RC sophomore Baird Campbell knows the perils of illegally downloading music.

Last semester, he received a warning from the University threatening to cut off his Internet access shortly after he began downloading music with Ares, a file-sharing program.

It persuaded him to delete the software – and the downloaded music – from his computer in East Quad.

“I haven’t downloaded a single thing since,” Campbell said.

The music industry is widening its fight against illegal file sharing on college campuses. In the past, it has either sent notices like the one Campbell received to people to suspected of illegal file sharing or filed lawsuits against them. The result was that many just received warnings while only a few had to pay to settle the suits.

On Wednesday, though, the Recording Industry Association of America, which represents major record companies, announced a new plan to make many more people pay for illegal downloads.

The group said it sent 400 letters to universities identifying students that the group believes have illegally uploaded or downloaded music. The letters say the students have 20 days to reach a settlement with the record company before the company files a formal lawsuit. Although the University did receive any of the letters, it will likely be a target in the future. RIAA officials said they hope to send out 400 such notices each month.

The RIAA has also increased the number of warnings issued to copyright infringers since the beginning of this academic year. Four times as many University students have received notices this year as last year.

The financial cost for students caught illegally downloading can be enormous. An offender can be charged $750 to $150,000 per song infringed, depending on the company and material in question.

Engineering senior Daniel Murray said he won’t stop downloading music because of the lawsuits.

He said the companies should target the technology that enables illegal file sharing rather than go after individuals.

Steve Marks, the RIAA’s general counsel and vice president, said in an online interview with several reporters that universities have a choice of whether or not to forward the letter to the student. The RIAA addresses its letters to the owners of offending IP addresses. If the University doesn’t forward the letter to the student responsible, the RIAA will subpoena the student’s information and the copyright owner will file a formal suit against the student after 20 days.

The RIAA expects full cooperation from colleges in informing students of the letters.

“Universities like the idea of helping their students avoid a lawsuit and certainly don’t want to stand in the way of an opportunity to settle quickly and for less money,” RIAA President Cary Sherman said during the online interview.

Students do not have to accept pre-litigation terms, though. They can turn down the offer and take the matter to court.

Marks said the new policy was created after previous defendants said they would rather have settled prior to the filing of a lawsuit to avoid public knowledge of their cases.

Even though the RIAA won’t file lawsuits right away, Sherman said students should still take the pre-settlement letters seriously.

“We never send a letter if we don’t intend to sue,” he said.

Campbell said the threat of a lawsuit is too severe.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to have a big stain on your legal record for downloading one song,” he said.

Murray said he thinks the lawsuits are just a way for the record companies to cash in on students.

“The music industry seems very greedy,” he said.

Marks said that’s not the case.

“We don’t make money off this program,” Marks said. “It costs us a lot to pursue these lawsuits. But even more important, anything we recoup is an infinitesimal portion of what we’re losing everyday.”

Top Targets
Schools that received the most pirating settlement offers from the music industry during a recent spate:

School Rank Letters
Ohio University 1 50

North Carolina State University 2 37

Syracuse University 2 37

University of Massachusetts at Amherst 2 37

University of Nebraska at Lincoln 3 36

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