RIAA Pushes University Enforcement Further, Rattles More Campuses

The RIAA continues to crank the volume on its university-focused enforcement campaign, one that has generated mixed responses from school administrators.

On Wednesday, the organization announced its third batch of pre-litigation letters to students, a round that involved Brown, University of Maryland, Bates College, University of Michigan, and Williams College.  The pre-litigation option allows students to quickly settle with the organization, before any legal paperwork is filed.  That approach has generated some controversy, and even outright resistance from a number of universities, though the trade group pointed to a dampening effect.  “Without question, this new enforcement initiative has invigorated a meaningful conversation on college campuses about music theft, its consequences and the numerous ways to enjoy legal music,” said Steven Marks, general counsel and executive vice president of the RIAA.

Marks, like other RIAA executives, continued to point to the availability of paid and subsized services, including those from Napster and Ruckus.  “The question we ask of students is this,” Marks posed. “With high-quality legal music options available for free or deeply discounted, why take the twin risks of exposing your computer to viruses or spyware by downloading from an illegal site or exposing yourself to a costly lawsuit?”  But according to most students, the answer to that question is fairly straightforward.  Limitations on portabilty on the all-important iPod, coupled with a tethered ownership structure, make subsidized plays far less attractive than no-strings-attached, free downloads.  Meanwhile, students continue to display a rather nonchalant response to the legal wave, and frequently regard letter recipients as a small, unlucky group.  “I think a lot of people are saying ‘I’ll take my chances with it,'” said one student