Latest RIAA pre-lawsuit letters skip UC Davis, for now

The Recording Industry Association of America has sent out another batch of pre-litigation letters to 16 U.S. universities, asking them to forward the letters to 417 students or other campus personnel accused of stealing music through illegal file-sharing. UC Davis didn't receive any of the letters, although at least a few more are probably coming.

The letters usually arrive after a university receives an initial electronic notice, and UC Davis has recently received five of those notices. "I got five. Several other campuses also received some new ones. And I have five outstanding from July," said Jan Carmikle, campus intellectual property officer. That strongly suggests the campus will receive more pre-litigation letters down the road.

The 417 letters mentioned in the Nov. 15 RIAA press release are part of an ongoing industry campaign to punish and deter file-sharing of music that violates copyrights. The RIAA has sent out 10 batches of letters this year, and follows up with lawsuits if the recipients don't settle.

The RIAA starts by identifying the computer addresses of machines involved in the file-sharing. When those addresses are part of a university network, the RIAA can subpoena the university to learn who those addresses belong to. But first it sends pre-litigation letters, and asks the university to forward them.

UC Davis received 34 pre-litigation letters in June. Sixteen recipients who didn't settle were sued in "John Doe" lawsuits in August.

"I was subpoenaed in August for 16 names. Five individuals must have settled, as by the time I had to reply, the RIAA's attorneys dropped [their demand] to 11 names," Carmikle said.

"Each chance to settle costs more than the one before," she added.

"Because the university wasn't involved in the lawsuit, I don't know what happened after that, but presume that the individuals were given one last chance to settle before their name was publicly listed in the lawsuit," Carmikle said.

Most of the schools listed in the latest press release are located in the East or Midwest.