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The Recording Industry Association of America wants you to know that if you have an illegally-downloaded MP3 of Baby Got Back or Blood on the Tracks on your hard drive, you should be afraid -- very afraid.

In order to assure that people realize it means business, the RIAA filed lawsuits yesterday against four operators of music file-sharing programs on internal college and university campus networks.

All four operators of what the RIAA refers to as "local area Napster networks" are students. Two are from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, one is from Princeton University and one is from Michigan Technological University.

Amy Weiss, spokeswoman for the RIAA, said that the lawsuits are in part an attempt to demonstrate the organization's firm stance on this issue, although suing students may seem like an extreme action.

"It's unfortunate that we have come to this, but these sites are illegal, and we have to stop these mini-Napsters from popping up," Weiss explained.

Online peer-to-peer file-sharing has long been the bane of the music industry. Still, with the 2001 shutdown of Napster following a court ruling that the service was in violation of wholesale copyright infringement legislation, the RIAA hoped that its problem would be solved.

With the advent of the "local area Napster networks," one of which offered students the option to download over 1 million music files, the RIAA realized that its problems were far from over.

For students, downloading music has become a way of life.

College sophomore Alexander Bruno, who said he occasionally acquires music files from Internet peer-to-peer sharing sources, is not worried about his habits.

"My understanding is that it's more about distribution," Bruno said, referring to potential legal issues revolving around the downloading of MP3 files.

The RIAA believes that though laymen may not realize that the actions they are taking may be illegal, due to the nature of creating these networks, it is impossible that the system operators being sued do not understand the error of their ways.

College freshman Stephanie Gonzalez-Turner also uses the Internet to spice up her music collection. Still, she does not really feel guilty about transgressing the copyrights of the artists whose music she downloads.

"Usually, I try to get songs or bands I know don't really need the support," Gonzalez-Turner explained.

This glibness is just the sort of behavior that the RIAA hopes it can change with the suits. Though only operators of the services and not merely those who download files are being targeted in the current lawsuits, the organization feels that many people are not aware that what they are doing might be wrong.

"We certainly hope that this is a learning moment for the universities which are affected and other universities," Weiss said. "That this can be a moment where people stop and talk and learn more about copyright and what's legal and what's not."

As of now, no Penn student faces litigation. Still, the assumption the RIAA has made is that these activities go on at many more campuses than those involved in the suit.

"If we find out about other [local area Napster networks] at other schools, we will be swift and proactive with our lawsuits," Weiss said.

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