The motion picture studios and music companies launched a new attack on Internet piracy April 13 when they filed hundreds of lawsuits against university students across the country, accusing them of s

WASHINGTON, D.C. (The Hollywood Reporter) -- The motion picture studios and music companies launched a new attack on Internet piracy April 13 when they filed hundreds of lawsuits against university students across the country, accusing them of stealing movies and songs on the superfast digital delivery system known as Internet2.

While the members of the Motion Picture Assn. of America and the Recording Industry Assn. of America have been suing people for illegally downloading music from peer-to-peer networks for some time, the new lawsuits target allegedly illegal conduct on the advanced network created by colleges and universities for academic research.

Through the use of a file-sharing application known as "i2hub," Internet2 is rapidly becoming the network of choice for students seeking to steal copyrighted songs and other works on a massive scale, the RIAA and MPAA said when they announced the new lawsuits April 12.

Downloading from i2hub via Internet2 is extremely fast -- in most cases, fewer than five minutes for a movie or fewer than 20 seconds for a song. Students find i2hub especially appealing because they mistakenly believe their illegal file-sharing activities can't be detected in the closed environment of the Internet2 network. The MPAA said i2hub had enough capacity to hold the same number of movies as a local Blockbuster.

"We cannot let this high-speed network become a zone of lawlessness where the normal rules don't apply," RIAA president Cary Sherman said. "We have worked very constructively with the university community, improving educational efforts at colleges across the country, expanding partnerships between schools and legal online services and providing a clearinghouse for expertise on technological anti-piracy solutions."

Sherman said the RIAA filed 405 "John Doe" lawsuits against students at 18 U.S. universities. MPAA officials refused to release their tally of people sued but said they were located on seven university campuses.

MPAA president/CEO Dan Glickman said Internet2 had become a focal point for movie piracy because of its speed and the perception that its users are anonymous.

"The message is: Whether you're in Honolulu, Hawaii, or Kokomo, Ind., or Wichita, Kan., you can click, but you can't hide," Glickman said. "In the case of the i2hub, we have a message for the creator, and that is: We know who you are, and we strongly encourage you to stop what you are doing."

Neither the MPAA nor the RIAA launched a lawsuit against Wayne Chang, a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts who generally is credited with creating i2hub and is listed as i2hub CEO and director of operations, but they didn't rule a suit out.

MPAA anti-piracy chief John Malcolm said the association was "weighing those options," and Sherman said they wanted to wait until the U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling the Grokster case. The court is expected to rule in June in a case that will decide much of the legal landscape for P2P services.

Douglas Van Houweling, president and CEO of University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development and Internet2's chief administrator, recently expressed concern over the issue.

"Illegal file sharing has become an issue of major concern throughout higher education, including the Internet2 community," he wrote in a letter to Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Howard Berman, D-Calif. "We do not condone it, and it violates our Abilene network's Conditions of Use as well as Appropriate Use Policies at our member institutions. We work with our members and other allies in higher education to prevent it."

In an interview published on the Masslive.com Web site, Chang admitted that the technology can be used for piracy but said that was not his main objective.

"We're allowing students to connect to each other and share information about their classwork, about their homework, whatever is going on," he said.

But Sherman said the uses are clear.

"We didn't see many copies of the Bible or the works of Shakespeare," Sherman said.