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RIAA Drops Lawsuits but Keeps the ‘Takedown’ Notices Coming

The Recording Industry Association of America announced in December that it was shifting gears and would stop suing groups of students for alleged illegal file sharing. So what is it doing now?

For starters, the industry group is pulling back from pending cases. In many lawsuits that recording companies filed against anonymous students — “John Does” — legal hurdles and universities’ challenges inhibited identification of those defendants.

“We are by and large dismissing all John Doe cases where we have not received a discovery order or a subpoena response,” Cara Duckworth, a spokeswoman for the RIAA, said in an e-mail interview. “Of course, there are some exceptions,” she said, without naming which ones.

Music companies have already abandoned lawsuits against students at North Carolina State University, Rhode Island College, and the University of Michigan, the popular blog Recording Industry vs. the People reported. Ms. Duckworth confirmed those moves. “All of this is meant to hasten our transition to a new day where the legal marketplace has blossomed to new heights,” she said, “and fans can have the best online music experience possible.”

But some of those fans are still being implicated in the “takedown” notices the RIAA sends to colleges and universities. The industry group ditched its old evidence-gathering partner, MediaSentry, and now seeks out pirates with the Danish company DtecNet Software ApS.

The new partner seems to be working: Some campus officials noticed a significant spike in takedown notices last month. Cornell University said its numbers were higher than usual. Utah State University used to get two or three notices a week, but one day in January, it received 10. Also in one day, Indiana University got 63.

As before, administrators say they cannot be sure if the increases are a sign of more illegal file sharing, less-effective deterrence programs, or anything else.

“The number of notices is not any indication of something working or not working,” said Jonny Sweeny, incident-response manager and lead security analyst at Indiana. “The copyright holders can send as many notices as they seem to want to.” —Sara Lipka

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