The music industry is tightening its grips on University of Utah students who they believe have pirated songs.

Last week, the Recording Industry Association of America, a trade group that represents the U.S. recording industry, notified the university of its intent to sue individuals who it contends have illegally shared copyrighted music.

Attorneys for the RIAA have sent 12 "notifications of copyright infringement claims" requesting that U. officials deliver the message to the alleged individual(s), who to this point remain unknown, said U. spokeswoman Coralie Alder.

"We certainly are not acting as an agent for the RIAA, but we are cooperating in sending out a notice," she said, adding that similar letters go out to students at campuses all over the country on a regular basis.

The RIAA initially files lawsuits against "John Doe" defendants, based on their Internet addresses. Recording industry lawyers then work through the courts to learn the name of the defendant. The process can result in expensive legal fees for the record labels.

The letter, which was issued by Denver law firm Holme Roberts & Owen, offers early settlement "for a substantially reduced dollar amount." Association officials have said they can offer lesser negotiated settlements to those who respond to the letters because they avoid the time and cost of litigation.

U. officials are "passing along the message," Alder said, having notified the entire campus community via e-mail.

If the alleged infringers do not come forward, the university could be the subject of a subpoena or court order. The Office of General Counsel has said it will not share any information about any campus member without receiving such legal action.

Infringers who contact the RIAA attorneys are being told they will be given an opportunity to settle out of court. If no one admits to sharing copyrighted music in a "short" amount of time, the RIAA will go ahead and file suit, according to the letter.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the RIAA has won one case involving campus members. The defendant was ordered to pay $220,000, but that case may be retried and could be overturned.

"These things are happening all over the country," Alder said. "It's hard to know who's doing what." The U. is one of nearly 200 colleges and universities to be targeted by the RIAA since early last year.

The U. is taking no part in the litigation and is simply complying with the request to "send out a notice," Alder said.

"It's not our thing, it's theirs," she said. "It really is in their hands."

The notice to the campus refers individuals to a Web site containing information on Peer to Peer file sharing, HREF="http://www.compliance.utah.edu/infosec/peer2peer.html" www.compliance.utah.edu/infosec/peer2peer.html" TARGET="_blank">TARGET="_blank">www.compliance.utah.edu/infosec/peer2peer.html.


E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com