OHIO: Record companies are offering to settle with college students accused of illegally downloading songs, asking for payments of as much as $5,000 (Rs2,25,000) to avoid court.
The Recording Industry Association of America sent 400 “pre-litigation letters” this week to 13 US universities, asking them to inform copyright violators that they have 20 days to settle with music companies or meet them in court.
The US music industry has sued more than 18,000 people for infringement and settled with 5,700 since September 2003. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry estimates that piracy costs labels $4.5 billion (Rs 20,250 crore) a year in lost sales worldwide. Researcher NPD Group has said U.S. college students downloaded 1.3 billion songs illegally last year alone.
“They used to be our best customers but not any more,” RIAA President Cary Sherman said in an interview. “We’re really hoping that universities will step up vigilance and cooperate with us in impressing upon their students that this is unacceptable.”
A spokeswoman for Ohio University, Sally Linder informed, “We make it very clear to students that illegal file- sharing is against our policy” She also added this move on part of RIAA is unusual and unprecedented since the brief deadline, may be difficult for students to comprehend and digest completely.”
Meanwhile other universities have been contacted, namely Massachusetts at Amherst, Texas in Austin, Southern California, North Carolina State and Syracuse in New York. Plans include sending out about 400 settlement offers every month. These will identify the Internet addresses of alleged offenders but not the individuals.
Efforts will be further stepped up to pursue illegal downloaders. 25,000 notices were sent to schools last year and this year the number would be three times as much.
U.S. Representative Howard Berman, a Democrat from California, threw his support behind the group’s college-campus actions at a congressional hearing on the Internet and intellectual property on Sunday, asking the music and movie industries to supply him with lists of the colleges that have the most copyright violations.