More than 400 students will be sued today for allegedly using Internet2 for music and movie piracy, according to two leading entertainment trade groups.

The super-fast “Internet2” network that connects universities for research and learning is also reportedly popular among college students who download pirated music and movies: Entertainment groups said April 12 they intend to sue hundreds of students suspected of illegally distributing copyrighted songs and films across college campuses using the private research network, which boasts speeds hundreds of times faster than the public internet.

How much faster? Internet2 researchers once demonstrated they can download a DVD-quality copy of the popular movie The Matrix in 30 seconds over their network, a feat they said would take roughly 25 hours over the public internet.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the trade group for the largest labels, said it will file federal lawsuits April 13 against 405 students at 18 colleges with access to the Internet2 network. The Motion Picture Association of America said it will file an unspecified number of lawsuits against Internet2 users.

The recording industry said it found evidence of illegal activity at 140 more schools in 41 states and sent warning letters to university presidents.

Internet2 is used by several million K-12 and university students, researchers, and professionals around the world but is generally inaccessible to the public.

“We don’t condone or support illegal file-sharing,” said Internet2’s chief executive, Doug Van Houweling. “We’ve always understood that just like there is a lot of file-sharing going on on the public internet, there’s also some file-sharing going on on Internet2.”

The recording industry said some students were illegally sharing across Internet2 as many as 13,600 music files–far more than most internet users–and that the average number of songs offered illegally by the students was 2,300 each.

“We cannot let this high-speed network become a zone of lawlessness where the normal rules don’t apply,” said Cary Sherman, president of the recording association.

Van Houweling cautioned universities against filtering data to block illegal activity in ways that would slow the network’s performance.

He said Internet2 does not attempt to screen illegal files from the vast amounts of data flowing over the network because of technical limitations and privacy concerns. He said Internet2 also enjoys liability protection in the courts as long as the organization can’t be shown to be responsible for material flowing over the network.

“It’s possible to attack this problem in ways that do compromise the performance,” Van Houweling said.

The lawsuits illustrate the aggressiveness of the entertainment industry in trying to stifle piracy even on up-and-coming technologies, as it continues to individually sue thousands of computer users accused of sharing copyrighted songs and films over the public internet.

The recording industry said the lawsuits also pierce the perception by Internet2 researchers that they operate in a closed environment that entertainment groups can’t monitor.

“We are putting students and administrators everywhere on notice that there are consequences for unlawful uses of this special network,” Sherman said.

The RIAA declined to explain how it could detect piracy over Internet2, except to say it acted lawfully. Internet2’s corporate members include Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc., a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc., a leading music label.

Even Internet2 officials said they were unaware how the entertainment companies traced the purportedly illegal activity on their network.

“They haven’t shared with us,” Van Houweling said. “We have provided no special access to any of those organizations that would enable them in some nonstandard way to gain access to this information.”

Here are the 18 schools identified so far by RIAA: Boston University, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Drexel University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Michigan State University, New York University, Ohio State University, Princeton University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of California-San Diego, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Southern California.

Links:

Internet2
http://www.internet2.edu

Recording Industry Association of America
http://www.riaa.com

Motion Picture Association of America
http://www.mpaa.org