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IMPORTANT -  Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is targeting students for illegal file sharing

To all students:

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has initiated a new strategy in pursuit of persons believed to be distributing digital copies of copyrighted music recordings without permission. Rather than pursue their usual request that the allegedly infringing material be removed, the RIAA is threatening a lawsuit and offering out-of-court settlements to copyright infringers. 

Last semester, the college received notice from an attorney at the RIAA that three complaints are pending against Internet Protocol (IP) addresses connected with computers owned by users of the Smith network. The college is only legally obligated to preserve the name of the individual associated with the IP address at this time. The notice makes clear that the RIAA's next step will be to send to the college “settlement letters,” with the request that the college forward them to the individual associated with the specific IP address. The college will forward these letters to the individuals affected.

The RIAA intends to bring a copyright infringement suit in federal court against the users of these IP addresses and is seeking to settle the suits.  Should you receive one of these letters, we urge you to take it seriously and consider seeking legal counsel. If you believe you could become a target of this type of lawsuit you should cease all illegal activity now and consider seeking legal counsel. The average settlement is reported in the press to be $3,000. The minimum damages under the copyright law are $750 for each copyrighted recording. A sample copy of a pre-settlement letter is available at:

Please read the sample carefully to understand what you will be asked to do should you receive such a letter.

RIAA has developed a Web site that answers questions about settling potential lawsuits with them:

There are other resources on the Internet that provide other perspectives.

If the college receives a lawfully issued subpoena requesting the identity of the owner of the computer linked to an IP address, we are legally bound to comply.

Even without the threat of being sued by RIAA, the unauthorized sharing of copyrighted music is also a violation of the Smith College Policy on the Acceptable Use of Computer Resources. Students who violate the College's Acceptable Use Policy are referred to the Dean of the College and adjudicated by the College Judicial Board according to procedures outlined in the Student Handbook. Violations can result in the removal of computer access privileges and/or more serious sanctions.

Information about Smith policies are on the Smith Web site at:

All members of the Smith community who have in the past or are continuing to engage in unauthorized downloading, uploading, or distribution of copyrighted materials without permission of the copyright owner should cease immediately. The installation of software that allows you to download music may turn your computer into a server from which others also violate copyright law. Unknowing distribution is still illegal.

Remember you are not anonymous on the Internet. Copyright owners of sound recordings, movies, games, software and all other forms of content have techniques they can use to find you. If you are engaging in illegal file sharing, you should stop. You may be putting yourself at substantial financial risk.


David Gregory
Vice President for Information Technology


Copyright © 2014 Smith College  |  Last updated March 7, 2016

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