RIAA Sends 15,000 Illegal File Sharing Complaints To Universities
Approximately 15,000 students from 25 colleges and universities in the United Stated have received complaints from the RIAA alleging illegal music file sharing. The top five offending schools were Ohio, Purdue, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Tennessee and the University of South Carolina.
This totals nearly triple the number for the previous school year. But the RIAA seems convinced the program is working. “It’s something we feel we have to do,” RIAA President Cary Sherman said. “We have to let people know that if they engage in this activity, they are not anonymous.”
A few schools, including Ohio and Purdue universities, already have received more than 1,000 complaints accusing individual students since last fall, a significant increases over the past school year. For students who are caught, punishments vary from e-mail warnings to semester-long suspensions from classes.
“They’re trying to make a statement,” said Randall Hall, who polices computers at Michigan State University, seventh on the list with 753 complaints. Michigan State received 432 such complaints in December alone, when students only attended classes for half the month. Hall meets personally with students caught twice and forces them to watch an eight-minute anti-piracy DVD produced by the RIAA. A third-time offender can be suspended for a semester.
At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst â€” which received 897 complaints â€” first- and second-time offenders receive escalating warnings about piracy. After a third complaint, the school unplugs a student’s Internet connection and sends the case to a dean for additional punishment. Purdue, which has received 1,068 complaints so far this year but only 37 in 2006, said it rarely even notifies students accused by the RIAA because it’s too much trouble to track down alleged offenders. Purdue said its students aren’t repeat offenders.
Under federal law, universities that receive complaints about students illegally distributing copyrighted songs generally must act to stop repeat offenders or else the schools can be sued. The entertainment industry typically can identify a student only by his or her numerical Internet address and must rely on the school to correlate that information with its own records to trace a person’s real-world identity.
Each complaint represents an accusation that a student was identified sharing at least one song over the campus network. Serious offenders, who make available hundreds or thousands of songs to other students online, are targeted by the RIAA in civil lawsuits.