Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)

February 28, 2007 11:45 ET

RIAA Launches New Initiatives Targeting Campus Music Theft

WASHINGTON--(Collegiate Presswire - February 28, 2007) - The recording industry today launched a new and strengthened campus anti-piracy initiative that significantly expands the scope and volume of its deterrent efforts while offering a new process that gives students the opportunity to avoid a formal lawsuit by settling prior to a litigation being filed.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), on behalf of the major record companies, today sent 400 pre-litigation settlement letters to 13 different universities. Each letter informs the school of a forthcoming copyright infringement lawsuit against one of its students or personnel. The RIAA will request that universities forward those letters to the appropriate network user. Under this new approach, a student (or other network user) can settle the record company claims against him or her at a discounted rate before a lawsuit is ever filed.

The initial wave of this new initiative launched today will include letters in the following quantities sent to Arizona State University (23 pre-settlement litigation letters), Marshall University (20), North Carolina State University (37), North Dakota State University (20), Northern Illinois University (28), Ohio University (50), Syracuse University (37), University of Massachusetts - Amherst (37), University of Nebraska - Lincoln (36), University of South Florida (31), University of Southern California (20), University of Tennessee - Knoxville (28), and University of Texas - Austin (33). The RIAA, on behalf of the major record companies, will pursue hundreds of similar enforcement actions against university network users each month.

"We have transformed how we do business, and online music has experienced a sea change compared to three years ago," said Mitch Bainwol, Chairman and CEO of the RIAA. "A legal marketplace that barely existed in 2003 is now a billion dollar business showing real promise. Many rogue sites have gone under and fans have a far better understanding of the right and wrong ways to enjoy music. No matter how much we adapt, though, any new business model must always necessarily rely upon a respect for property rights. That's why we must continue to enforce our rights."

The new initiative comes as the nature and understanding of online music theft have changed dramatically since the RIAA first launched its individual user lawsuits in the fall of 2003. The music industry's anti-piracy efforts have achieved real progress holding accountable the businesses that promote theft and deterring many would-be illegal downloaders. On college campuses, though, the illegal downloading habits of students remain extensive and disproportionately problematic.

For example, a survey by the Intellectual Property Institute at the University of Richmond's School of Law found that more than half of college students download music and movies illegally. Additional data from market research firm NPD shows that college students, the most avid music fans, get more of their music from illegal peer-to-peer than the rest of the population: 25 percent vs.16 percent (percentage of total music acquisition from peer-to-peer downloading).

At the same time, the RIAA's new deterrence initiative will focus more heavily on Ares and Gnutella-based networks such as LimeWire, which are gaining in popularity as online destinations for free, illegal music.

RIAA officials praised the collaborative efforts of the university community, such as the Joint Committee of the Higher Education and Entertainment Community, but said despite progress and a more proactive approach by many universities, the pervasiveness of illegal downloading on campus was unacceptable and compromised industry's ability to invest in the new bands of tomorrow.

"We understand that no deterrence or education program will 'solve' piracy. Our job is to provide sufficient oxygen for the legal marketplace to show its true promise," added Bainwol. "The theft of music remains unacceptably high and undermines the industry's ability to invest in new music. This is especially the case on college campuses, despite innovative business models like Ruckus' offer of free, legal music to any college student. Our work with college administrators has yielded real progress, and we're grateful for the help of those who have worked closely with us. At the same time, we recognize that the nature of online music theft is changing, and we need to adjust our strategies accordingly."

Cary Sherman, President, RIAA, said, "Because we know that some audiences - particularly campus music downloaders - can sometimes be impervious to even the most compelling educational messages or legal alternatives, these new efforts aim to help students recognize that the consequences for illegal downloading are more real than ever before. We will continue to work with respected educators to reach students before college through programs like i-SAFE and Young Minds Inspired, but we simply cannot afford to write off a generation of college music fans. We hope that university administrators recognize the beneficial role they will play here - most immediately, by helping avert a lawsuit against a student, but better yet, by demonstrating the leadership that helps teach students right from wrong and by implementing the technological tools that prevent piracy from happening in the first place."

In addition to the strengthened enforcement initiative, the RIAA will launch a new website - - to serve as an informational resource for individuals facing a lawsuit. The RIAA has also developed an educational advertising campaign targeted for university newspapers. Incorporating concepts developed by marketing students enrolled in RIAA-EdVenture Partners classes, the ads will continue to appear in campus newspapers across the country in the coming weeks. [For samples of ads to run as part of this campaign, please see the hyperlinks at the bottom of this press release.] These educational efforts build upon the RIAA's launch last fall of an orientation video for use by universities available at

Today's announcement comes on the heels of news last week that the RIAA is sending "notices" to colleges at a rate more than three times higher than the previous academic year. While distinct from lawsuits and pre-litigation settlement letters, these notices - letters informing a college of an individual on campus illegally distributing copyrighted songs and requesting that the university take down that illegal content - are another ongoing means of enforcement against campus music theft. Due to technological advances, RIAA officials point to the current notice volume as an improved reflection of the file-trafficking problem on college campuses.

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[The Recording Industry Association of America is the trade group that represents the U.S. recording industry. Its mission is to foster a business and legal climate that supports and promotes our members' creative and financial vitality. Its members are the record companies that comprise the most vibrant national music industry in the world. RIAA® members create, manufacture and/or distribute approximately 90% of all legitimate sound recordings produced and sold in the United States. In support of this mission, the RIAA works to protect intellectual property rights worldwide and the First Amendment rights of artists; conducts consumer, industry and technical research; and monitors and reviews state and federal laws, regulations and policies. The RIAA® also certifies Gold®, Platinum®, Multi-Platinum™, and Diamond sales awards, as well as Los Premios De Oro y Platino™, an award celebrating Latin music sales.]

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    Jonathan Lamy or Jenni Engebretsen