OSU student says he's not ashamed of what he did

Saturday, November 4th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ An Oklahoma State University student said he is not ashamed of what he did and wants to tell his side of the story once his case is closed.

Scott Wickberg, a 19-year-old Tulsa freshman majoring in graphics design, had been operating a file-sharing Web site that allowed others to log onto it with a password and download any of 10,200 MP3 songs in his collection.

But OSU police received a tip from the Recording Industry Association of America and obtained a search warrant. On Sept. 5, officers seized Wickberg's computer containing thousands of mostly live concert recordings.

Wickberg is featured in the November issue of Rolling Stone magazine, which heralds him as downloadable music's first sacrificial lamb, a story in Saturday's Tulsa World said.

``Right now, I'm in the blue as much as you,'' Wickberg said on Wednesday. ``I really hope this is done soon. I want to give my opinion on all this.''

Wickberg's friend, Jason Thompson, who was in Wickberg's room when officers seized the computer, said the confiscation was unexpected.

``I don't really want to say much more. We want to keep this thing quiet for now,'' Thompson said.

OSU Police Chief Everett Eaton said university investigators approached the case against Wickberg as being in violation of Oklahoma computer law statutes.

``We put that case on the DA's desk and we're going to let the chips fall as they may,'' Eaton said Thursday.

Legal officials said it is possible Wickberg could be charged with felony contributory copyright infringement, or knowingly causing another to infringe or contribute to someone else's infringement of copyright law, a charge that carries a fine of up to $250,000 and up to five years in prison.

``On the surface, he appears to have violated copyright laws,'' said Joey Senat, OSU professor of journalism. ``What he did by helping give away thousands of records had a direct effect on the market value of the works and is in violation of someone's intellectual property.''

Senat, who teaches mass communication law at OSU, called portrayals of MP3 users such as Wickberg in Rolling Stone as latter-day Robin Hoods unacceptable.

The attitude of ```everybody else is doing it so why can't I' doesn't make it right under the law,'' he said.

A spokesman for the RIAA said Friday that although the organization can't pursue every single student violating copyright laws, it does employ people who regularly monitor Web sites and report suspicious activities.

``This whole online market is evolving, and I'll admit that MP3s are a cool technology,'' said Doug Curry, RIAA spokesman. ``But people (who violate these laws) are essentially creating a business on the backs of others' work.''