From MIT’s student paper, The Tech: RIAA Sends Institute 19 Settlement Letters Alleging Infringement — pdf
The RIAA identified alleged infringers by looking at their IP addresses. Since the RIAA cannot obtain the names of people connected with the IP addresses without a court order, it instead sent its demand letters directly to MIT and requested that the Institute forward the letters to the community members. MIT complied with the RIAA’s request and has forwarded the letters to the computer users corresponding to those addresses.
These requests come as part of the latest wave of 407 RIAA letters sent to college students from universities across the country this month. The RIAA has sent thousands of such letters in batches since February 2007. This is the third time that the RIAA has sent letters to groups of MIT affiliates: 23 letters were sent in May 2007, and 30 were sent in September 2007.
By asking for settlements in these letters, the RIAA avoids ordering costly subpoenas that force universities to release the identities of alleged infringers and following up on those subpoenas with copyright infringement lawsuits. The letters also, according to the RIAA, “provide students the opportunity to resolve copyright infringement claims against them at a discounted rate before a formal lawsuit is filed.” […]