When the Recording Industry Association of America sent letters offering settlements to suspected student music pirates, it can't possibly have expected much of a response.

But the RIAA has now announced that so far 116 students have taken the bait - over a quarter of the number of students originally targeted. The letters were sent out in late February , with another batch arriving on doormats last week. In total, over 405 new pre-litigation settlement letters have been sent to 23 American universities.

So far, the Association has declined to comment further on any of the settlements.

The secret to the ploy's relative success thus far appears to have been in giving the colleges and universities themselves the letters to forward to the relevant students - therefore placing pressure on the institutions to stop illegal activity of their students.

According to the Associated Press (AP) , the RIAA has sued around 18,000 suspected pirates since September 2003. These include around 1,000 students. Many suits were also filed against IP addresses, rather than individuals.

"Part of the rationale for this new program is to offer students a chance to settle early and with no public mark on their record," he said.

AP reported that one letter to an Ohio University student said she had distributed 787 audio files, "putting her total minimum potential liability at more than $590,000." The letter said minimum damages under the law is $750 for each piece of shared music.

Patrick McGee, an attorney Ohio University arranged to meet with its students, told AP that $3,000 is the standard settlement offer, though cases have settled for as much as $5,000.