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Student at BC settles with music industry

'Jane Doe' to pay undisclosed sum to halt legal fight

SAN FRANCISCO -- An anonymous Boston College student yesterday ended a legal fight to keep her identity secret from the music recording industry, which wanted to sue her for allegedly distributing copyrighted songs over the school's computer network.

The student reached an out-of-court settlement with a recording industry trade group and dropped her motion to quash a subpoena that had sought her name and address. She identified herself to the recording industry, but court papers still refer to her as Jane Doe.

The American Civil Liberties Union and a private lawyer represented the woman without charge, arguing that the subpoena violated her right to free speech and due process, after Boston College said it planned to reveal her identity.

But the student grew weary of the lawsuit and ended it by agreeing to pay a few thousand dollars without admitting or denying wrongdoing, said her lawyer, David Plotkin, an associate with the Boston firm of Prince, Lobel, Glovsky & Tye. He would not reveal the precise amount of the settlement, but said it was generally in line with previous file-sharing settlements of $5,000 or less.

"Her sense was that even if she prevailed, the recording industry would find another way to come after her," Plotkin said. "It's a David and Goliath situation, and the Goliath just wasn't going to go away."

A spokesman for the music industry association, based in Washington, confirmed the out-of-court settlement but declined to comment further.

The trade group has sued 261 people accused of distributing copyright music across the Internet through file-sharing software, and last week warned 204 more that they were about to become defendants. The trade group began issuing warnings of pending litigation only after some defendants claimed they were improperly targeted and had received no chance to clear their names before being sued.

The recording industry says the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 compels Internet service providers to identify people accused of copyright infringement to the copyright holders. Verizon Communications Inc. and SBC Communications Inc. have fought the subpoenas, but Verizon lost in federal court.

"The fact that there's a settlement here does not mean we're giving up the challenge to the procedures the RIAA is using or the statute itself that purportedly authorizes this subpoena," said Aden J. Fine, a staff attorney with the national ACLU in New York. But Fine said the ACLU would have to find other defendants to support than the Boston College student.

"She wants to get her degree. She doesn't want to be a litigant," he said.

Chris Gaither can be reached at

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