On February 28, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) announced their revised policy against alleged P2P pirates. The revised campaign is a slight departure from the John Doe lawsuits. Instead, the RIAA will send out what are called "pre-lawsuit" letters, which gives the alleged pirate the opportunity to settle at a discount from the status quo. That is of course, if they can find the individual in question.
The latest wrench in the copyright enforcement endeavor is the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) - although it would appear unintentional. The UNL is one of the most prolific recipients of the RIAA's letter writing campaign, receiving 421 copyright notices in 2005-2006. This jumped to the number 3 spot in 2006-2007, as their copyright notifications surged to 1002. This was the latest calculation as of late February, and no doubt they have received more since then.
In the time the RIAA has sent its "pre-lawsuit" letters, it appears enough time has passed that 39 alleged students have not responded. If he or she doesn't respond, the RIAA then seeks a summary judgment against the individual - typically for a sum much greater than a settlement would have offered.
However according to a report in the Omaha World-Herald, time is not on the RIAA's side. In the amount of time it takes the RIAA's agents to find an individual allegedly uploading files and notify the individual's ISP (in this case UNL), the university has already disposed of the IP logs. The RIAA's investigation simply takes too long, and the UNL keeps their IP logs too briefly.
In this most recent circumstance, the UNL network administrators can only find 9 of the alleged 39 pirates. It would seem that time, and perhaps a bit of luck, are on the side of the 30 other alleged individuals, as the chances of their identities being discovered or negligible. Walter Weir, UNL's chief information officer, was asked by the Omaha World-Herald if there's any other way for the RIAA to identify the students.
"Probably not. If they can't give us any more information, I don't know how in the heck anyone can find 'em."
Once a student logs off his or her machine, a new IP address is given when the student is back online. After about a month, the logs are gone and the alleged pirate appears to be in the clear. The RIAA is not pleased with UNL's short term log storage, and has called it "unusual and inconsistent", and further stated, "One would think universities would understand the need to retain these records."
While universities are not under and legal obligation to retain IP records for an exaggerated period of time, UNL's position on the RIAA's hot list may render a change of policy. However judging by UNL's insistence that the RIAA should reimburse the university for its processing time, a showdown between the music industry and academia may be lurking.