She vaguely remembers talking to Miriam about her music copying practices and telling her, "It doesn't seem ethical to me." Miriam says if the conversation did take place -- she doesn't recall it -- it wouldn't have affected her downloading.
After all, that's what she would expect her mother to say.
Other downloaders say their parents encourage their file sharing and CD burning, either directly or unwittingly. Amber said her mother didn't know a thing about computers, and her father didn't object to her using Kazaa. He even asked her to make a CD for him of songs from Body & Soul, a music channel on cable TV, so she dutifully downloaded a number of R&B classics and put them on a disc.
RIAA officials hope that the coming wave of lawsuits will prompt more parents to crack down on their teens' downloading. The RIAA plans to sue the people responsible for the Internet accounts used to share files, and not necessarily the file sharers themselves. If a Kazaa-crazed teen is targeted, his or her parents are the ones who'll be named as defendants.
The lawsuits probably will change some young downloaders' attitudes too. In a recent survey by Forrester Research of 1,170 12- to 22-year-olds, nearly 70% said they would stop downloading music if there was a "serious risk" of being fined or jailed.
But James DeLong, director of the Center for the Study of Digital Property at the Progress & Freedom Foundation, a conservative think tank, said enforcement won't be effective unless the music industry offers compelling legal alternatives to file sharing.
"If they have the stuff available legitimately, then they can make the moral case that people ought to be paying the artist," he said. "And I think people will accept that."
For Miriam Philips, free music is a thing of the past. Her ethics meter has been reset since college, she said. Of course, it helps to be back home, a couple of thousand miles away from the daily temptations of the Brandeis computer network.
"It's easier to refuse to do it," she said, "because you're not doing it on a daily basis."
To read more Times coverage on music sharing and piracy, go to latimes.com/piracy.