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Copyright & File Sharing F.A.Q.

For more information about copyright and file-sharing, including legal alternatives to peer-to-peer software and terms you should know, download our Copyright & File-Sharing F.A.Q. (pdf, 80K) brochure.

How do I know a file is copyright protected?

With software, copyright is usually outlined in a licensing agreement that you must agree to in order to install or use a program. With music, movies, and other forms of entertainment, copyright is usually indicated by the "Copyright Sign" (©), which is featured on the packaging or on the actual media.

This sign indicates that copyright owners wish to retain all rights pertaining to the publication and distribution of their work. Assume that a work of intellectual property is copyright-protected unless you have created it, received the author's explicit permission to use it, or you know for a fact that it has been released for free use or is in the public domain.

Under the federal law, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years, for any work published after 1978.

What are the consequences of copyright infringement?

If you are suspected of a copyright violation, you face disciplinary action from the University (your network connection will be disabled and your name may be forwarded to the Dean of Students Office) and possible settlement fees (the minimum statutory damage is $750 per file; substantial out-of-court settlements have been reported). Remember: even one unauthorized download or upload can put you at risk for a lawsuit.

I have received a Copyright Violation Notice – what do I do?

If you are suspected of a copyright violation, copyright holders (or a designated agent) will file a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) complaint against you with the University. Using the IP address and timestamp that identifies your connection listed on the complaint, IT will inform you directly of the alleged infringement and disable your network connection.

In most cases, the suspension of your network connection is not permanent. To restore your Internet connection, return the signed Notice of Copyright Violation Form (pdf, 104k) to the IT Help Center (A109 LGRC) and take the Copyright Quiz. If this is your second violation, you must attend a mandatory Copyright Class. Your name may also be forwarded to the Dean of Students' office for disciplinary action.

In some cases, the copyright holder will offer a settlement option before pursuing any legal action. This is referred to as an Early Settlement Letter. We recommend you seek legal counsel at this point.

Can IT tell me which files on my computer violated copyright?

No. IT does not perform digital forensics and cannot tell you which files are speicifically violating copyright. We recommend that you thoroughly clean your computer, disable file-sharing and uninstall any P2P applications immediately. Learn how...

Does IT monitor my Internet connection?

No. We do not monitor your online activities or issue copyright complaints. However, when the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) or any other copyright holder files a complaint against you, we are required to disable your Internet connection and notify you of your alleged violation.

What if someone else used my computer to download copyrighted materials?

You are responsible for all activities originating from your computer(s). Do not share your NetID (IT Account user name) and password with anyone and do not register on the campus network 'shared' computers or computers that you do not own.

Is file-sharing illegal?

Although there are legitimate uses for file-sharing technologies (e.g., podcast downloads, open-source software), not all of the content (e.g., software, music, videos, etc.) available on these networks is distributed legally. The fact that this content is available does not mean it is legal for you to download it.

If you use file-sharing technologies to download content from the Internet, make sure that you are getting this content from a legitimate source with the legal right to distribute this content. The best way to determine the legality of a download is to use common sense; if your download did not originate from a legitimate source, it is likely to be illegal. If you are not sure it's legal to download a file, do not download it!

I bought it. Why can't I share it?

When you purchase a work of intellectual property, you are usually obtaining the right to use this content for your personal use. Most often, this does not include the right to broadcast this content publicly or distribute copies to others. Look for the copyright logo (©) on the packaging, the media, or the Web site where you obtained the work.

I live off-campus, am I still liable?

Yes. Downloading copyrighted content illegally is prohibited regardless of the network you use. If you use an off-campus network for unauthorized downloads and file sharing, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) will communicate with you directly.

How can I legally download music, movies, or other entertainment?

Not all content creators make their work available online. To find out where you can obtain a legitimate version of a copyrighted work, start at the source. Content creators' official Web sites may sell their work directly or have links to other authorized outlets. Also, check legitimate online music and video stores, (e.g., eMusic, iTunes, Amazon MP3 Store, Rhapsody, etc.). Consider streaming services, such as Web radio stations, Pandora, or Last.FM. These services have agreements with content creators that allow them to broadcast their work online.
Note: IT does not endorse or support any of these services.

I intend to use a copyrighted work for an educational purpose, is it legal?

Copyrighted works may be used for educational purposes under the umbrella of 'fair use'. Fair use refers to a set of guidelines that allow you to use or reproduce copyrighted works for educational purposes without securing permission from the copyright holder. Fair use does not allow you to circumvent copyright protection or to download or distribute illegal copies of copyrighted materials.