The College, with prodding from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), will undertake new efforts to prevent illegal downloading and file sharing on campus.

In a March 28 e-mail addressed to students, Chief Information Officer Mitch Davis explained that "the recording industry is embarking on new efforts to crack down on illegal downloading and sharing of music" and that the RIAA now seeks to target "music theft at college and university campuses specifically."

"It's a huge public relations effort by RIAA to crack down on pirating," Davis said in an interview on Tuesday.

While Information Technology (IT) does not currently monitor the college network for illegal downloading, provisions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 allow organizations like the RIAA to keep tabs on downloaded content.

If the RIAA has reason to believe that a student is downloading files illegally, they "will send an e-mail message to the College identifying the IP address of the computer being used," according to Davis's e-mail.

If the notice from the RIAA meets all legal requirements?a valid IP address and a date and time when the file was discovered, among other conditions?a letter will be sent to the offending student from the dean of student affairs.

A handful of students on campus have already received such warnings. The letter, after informing the offending student that downloading files is an illegal activity, then asks them to "delete all illegally acquired copyrighted files within 72 hours."

"Most students who get the letters just delete their files, and it ends there," said Davis, though he did acknowledge that one student on campus had received several letters after repeat offenses. Repeat offenders risk a formal lawsuit from the RIAA.

But Davis also stressed the relatively low level of illegal activity on campus.

"Compared with other schools, Bowdoin has very low levels of illegal downloading," Davis said. "[Illegal downloading] is not a considerable problem, though it is still something we must deal with."

His best advice to students: "Don't do anything that would put you at risk."

Davis also believes that the wealth of downloadable material on the Internet requires users to respect the copyrighted work of others.

"There's an element of trust [to not download files illegally]," he said.

Illegally downloading files, according to Davis, can be likened to walking into a store where there are no employees, but only a sign asking customers to leave money on the counter.

"It's an opportunistic thing. The door's open, and no one is watching," Davis said. "But that doesn't mean you shouldn't do the right thing."