The University of Wisconsin went against the national trends Friday by warning students about its policy regarding illegal file sharing but refusing to forward settlement letters to violators from the Recording Industry Association of America. According to Brian Rust, communications manager for the UW Division of Information Technology, the university sent an e-mail reminding students of the "appropriate use guidelines" for downloading to protect them from what could amount to thousands of dollars in out-of-court settlements. "These settlement letters are an attempt to short circuit the legal process to rely on universities to be their legal agent," Rust said. "It basically says, you are illegally downloading and/or sharing information; and before we take legal action, you can remedy this situation and pay for the music or movies that you've downloaded." Rust said DoIT receives about 10 to 20 cease-and-desist notices per day, which they are obligated to forward to their users. The notices are only warnings, Rust added, but the settlement letters brought on by the Recording Industry Association of America are more of a threat. The settlements are usually around $700 per instance, but could be as much as $3,500, according to Rust. "So you can imagine some people have probably come to that website with their credit card and paid it," Rust said. "We do not want to be a party to that; we are not the legal agent for the recording agency, nor do we aspire to (be)." Liz Kennedy, RIAA director of communications, said the association does not disclose the dollar amounts of the settlements, which vary by case. Once the RIAA files litigation through an attorney, individual users are notified via a subpoena, which Rust pointed out the university has not received as of yet. However, Kennedy said pressure is mounting from the RIAA to cut down on the illegal file sharing with a recent campaign, which has increased its lawsuits threefold at universities as of Feb. 28. Dean of Students Lori Berquam said she understands the interest of the recording industry but is concerned with the targeting. "Housing is kind of like easy pickings — it's like they are any easy target because there are 5,000 of them on our campus," Berquam said. "My fear is that this is just the residence folks are being targeted, but … who knows about the rest of the country." When notified of the e-mail sent to students Friday, RIAA Communications Director Jenni Engebretsen issued a statement in opposition to UW's action. "It's almost unimaginable that a university would be unwilling to help a student avoid a lawsuit," Engebretsen said in an e-mail to The Badger Herald. "Our pre-litigation settlement letters are offered as a benefit to university students to allow them to settle claims early, at a substantially discounted sum and off the public record." If students do receive a subpoena notice of being sued after being warned by the cease-and-desist letter, Rust said they will have their Internet access suspended and their names forwarded to the dean of students for an official review. Berquam said the office will have conversations with students who violate downloading agreements, but she added the main focus should be on education. "The bottom line on our campus is how do we educate our students about this," Berquam said. "We need to let them know it's illegal and opens them up to a pretty big lawsuit." And Paul Evans, director of University Housing, said students needed to read the message on their computers and restart before they could continue using the Internet in any UW dormitory. "I think there's a lot of downloading of copyrighted materials," Evans said. "I think if students are doing it, they should be careful. There are certainly people looking out for it."