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U of Nebraska can't track down downloading students

Admin: 'Are we an agent of the RIAA?'
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

The Recording Industry Association of America would love to give University of Nebraska students who are illegally downloading music a chance to pay up before taking them to court, but they can't find out who they are, the lobbying group says. The Omaha World-Herald reports that the RIAA has sent 36 letters to Nebraska students they have found to be illegally downloading music, but due to system programming, they can only find nine of the students.

"Probably not," said Walter Weir, the university's chief information officer, when asked if the recording industry could locate the remaining students in some other way. "If they can't give us any more information, I don't know how in the heck anyone can find 'em."

The university's system was unintentionally designed to automatically change a computer's Internet protocol address each time that computer is turned on. The university only saves a record of these "IP addresses" for about a month. It's the only tool the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and the recording industry have to find the students.

RIAA spokeswoman Jenni Engebretsen has been critical of UNL for failing to keep computer records that would have made it easy to track down the UNL offenders.

"One would think universities would understand the need to retain these records," she said.

The industry has sent more than 1,000 "cease and desist" complaints to UNL during the current school year, more than all but two other U.S. universities.

To make matters worse, the university wants to be reimbursed $11 for each warning letter it processes.

"We're spending taxpayer dollars tracking down RIAA problems," Weir said. "Are we an agent of the RIAA? Why aren't they paying us for this?"

That request was rebuked by the RIAA. "It is neither practical nor appropriate for us to entertain a reimbursement request," said Engebretsen.

The university is researching installing software that would hinder students' ability to illegally download music.

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