
Even Indiana's Secretary of State
Todd Rokita admitted that there
were no such persecutions cur-
rently underway in his state. As
things stand now, the benefits of
exclusive voting laws don't out-
weigh the drawbacks.
If evidence of fraud can be pro-
duced, it may then - and only
then - be reasonable to imple-
ment photo ID requirements. The
state needs to realize, though,that
if this requirement stands, it is its
job to minimize the burden this
policy puts on voters. It becomes
the State's job to get creative and
provide disadvantaged voters
with IDs through voter outreach.
Programs like Missouri's are a
good example. Until the sum-
mer of 2006 when its photo ID
requirements were struck down,
the Missouri state government
sent vans out to issue photo IDs
to the elderly and other voting
groups that might otherwise have
had trouble obtaining them.
At this time, photo IDs are an
unnecessary measure undertak-
en for unsubstantiated reasons.
Voter fraud may be a problem,
but until that is proven there is no
excuse for rash voting laws that
effectively leave a part of the elec-
torate without a voice.




Editorial Board Members: Harun Buljina, Robert Soave, Matt Trecha

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