The RIAA is After Student Pirates

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UPDATED: Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) lawyers will file suit against more than 400 college students across the U.S., officials announced Tuesday.

The students from 18 different universities around the nation were using the high-speed Internet2 research network to trade copyrighted music, according to officials. The organization plans to file the lawsuits Wednesday.

The music industry organization said it also has evidence of copyright infringement at another 140 schools in 41 states. Officials said letters have been sent to each of those schools alerting them to the illegal activities.

"This next generation of the Internet is an extraordinarily exciting tool for researchers, technologists and many others with valuable legitimate uses," Cary Sherman, RIAA president, said in a statement. "Yet, we cannot let this high-speed network become a zone of lawlessness where the normal rules don't apply."

Internet2 is a consortium of more than 300 U.S. universities, businesses and the government to develop and deploy advanced networking applications and technologies, such as IPv6 and multicasting.

The consortium also has a network capable of transferring 859GB of data in fewer than 17 minutes. These speeds are not possible over regular Internet connections, and it is a platform that lets "students steal copyrighted songs and other works on a massive scale," officials said.

Greg Wood, a spokesman at Internet2, said RIAA officials contacted the organization Monday to inform it of the impending lawsuits. He also said the higher-education community has been in conversations with the entertainment industry for some time to discuss the issue of illegal file sharing.

Wood said that while the Internet2 consortium doesn't condone the illegal transfer of copyrighted materials, instituting policies is best left at the local level, not the national.

"It makes more sense for the campuses to do this because they are in direct connection with the users," he said. "Technically it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to implement the kind of monitoring or blocking at the backbone level. Those kinds of things are really most effective at the campus level, and that's what our members have been doing."

The RIAA pointed out that much of the file sharing done on the Internet2 network was done using an application called i2hub.

"In order to maintain the gains we've made, we must move quickly to address this new threat emerging from i2hub and similar applications," Sherman said in a statement. "We know that it's very difficult for these legal services to gain real traction on college campuses when pirate services with lightning fast downloads are easily available to students with no seeming likelihood of detection or threat of consequences."

In a statement released Tuesday, i2hub officials said their organization does not condone any activities or actions that breach copyright concerns. The organization, they said, is committed to bringing students together.

"Students around the globe utilize i2hub for many reasons -- help on homework, exam reviews, sharing ideas, and some have even found their significant other through the network," the statement read. "We are a company focused on the college market with products and services that cater to that market."

Currently, the entertainment industry is locking horns with the peer-to-peer (P2P) community before the Supreme Court. At issue in the MGM vs. Grokster case is the contention by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) that P2P software developers should be held liable for creating technology that aids file-sharing theft.

Developers maintain the entertainment industry shouldn't be able to stifle software innovation, and they cite the famous 1984 Sony Betamax ruling regarding videotapes as an example.