The 19-year-old's computer system--including monitor, keyboard, two CD burners, scanner and printer--was removed earlier this month from his dorm room after campus police determined he was operating an FTP server site that allowed visitors to download MP3 music files and even several full-length movies.
A representative for the RIAA confirmed that a letter was sent to university officials notifying them that a student appeared to be distributing copyrighted songs. The RIAA, which is embroiled in a high-profile copyright infringement case against the popular music-swapping site Napster, constantly prowls the Internet for repositories of music files.
"We send out notices like this constantly," said RIAA spokeswoman Amy Weiss. "All we're asking for is that the material is taken down. We leave it up to the universities to determine what to do or how to enforce this."
OSU officials refused to disclose the student's name or other details about the case.
"He was advocating other people to download the music and upload music he didn't have," said James Alexander, an OSU assistant director. "He'd been advertising in chat rooms and we decided to notify the police."
OSU's decision to confiscate this student's computer equipment does not mean that all OSU students who trade music files are at risk. Alexander said the school does not block access to Napster and monitors the content of student Web sites only when objectionable material is brought to its attention.
The seized computer gear included 105 gigabytes of hard drive space, of which about 40GB were made available to visitors. Assuming the average music file occupies about 4MB, the student could have had approximately 10,000 songs available for download.
Everett Eaton, public safety director at OSU, said the department obtained a search warrant from the Payne County District Court in Oklahoma and seized the student's computer equipment.
"We're doing some forensic review of the hard drive and determining what is there," Eaton said. "After we finish that review, we will evaluate the amount of substance he was distributing."
College campuses, which often provide high-speed Internet connections to students, have become a focal point in the record industry's effort to eradicate the distribution of copyrighted material.
Several schools, including Indiana University, the University of Southern California and Yale University, blocked access to Napster after being named as defendants in a lawsuit by rock group Metallica.
Last week, the attorney representing Metallica and rap star Dr. Dre sent letters to other top universities urging them to do the same.