The major Hollywood studios and record companies have a new lesson for college students: The faster you download movies and music, the sooner...

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HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — The major Hollywood studios and record companies have a new lesson for college students: The faster you download movies and music, the sooner you may end up in a courtroom.

Leaders of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) announced yesterday they expect to file hundreds of lawsuits today against students nationwide who use a program called “i2hub.”

To be included are students at the University of Southern California, the University of California, San Diego, and the University of California, Berkeley, all of whom are identified only as John Does.

The i2hub software, released last year by a University of Massachusetts freshman, enables users to copy files in a fraction of the time required by other file-sharing programs. Users connect to each other through Internet2, an accelerated version of the Internet that reaches more than 300 universities, government agencies and other institutions.

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The average number of music files on defendant’s computers is 2,300, RIAA President Cary Sherman said, with one computer containing as many as 3,900 songs.

Sherman acknowledged his group found non-infringing files, but many more illegally obtained files.

“We didn’t see many copies of the Bible or works of Shakespeare,” he said.

Songs can be downloaded on Internet2 in 20 seconds, Sherman said, with movies taking less than five minutes. This marks a significant speed advantage over the Web, he said, where it can take one to two minutes to download a song and well over an hour for a movie.

The record companies plan to sue 405 people at 18 campuses. The MPAA said it planned to sue students at UC, San Diego, and six other universities, but would not specify how many.

The RIAA said its lawsuits addressed a small slice of the piracy by i2hub users. It said its researchers found evidence of infringements at 140 additional universities in 41 states.

The music and movie trade associations moved with unusual speed against i2hub users, filing suits a little more than a year after the program made its debut. By contrast, the record companies did not sue users of conventional file-sharing programs until 2003, four years after the pioneering Napster file-sharing network launched.

“We cannot let this high-speed network become a zone of lawlessness where the normal rules don’t apply,” Sherman said in a news release. “By taking this initial action, we are putting students and administrators everywhere on notice that there are consequences for unlawful uses of this special network.”

The i2hub program is the brainchild of Michael Chang, on leave from the University of Massachusetts. File-sharing experts said the program provides a centralized directory that leads users to files stored on other users’ computers.

The program is reminiscent of the original Napster, in which Chang played a minor role while he was a high-school student. Among other voluntary contributions, Chang developed a way for users to circumvent the anti-piracy filters Napster added after a federal judge’s order.

“The i2hub Organization (i2hub) does not condone activities and actions that breach the rights of copyright owners,” Chang said in a news release. “Our companies are focused on bringing together students and connecting them in ways never before achieved.”

Los Angeles Times reporter Joseph Menn contributed to this story. Information on the number and speed of copied files provided by the Washington Post