RIAA cracks down on downloading at 25 colleges

Punishments range from watching an industry video to semester-long suspension. But not all schools are complying. Purdue: 'We don't see investigating piracy as our role.'
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

The music industry and its trade association, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), is amping up its crackdown on music piracy on campus computer networks, reports the Associated Press.

The RIAA is targeting the 25 universities that have received the most copyright complaints. Students who are caught illegally downloading music may receive punishments anywhere from email warnings to semester-long suspensions from classes.

"It's something we feel we have to do," RIAA President Carey Sherman said. "We have to let people know that if they engage in this activity, they are not anonymous."

The top five schools are Ohio, Purdue, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Tennessee and University of South Carolina. The RIAA complained about nearly 15,000 students at those 25 universities, nearly triple the number for the previous school year.

"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.

Michigan State University forces students who are caught twice to watch an eight-minute anti-piracy DVD produced by the RIAA. A third-time offender can be suspended for a semester.

"I get the whole spectrum of excuses," Hall said. "The most common answer I get is, 'All my friends are doing this. Why did I get caught?'"

Federal law requires universities to try and stop students from illegally downloading music if there is a complaint. How universities carry out this law varies. Some schools warn students and others don't. Purdue 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.

"In a sense, the [complaint] letter is asking us to pursue an investigation, and as the service provider we don't see that as our role," spokesman Steve Tally said. "We are a leading technology school, with thousands and thousands of curious and talented technology students."
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