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The future of four Ohio State University students remains in question one month after police stormed into their dormitory rooms and confiscated computer equipment used in an alleged file-trading ring.

Patrick Muckerman, John Wieseman, Eric Diamond and Josh Cavinee still attend OSU, but are sans PCs after a lengthy investigation into their use of Direct Connect file sharing software. Rumors at the school say the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) pressured OSU into shutting down any copyrighted file-swapping, but now the university is not quite sure what to do. Should the students be fined like the four other martyrs punished earlier this year or should the school turn a cheek and send the kit home?

OSU has become protective of its file-trading caper, calling for near total silence from various departments. The public relations office would not utter a peep. The campus police passed the buck as well, leaving Director of Public Safety Vernon Baisden to answer all calls.

"It's premature to speculate at this point," he said. "We're not sure how it will pan out.

"It will take its natural course."

What is the natural course in this situation? The police began their investigation into the students' affairs more than two months ago. The seized PCs should provide something approaching an immediate idea as to the extent of the file-trading. The evidence is there, Kojak. Charge them or let them go.

"You would expect something to have happened by now, but it hasn't," said one OSU spokeswoman last week.

It should be noted that the file-trading ring in question actually resembles something closer to four students providing search engines for their peers. OSU must have heard of Google.

The campus police are still looking into the matter and Baisden confirmed the students could well face criminal charges. But until they make up their minds, the campus police won't offer a word about the situation.

"We were told not to talk about this anymore," said the Campus Police operator.

Maybe Baisden can find some time out of his day - that is when he's not busy with the Task Force on Preventing Celebratory Riots - to nudge Chief Ron Michalec to get a move on. ®

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