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Record Labels Hiring Students as Spies to Rat Out Filesharing Classmates

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Between iTunes (AAPL), Google Music (GOOG), Amazon Cloud Drive (AMZN), Pandora (P), Spotify, and countless other streaming music outlets, it’s never been easier -- or more legal -- to enjoy cheap and free music while on the go.

Common sense would tell us that it’s the result of record labels easing up on their draconian protection of copyrighted property, but a new report from TorrentFreak says some are just as greedy and underhanded as ever.

International copyright pirate hunters are recruiting college students as cyber hitmen to infiltrate the seedy world of torrent downloaders to take down their fellow students, often resulting in hefty fines, TorrentFreak reports.  

While in the United States the MPAA and RIAA have an upcoming plan that involves offering plenty of warnings to illegal downloaders before taking any legal action, overseas the anti-pirating landscape is quite different.

In Germany, the Bundesverband Musikindustrie (BVMI), which represents nearly 350 music labels, reportedly closed over 13,000 civil cases on behalf of the music industry in 2008 alone (more recent data was not available). That money can add up, as the labels try to get around 1,000 euros each time they bust someone, according to an earlier investigation done by TorrentFreak.

German-based piracy fighter proMedia has an exclusive contract to track down copyright infringements on behalf of the IFPI-affiliated BVMI industry group, of which EMI, Sony (SNE), Universal and Warner are all members.

And while they, and other similar companies, rabidly protect their top-secret pirate hunting techniques, an undercover agent working for proMedia spilled the beans on the sneaky tactics he was instructed to employ while tracking down content takers.

Calling himself “Peter,” the 26-year-old student teacher says that he, and about 34 other students, are working for proMedia to perform such tasks like Googling forums, blogs, and cyberlockers to search for illegally stolen files, as well as hunting down any filesharers on BitTorrent (and other P2P networks) for the purposes of extracting cash settlements.

Peter’s motivation to turn on fellow students is fueled in part by the damage he believes filesharing has done to him personally. As a part-time musician, he claims he tried selling his album after performing shows with his band, but even his friends were copying the record instead of purchasing it.

“I do not think much of the politics of the pirates,” Peter says. “As a musician myself, I feel degraded by them.”

He then added: “Anyone who claims to have never downloaded something is lying.”

But ask that same person if he’s ever ratted out a colleague for doing it.
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