College music sharers to be busted in waves

By David Hendricks U-WIRE

ATHENS, Ohio – Fifty Ohio University network users could face lawsuits if they do not settle with the Recording Industry Association of America over illegal file sharing.

In a news release sent to the university Tuesday night, the RIAA announced that 400 pre-litigation settlement letters are on their way to 13 universities across the country. The letters identify Internet provider addresses of file sharers, and the RIAA is asking that schools forward the letters to computer owners.

Students must commit to settle the claim within 20 days to avoid further litigation, said Jenni Engebretsen, an RIAA spokeswoman. Neither Engebretsen nor RIAA executives, who released a recorded conference call about the notices, would say how much the settlements would be.

“We view this as a win, win, win that advances everybody’s interests,” said Steve Marks, RIAA executive vice president, during the conference call. The RIAA, universities and students all benefit from the pre-litigation notices, which reduce the time and cost of lawsuits, he said.

The RIAA will continue to send notices to 400 students nationwide each month, Marks said.

“We think we’ve done a pretty good job of educating students,” said Sally Linder, acting senior director of media relations.

Linder said the university discusses file sharing at orientation and has sent notices of university policy to students at the beginning of every quarter.

“I think it’s fair to say that today we’re sure no one, particularly technology-savvy students, can claim not to know that the online sharing of copyright music … is illegal,” RIAA President Cary Sherman said during the conference call.

Local Internet service provider Frognet gets one or two copyright infringement notices every few months, said Corey Shafer, a Frognet manager.

“If we’ve had [a notice from the RIAA] it was a few years ago, nothing recent,” he said.

Last week the RIAA released a list of the 25 universities with the most notices of copyright infringement. With 1,287 letters, OU topped the list.

Of the 13 schools, OU had the most users receiving pre-litigation settlement letters. North Carolina State University, Syracuse University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst will receive 37 letters each, according to the release.

“We target illegal activity, not individual university populations, so when you have a lot of illegal activity at a particular university, it becomes a focus in this batch of lawsuits,” Sherman said.