Since September of 2003, the Recording Industry of America (RIAA) has been on a witch hunt trying to sue every college student they can find who has been found guilty of illegally downloading thousands of songs into their I-Pods or hard drives all across American college campuses. This vast shakedown of college students is the last dying effort of an industry that has been thrown into severe financial chaos for the last 10 years. They are now focusing on trying to get the kids that they have targeted these efforts on to cough up the $3,000 needed to settle out of court, or the students will be brought into court and could face a lawsuit of more than $1.4 million.
Since March of 2006, there have been more than 1600 “pre-litigation" letters sent to a vast number of college campuses nationwide requesting that the college's board of education pass on these threatening letters from the RIAA to the guilty student's dorm rooms, no matter how many students are actually living in those rooms. This effort is nothing less than a fear campaign designed to strike terror into the heart of everybody who is in contact with the letter's legal documentation. Since there probably is more than just that one person in a dorm room that could be making illegal downloads, how does the RIAA distinguish between computer users? Lawyers for the RIAA state that they can verify that all of these cases, the accused student's computer, user name and password were traced directly to the illegal downloads represented in all of the individual lawsuits that are going to court currently. Is this a true statement?
The problem is we will never find out because none of these cases will ever wind up in federal courts, seeing as how most of these students’ lawyers are scared of taking these cases to trial. They settle out of court for $3000- $5000 just so the college students can get back to doing what they are supposed to be doing in college: studying. This is a scare tactic that seems to be working for the RIAA, and they are not going to stop this horrible activity any time soon so long as it continues to send the same message to every college student currently in school: We don't care who you are. We will find your illegal downloads and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law!
Meanwhile the statistics show that this mean-spirited lawsuit mentality is having the reverse effect on illegal downloading. Peer-to-peer song sharing has grown significantly, from 5.5 million users a month in 2003 to over 9.3 million in 2006, the exact time frame that the RIAA first started their lawsuit campaign, which has resulted in 18,000 lawsuits nationwide.
The RIAA has responded to all the negative press they are getting by saying that they have to go to these extreme measures because the college students are responsible for a disproportionate amount of illegal file sharing activities. The RIAA actually has stated in the past that since the college universities have been slow to take action in these matters, the RIAA have no choice but to sue the guilty students for as much money as possible. The RIAA are now in the process of sending out letters to the college campuses that list IP addresses of computers the organization claim have been used in the illegal file sharing cases that they are working on, bypassing the lawsuit altogether if the student associated with the specific illegal downloads in question states that he will indeed pay a big fine.
The RIAA even has a website set up so the student can go to it and pay online to avoid any lawsuit he might have to face if he does not agree to pay the $3000- $5000 fee. The top five college campuses that have been hit with this new letter campaign specifying exact IP addresses of computers that have found complicit in illegal activities are:
1. Ohio University
2. Purdue University
3. University of Nebraska
4. University of Tennessee
5. University of South Carolina
So if you happen to be a student at one of these fine campuses, you can look forward to getting a nice letter from the RIAA accusing you of the horrible act of illegal file sharing, and you will have to add the more than $3,000 penalty fee to your already ballooning student loan payments. Who says there is justice in America?