The music industry is asking 50 Ohio University students to pay $3,000 each to avoid lawsuits accusing them of pirating songs off the Internet.
The Recording Industry Association of America asked the university to pass along letters to the students with Internet addresses accused of being involved with the illegal sharing of copyrighted music. The university notified the students on Monday.
"The downloading has occurred and we can't change that, but we can let them know what their options are," OU spokeswoman Sally Linder said Wednesday.
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Patrick McGee, a local attorney the university arranged to meet with students, said $3,000 is the standard offer, though cases have settled for as much as $5,000. He has represented four Ohio University students in file-sharing lawsuits.
Jenni Engebretsen, spokeswoman for the trade group, based in Washington, D.C., would not disclose or confirm what the standard settlement offer is. She did say no cases have gone to trial yet across the country.
As part of its ongoing copyright crackdown, the association has already sued about 18,000 computer users nationwide since September 2003. The figure includes 1,062 computer users at 130 universities.
The association said last month that it intended to sue more students and others on campuses in the next three months than it has in the past three years and that it would send 400 letters a month to computer users suspected of copyright infringement.
Letters were sent to 13 universities last week, giving students 20 days to pay a settlement.
A letter to one Ohio University student told her that she distributed 787 audio files, putting her total minimum potential liability at more than $590,000. The minimum damages under the law is $750 for each copyright recording that had been shared, the letter said.
Many students cannot even afford the $3,000, McGee said.
"I think the record company is smart enough to know that a lot of students do not have the money," he said. "They can't actually take them up on the offer."