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ASU targeted for illegal music downloading, again

For third time in a year, music industry association sends University pre-lawsuit letters

 by Emma Breysse
 published on Tuesday, January 15, 2008


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ASU is already a leader in the number of lawsuit warnings sent to students in 2008 by the Recording Industry Association of America.

The RIAA announced Thursday that 33 ASU students and faculty would receive letters informing them that they will be taken to court for illegally downloading music if they do not settle within 20 days.

Of the 18 universities that received letters, only the University of California, Los Angeles has more, with 36, said Liz Kennedy, communications coordinator for the RIAA, in an e-mail.

These letters are the 12th wave sent as part of a campaign, started February 2007, to deter college students from using illegal peer-to-peer file-sharing programs to download music. ASU has now been included in three waves of the campaign, with 91 total letters sent to ASU students.

The warnings are notifications that a lawsuit is pending and are intended to give students a chance to settle with the RIAA out of court, Kennedy said.

"Fear of lawsuits has remained one of the top reasons cited by consumers for stopping file sharing," she added.

Despite ASU's high number of pre-lawsuit letters received this year, since the campus program began, the University has the lowest overall complaint rate of the 25 schools that the RIAA includes in their statistics, said ASU spokeswoman Leah Hardesty.

"ASU does not consider illegal downloading as a widespread issue at the University," she said. "However, we recognize the seriousness of these complaints and take the necessary steps to address them."

Among these steps is the implementation of a product called "Audio Magic CopySense," Hardesty said.

The program, which is approved by the RIAA, stops peer-to-peer downloads, directs those who try to perform them to a training course in copyright laws, and prevents would-be music pirates from accessing the ASU network until they enable the course, Hardesty said.

Melissa Brady, a communication junior, said she thinks ASU is severe on copyright violators.

Brady's roommate was caught with the file-sharing program LimeWire in her freshman year. Until Brady's roommate took the copyright-law course, she was denied Internet access from her computer for nearly a week, she said.

"It kind of scared me she got caught out like that," Brady said. "I had no idea they'd take away someone's Internet [access]."

Brady said she is relieved it was ASU and not the RIAA who caught her roommate.

"You really don't think it's a big deal to just get a few songs," she said. "Certainly nothing to get sued about. But really, it is."

Students who receive letters can obtain free legal consultation on campus, said David Swain, managing attorney for ASU Legal Assistance.

He has seen about 23 such students since the letters started coming out in 2005, he said.

Some of these students did not violate the law themselves, he said.

"I have had students in the past who have not illegally downloaded files," Swain said. "Someone else was using their computer."

Swain also said he encourages affected students to visit his office.

"I may be able to help them in alleviating that situation," he said. " I've not only met the chief litigation officer [for RIAA] but his boss. I have a lot of information to impart."

Reach the reporter at emma.breysse@asu.edu.



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