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The Recording Industry Association of America has taken aim at college students who are illegally downloading copyrighted music.
On July 18, 2007, the RIAA sent 408 pre-litigation notices to 23 different schools, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education website. The institutions range from Kansas University with its about 22,000 undergraduate students to Eckerd College, a private liberal arts college in St. Petersburg, Fla. with an enrolment of just more than 1,800. The RIAA represents large music companies such as EMI Recorded Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group.
Since 2003, the RIAA has sent out 2,400 of these letters, according to a July 19, 2007 Lawrence World Journal article. None of the schools in the July RIAA blast have received them before. This campaign comes on the heels of the RIAA sending more than 400 letters to 13 schools.
These letters offer college computer users the chance to settle before the RIAA took them to court. Individuals can be sued for between $750 and $150,000 per song according to RIAA president Cary Sherman. A Brandeis University (Waltham, Mass.) student this year said, after legal consultation, she paid the RIAA's requested sum of $3,000 in the pre-litigation phase, according to that school's student newspaper, The Justice.
The letters are not addressed to specific names, but rather sent to the schools who are asked them to forward them onto the students based on the identified IP addresses. Some schools, including the University of Wisconsin in Madison, have balked at sending the letters on.
"These settlement letters are an attempt to short circuit the legal process to rely on universities to be their legal agent," Brian Rust, communications manager for the UW Division of Information Technology, was quoted as saying in a March 19, 2007 Badger Herald article.
The school did send out a campus-wide email emphasizing the schools' "appropriate use guidelines." Also, Rust noted UW receives about 10-20 cease and desist notices a day. The university has a legal obligation to pass these on, which UW does.
Other schools are taking a hard line on downloaders. Kansas University has decided from now on that if it receives a notice of copyright infringement it will pull that student's residence hall Internet access. Previously, KU students had "three strikes" in this matter, according to a July 19, 2007 Lawrence World Journal story.
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