“If we do not hear from you within 20 calendar days from the date of this letter, then we will file suit against you in federal court.”

This is not just another letter in your campus mailbox from Fairfield Public Safety. This is from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sent to those who have officially been caught illegally downloading music from the Internet.

On Feb. 28, the RIAA began a new initiative to crack down on the illegal downloading of music by college students. RIAA sent 400 letters to 13 universities, which warned students who download illegally of potential lawsuits.

Cablevision, the University’s Internet provider, has received letters citing approximately 40 students whose names were forwarded to Fairfield’s Computer and Networking Services (CNS).

Desmond Morris, student computing support coordinator at CNS, said all users at Fairfield have a special IP address to identify their computer. The letters from the RIAA state a specific IP address and list of “Infringing Content,” which include illegal songs that have been downloaded.

The letters advise students that they will be sued but that they can settle the cases before any lawsuits will be filed by deleting illegal files, according to CNN.com.

Students are then required to bring their computer to CNS, where computer specialists make sure that the illegal files have been deleted.

Fairfield’s updated student network for the 2006-2007 academic year makes it more difficult to download music illegally, but there is no way for CNS to configure the program to make illegal downloading impossible.

Morris explained that the student network has bandwidth allocated according to the priority. For example, the first priority is Internet browsing. Lower amounts of bandwidth are used for activities such as AIM and Skype. Software such as LimeWire, BearShare and KaZaa have a very small portion of bandwidth reserved for their functioning, which is why students cannot connect to such programs on campus.

Morris also pointed to the rapid creation of alternative programs. Even if CNS attempted to block one, similiar programs could still be used.

Morris encourages students to download music legally through programs such as iTunes and Rhapsody.

“There are ways to get music legally that you should take advantage of,” he said.

Some students said they find ways to get around the Fairfield network by downloading off campus or at home.

“Most of my friends use LimeWire at Starbucks or at home over break to download music,” said Kimberly Owen ’08.

Many students are worried about getting viruses from programs and are making the switch to downloading legally.

“I used to use LimeWire all the time, but it’s just not worth it,” said Jacquelyn Mcdonough ’09. “One dollar really isn’t a lot for a song. I just use iTunes.”

Even if songs are not downloaded on campus, the RIAA can still contact users who download pirated songs. Users can also download illegal songs from other users’ computers through LimeWire or Kazaa.

The Napster controversy in 2000 was intitiated by lawsuits from musical artists Metallica and Dr. Dre, followed by a lawsuit by the RIAA.

Since then, the RIAA has made continued efforts to stop illegal downloading.

“This latest tactic by the RIAA is simply the next step in a long list of attempts to stop people from downloading pirated music,” Kellie Lammie, Fairfield professor of Mass Media and Society. “Faced with decreased record sales, the RIAA is not likely to stop pursuing any and all avenues in order to stop college students from illegally-obtained music.”

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