UC Davis gets 34 pre-lawsuit letters alleging illegal file-sharing

UC Davis has received 34 "pre-litigation settlement letters" from the Recording Industry Association of America, part of a batch of 395 letters that the trade group sent to 19 universities last week. The letters allege copyright infringement, and offer the targets, usually students, a chance to pay a settlement to avoid the potentially higher cost of getting sued.

Just the week before, UC Davis had sent notices to students, faculty and employees urging them to not share files illegally, part of an ongoing campaign to discourage the practice.

Electronic sharing of songs, video and other copyrighted material has become common. The RIAA has been fighting back, and the letters it sends are one of its tactics. This latest batch is the fifth wave it has sent out.

Each letter tells a university that one of its students or personnel is about to be sued, and asks university administrators to forward that letter to the target of the litigation, according to an RIAA press release. The letters tells recipients they can avoid a lawsuit by paying a settlement. Current UC policy is to forward the settlement letters, because settling might save the violator money.

The letters are sent to universities because the RIAA doesn't yet know the name of the copyright violator. It just knows that an illegal download occurred using some part of the university's network, and can discover who did it through subpoenas.

In the latest wave, UC Davis received more letters than all but two of the 19 schools involved. North Carolina State University received the most notices, at 43. No. 2 was UCLA, with 37. Other UC campuses that received notices were Irvine, 23; San Diego, 9; and Santa Cruz, 15.