Moving to avoid the embarrassment of lawsuits, Pennsylvania State University has pulled the plug on 220 students found trading in copyrighted digital files on its network.

The Penn State move comes just weeks after the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) slapped lawsuits on four student file-swappers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Princeton University and Michigan Technological University.

Penn State, one of several U.S. schools under the RIAA's anti-piracy gun, said it had cut off the broadband Internet connections for about 220 students after investigations showed the students were using the school's network to trade inn "publicly listed copyright infringing materials."

The students that were penalized all access the Internet from Penn State's campus residence halls and reports say the connections will be restored once the copyrighted files have been removed from the systems.

The school had issued a warning to its 110,000 students in March, warning that illegal trading of copyrighted material was against the law. Penn State has dedicated a special section of its Web site to deal with digital media issues, including tutorials on 'Respect for Intellectual Property Rights' and 'Obtaining Copyrighted Materials Legally'.

While Penn State washed its hands of the legal mess, the Michigan Technological University (MTU) was not so lucky. One of MTU's students, Joe Nievelt, was sued by the RIAA before the school could get a chance to act on a complaint from the music industry trade association.

Clearly irked by the litigation move, MTU president Curtis Tompkins slammed the RIAA for turning a blind eye to the school's efforts to curb illegal file-sharing within its network and hinted that the RIAA was more interested in lawsuits and publicity.

"I believe that we would not be facing this situation with Joseph Nievelt today had we been able to gain your help in providing additional information to our student body. We have cooperated fully with the RIAA, but in recent months, have not seen the same from your organization," Tompkins said in a letter to the association.

"You have obviously known about this situation with Joe Nievelt for quite some time. Had you followed the previous methods established in notification of a violation, we would have shut off the student and not allowed the problem to grow to the size and scope that it is today," he added.

"I am very disappointed that the RIAA decided to take this action in this manner. As a fully cooperating site, we would have expected the courtesy of being notified early and allowing us to take action following established procedures, instead of allowing it to get to the point of lawsuits and publicity," Tompkins added.