Receiving a warning letter from the RIAA for alleged copyright infringement can be a frightening experience for students, considering the damage they might bring along. A 37 year-old employee of the University of Georgia abused this fear to extort a student, demanding money in return for covering up the accusation.
Copyright infringement is big business. Lawyers, nefarious anti-piracy outfits, spammers and scam artists make millions off file-sharers every year. These practices continue to expand as some turn out to be more profitable than actually selling music or movies.
One of the more profitable schemes are the copyright infringement notices that include the option to settle the issue for a few hundred dollars or pounds. After the RIAA scored two major victories against individual file-sharers last year, many people are now eager to settle immediately.
Dorin Lucian Dehelean, security analyst at the University of Georgia responsible for forwarding copyright infringement notices to students and staff, saw an opportunity to make a few bucks off these infringement notices himself.
Instead of forwarding an RIAA notice to the person associated with an IP-address, Dehelean decided to contact a female student accused of sharing copyrighted material with an interesting proposition.
According to UGA campus police chief Jimmy Williamson, Dehelean “offered to make the situation go away in exchange for money.” He promised not to inform Judicial Programs, so the student in question would be free from any kind of disciplinary measures the University usually takes in similar cases.
The student in question didn’t have any money and alerted a University employee who called in the police. The police decided to look into the case and sent over an undercover officer who went over to Dehelean, impersonating the student.
After Dehelean accepted the payment he was fired immediately and taken into custody for extortion practices. According to the campus police, Dehelean may have tried the same trick with other students, and they believe that at least one other student paid up.
“We are running down some leads that may lead us to other victims,” Williamson said. “We have information that makes us believe [Dehelean] might have had another transaction.”
If they’re done with their investigation, it might be a good idea to look into the practices of some copyright holders, to discover if these fall into the extortion category as well.