RIAA's 10th wave of letters hits colleges


The RIAA has sent another wave of pre-litigation settlement letters on behalf of major labels to college administrators in connection with illegal music files shared over the university computer networks. The 417 letters went to 16 universities.

As in the past, the RIAA asks university administrators to identify specific users of the universities' computer networks -- whom the RIAA identifies only by their IP addresses as having shared unauthorized music files – and to forward the letters to those users.

The users will then have the opportunity to settle the copyright infringement claims before "John Doe" lawsuits are filed against them. If lawsuits are filed, the users will be identified and named as defendants, which may have a negative impact on their future employment, credit and professional license applications.

A survey by Student Monitor last year found that more than half of college students download music and movies illegally. According to market research firm NPD Group, college students alone accounted for more than 1.3 billion illegal music downloads in 2006.

In this latest wave of the initiative, the RIAA this week sent letters in the following quantities to 16 schools including: Boston University (40 pre-litigation settlement letters), Brown University (12), Central Michigan University (28), Columbia University (43), Dartmouth College (22), Duke University (27), North Carolina State University (38), Princeton University (10), University of Chicago (14), University of Connecticut (26), University of Maine System (34), University of Nebraska-Lincoln (14), University of Pennsylvania (16), University of Tennessee-Knoxville (32), University of Texas-Austin (50) and Yale University (11).

Through collaborations with prominent education groups such as Close Up Foundation, Young Minds Inspired and i-SAFE, the RIAA continues to actively educate students of all ages on the risks of illegal file-sharing Web sites and the importance of responsible online behavior.

"No legitimate offering, no matter how compelling, can reach its full potential when competing with free in an environment where people feel comfortable stealing music with impunity," says Jonthan Lamy, RIAA senior VP communications. "Bringing legal actions against individual file traffickers, especially students, is our last preference, but it's a necessary one given the continuing prevalence of music theft on college campuses."

The RIAA and the Motion Picture Assn. of America have jointly developed "best practices" information, based on the tools and practices initiated by schools experiencing fewer incidences of piracy on their networks. Specifically, universities that have seen the most positive results have instituted specific reforms that educate students on campus network use and enforcement policies, offer affordable legal alternatives that give students access to their favorite music, and implement appropriate technological tools that protect the integrity of their networks.

Susan Butler is a senior correspondent for Billboard in New York.