RIAA Offering ‘Discounted’ Settlements

The Recording Industry Association of America recently stepped up the number of copyright infringement complaints it has been sending to colleges and universities, waving a stick at campuses and individuals it believes are contributing to widespread "illegal file trafficking" at well-networked educational institutions. Now, the RIAA is trying to dangle a carrot, sending some 400 pre-litigation settlement offers to 13 different universities. The deal? Students or other network users accused of illegal file sharing on university networks can avoid a lawsuit by settling with the RIAA now "at a discounted rate."

The letters warn of pending litigation against students or campus personnel believed to be engaged in illegal trafficking of copyrighted music; the RIAA requests that the letters be forwarded to the appropriate individuals. The RIAA promises to send hundreds of these letters every month. Individuals facing a potential lawsuit can check out a new Web site—www.p2plawsuits.com—for information; the RIAA also plans a series of anti-piracy ads in campus newspapers as part of an educational effort to reduce piracy.

"We have transformed how we do business, and online music has experienced a sea change compared to three years ago," said Mitch Bainwol, Chairman and CEO of the RIAA, in a release. "A legal marketplace that barely existed in 2003 is now a billion dollar business showing real promise. Many rogue sites have gone under and fans have a far better understanding of the right and wrong ways to enjoy music. No matter how much we adapt, though, any new business model must always necessarily rely upon a respect for property rights. That’s why we must continue to enforce our rights."

The RIAA says this new "deterrence" effort focusses more heavily on file sharing networks based on Ares and Gnutella technologies, and specifically targets campuses where illegal music downloads remain "especially problematic," with college students getting an estimated 25 percent of their music from illegal downloading, compared to 16 percent of the general population.

School Pre-settlement Letters
Ohio University 50
North Carolina State 37
Syracuse University 37
University of Massachusettes – Amherst 37
University of Nebraska – Lincoln 36
University of Texas – Austin 33
University of South Florida 31
Northern Illinois University 28
University of Tennessee – Knoxville 28
Arizona State University 23
Marshall University 20
North Dakota State University 20
University of Southern California 20