Music Groups to Sue Students Over Downloads

Two entertainment industry groups will file lawsuits Wednesday against hundreds of American college students accused of illegally distributing copyrighted songs and films across a private research network.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) said Tuesday students at colleges and universities have been using the high-speed Internet2 research and academic network to illegally share music and movies with others worldwide. Calling the trend an "emerging epidemic" that is hurting sales and revenues, RIAA President Cary Sherman said the lawsuits are being filed because the industry "simply cannot allow Internet2 to become a zone of lawlessness where the normal rules do not apply."

The MPAA did not specify how many lawsuits it will file Wednesday, but the (RIAA) said it would file suit against some 405 people at 18 campuses who each have shared more than 2,300 copyrighted songs.

The RIAA said the 18 schools include Boston University, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Drexel University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Michigan State University, New York University, Ohio State University, Princeton University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of California-San Diego, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Southern California.

Combined, the students being sued have illegally distributed more than 1.5 million total files, including more than 930,000 songs, the RIAA contends.

The RIAA said it has chosen to limit the number of lawsuits to 25 per school at this time. In addition, the 405 lawsuits that will be filed are "against some of the most egregious abusers of Internet2 technology," a statement said. The average number of MP3 files shared by users sued in this round is more than 2,300, while the average number of total files is more than 3,900. Some users have shared as many as 13,600 mp3 files and as many as 72,700 total files.

The RIAA said lawsuits filed Wednesday will address only a small slice of the piracy by Internet2 users. It said its researchers found evidence of infringements at 140 additional universities in 41 states.

Internet2 is used by several million university students, researchers and professionals around the world but is inaccessible to the public. Mr. Sherman said the people being sued used Internet2 because of its fast speed that would allow songs to be downloaded in as little as 20 seconds and movies to be captured in less than five minutes.

"We are putting students and administrators everywhere on notice that there are consequences for unlawful uses of this special network," Mr. Sherman said.