Purdue University Warns Students: The RIAA Wants Info on Thousands of You

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Last week, 40,000+ students at Purdue (including myself) received a warning email. In short, stop illegal downloads, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is coming. Purdue is advising all computer users to remove or at least partially disable any peer-to-peer file sharing software on their computers.

The university doesn’t seem extremely thrilled by the new task, as Jeanne Norbert, Purdue spokesperson says, “It’s time-consuming on our part because the addresses used by a computer frequently change, but we will make a good faith effort to deliver the notices to the correct person.”

But what I don’t get is how that ties into this part of the email sent out:

“While the university will do its best to deliver these notices to the proper individuals, it is not responsible for the accuracy of the identification or address to which such notices are sent.”

What?! Who is responsible then? This is basically stating that mistakes are made, false accusations happen: but it’s not the university’s problem. And Norbert continues to push the issue with this statement:

“It can take computer forensic experts a significant amount of time to identify people who should receive notices. Given that RIAA could be asking us to contact thousands of users, this could be a significant cost to the university.”

So why would the university be interested in accuracy if a) this whole process is a “significant cost” and b) it’s not Purdue’s fault if it screws up? Call me Mr. Skeptical, but I have little faith in any institution that seems forced do something while simultaneously eliminating responsibility for its actions.

See the university press release here, the FAQ here, and the university’s recommendations here. And see below for a copy of the email sent out:

“Some users of the Purdue University Internet network this week will begin receiving notices of threatened legal action from the Recording Industry Association of America.

In a stepped-up effort to enforce music copyright, the association is harvesting Internet addresses of computers that allegedly offered music for others to download illegally. It then is sending emails to Internet service providers and asking that the emails be forwarded to these computer users.
The notices offer the option of paying a settlement fee or facing legal action.

Purdue University, as an Internet service provider, will forward these emails to the user of the specified address when the user can be accurately identified. While the university will do its best to deliver these notices to the proper individuals, it is not responsible for the accuracy of the identification or address to which such notices are sent.

It will be up to each recipient to decide how to respond to these notices.
All users of Purdue IT resources are ultimately responsible for their own conduct and for responding to any notification received from a copyright owner. Should an individual choose not to pay the settlement, the RIAA may ask Purdue for its logs for the purpose of pursuing legal action. The next step would be for RIAA to file a request to subpoena the name of the computer owner. The university will at all times honor valid subpoenas.

Purdue does not generally monitor the content of Internet transmissions.
The university, however, can match computers to the addresses they use when connecting to the Internet.

Information on your legal obligations and methods to protect yourself can be found at:


Individuals with questions regarding the settlement notice should contact legal counsel of their own choosing for advice.


Gerry McCartney
Interim Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Purdue University

Thomas B. Robinson
Vice President for Student Services
Purdue University”

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