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College students may think the $50 fine they’ll soon face for illegally downloading music is a lot of money, but the alternative could be much worse.Beginning Aug. 1, the University will fine students $50 for illegally sharing and downloading files on the LSU network in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.The Recording Industry Association of America has the legal authority to take offenders to court where they could face up a minimum of $750 per song for civil penalties, according to its Web site. Criminal penalties can run as high as $250,000 and five years in prison.Sheri Thompson, IT planning and communications officer, said she understands a typical RIAA subpoena to be $4,000.She said the University wanted to fine students an amount that was enough to deter them from illegally sharing files but wouldn’t be an overwhelming burden.“$50 isn’t $4,000 and isn’t debilitating and going to be the difference between them being able to live their life fully,” Thompson said.Thompson said the fine became necessary when the number of violations increased despite the University telling students “this is not the way to go.”“This is costing us money whenever a violation occurs,” she said. “It was really becoming a burden.”Thompson said there was a decrease in the number of violations on campus a couple of years ago before rising back to about 200 last year.“It had gotten down to probably about 100, but it was still too many,” Thompson said.Thompson said the RIAA monitors ports to see if they have left any music files that belong to the RIAA open to the public.“When you transfer files, they’re called packets, and these packets can be identified as to what they are,” Thompson said. “Usually it’s through things like BitTorrent, or through LimeWire, or any other things that are shareware, where people put up stuff illegally or make it available illegally.”Thompson said many universities have been working in cooperation with the RIAA for several years.“[The RIAA has] a list every year that comes out of the top offenders,” Thompson said. “Fortunately we have not been on that list, and we don’t want to be on that list. But there are places that have actually shut off the ability to do any sharing of files because they were getting so many complaints from the RIAA.”Thompson said students aren’t the only ones illegally downloading music on the LSU network.“Faculty and staff are doing it,” she said. “You just don’t get those notifications very often.”Thompson said a first offense warrants a fine and the shutdown of a student’s port, while a second offense sends a student to the Dean of Students’ office.“With multiple offenses, you do face expulsion,” Thompson said.The RIAA can also pursue legal action if it decides a student’s actions are severe.Thompson said she is not aware of the RIAA suing any University students in the past for an offense.She said the University would have to send the student a letter if the RIAA wishes to subpoena them.“We don’t tell the RIAA who you are. They have to get a subpoena for that,” Thompson said. “Once they get a subpoena, they say ‘OK, person X, you’ve done this, now that’s $4,000 for our time.’ And you have 28 days or something ridiculous to pay it. If you don’t pay it, the fine goes up from there.”