The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) made its presence known on campus last spring when it dealt out 11 pre-litigation letters to members of the Bowdoin community.
But since then, according to Chief Information Officer Mitch Davis, the association has only ratcheted up its efforts to curb students' illegal downloading at the College.
"The RIAA every year has gotten more and more aggressive," Davis said, "and this year, I don't think it's going to change."
On September 10, Davis sent a campus-wide e-mail to students warning them of the repercussions of illegal downloading.
"Please don't think you can illegally upload through peer-to-peer sharing or download music, movies, or software and get away with it for very long," Davis wrote in the e-mail.
"The RIAA will probably find you, and if they prosecute it is an unpleasant and expensive process," he added.
According to Davis, it's not just students sharing thousands of files who are targeted.
"They could pursue you on one [file]," he said.
Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998, the RIAA will notify the College of detected infringement and request to remove the content. The IP address provided by the RIAA is then traced by Network Operations, and the student is issued a warning from the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs.
Under the guidelines, if the student does not cooperate, his or her name is then given to the RIAA, which may pursue litigation. Initial settlements hover around $750, while settling later can cost more than $3,000.
Tommy Cabrera '12, said that illegal downloading is "not fair to the artist," but he is disappointed that there aren't more alternatives to the $1-per-song iTunes payment scheme, such as free, ad-supported streaming.
Davis, who estimates he receives six or seven "takedown" notices a month from the RIAA, is quick to point out the myriad of legal music services available today.
For instance, students at the College can share their iTunes libraries within dorms. Additionally, some artists?including the popular band Radiohead?have released whole albums for free download (though an optional donation is available).
Other bands and musicians go even further by licensing their work under Creative Commons, a site founded by Davis's former co-worker Lawrence Lessig, which encourages free distribution.
Although the RIAA has been the most visible in its legal efforts, Davis noted that the DMCA also covers videos, games, and other software.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is now at least as active as the RIAA.
"Because they've seen what happened when the RIAA didn't take a hard line on it, they're taking a very hard line on it right away," said Davis.
Davis said that students have "downloaded all the music they can," and now they are downloading movies.
"For the life of me I can't see why people download TV shows," Davis said.
Many shows are now available for free on TV network Web sites, and others are available from distributors like Hulu.
Netflix, founded by Bowdoin alumnus Reed Hastings '83, offers subscribers more than 12,000 movies and TV shows via its online "Watch Instantly" service.
Considering the alternatives, Davis's bottom line is that illegal downloading is wrong and compromises the rights of artists?all at great risk to the user.
"I was trying to get a message out there to the students to be careful and start a conversation about what's safe and what isn't safe," Davis said of the e-mail he sent out to students.
"By going after people, [the RIAA] is trying to make people afraid to do anything," he said. "And in a sense, I kind of recommend that they be afraid."