Although a popular activity, distributing a copyrighted file without permission of the copyright holder - whether on campus or via internet - is illegal. Often such sharing utilizes peer-to-peer (P2P) network programs, such as bitTorrent or Limewire.
Here's the bottom line: If you distribute copyrighted music without authorization from the copyright owner, you are breaking the law. Distribution can mean anything from "sharing" music/movie files on the Internet to burning multiple copies of copyrighted music/movies onto blank CDs and selling or giving them to others.
Recording companies, movie and video producers and other content owners actively monitor the Internet to find computers distributing copyrighted files. Lawrence University receives notices of alleged infringements, and under the law we contact users we believe are associated with such activity.
What happens if I get caught?!?
Industries that rely heavily on the creation and sale of digital materials - like record companies, movie studios, and software vendors - monitor the Internet aggressively to detect and prosecute violations of their copyrights. When one of these agencies discovers what it believes to be a copyright infringement by a computer on the Lawrence network, it triggers the following chain of events:
- The agency sends a violation notice to the University's DMCA contact.
- The contact asks Technology Services to locate the computer specified in the alleged violation, determine who owns or is responsible for that machine, and forward that information to the Dean of Students. Just for illustration purposes, let's say that person is you.
- If it is the first time you have received a violation, you will be contacted by the Dean of Students (if you are a Lawrence University employee Technology Services/Human Resources), reminded of the law, and asked to remove the offending content from your computer. Assuming you comply, that's the end of it. If you have questions about how to remove illegal content, please contact the Technology Services Helpdesk.
- Failure to restrict peer-to-peer filesharing applications appropriately, whether or not you were aware of the violation, will result in your computer being removed from the network until the copyright violation has been rectified. Any further reports of copyright infringement or violations of the computer use policy may result in a referral to the campus Judicial Board (or the Provost Office/Human Resources if you are a Lawrence University employee).
- You may be subject to legal action: indeed, in past years, many colleges and universities have responded to subpoenas for the identity of users who allegedly download and share copyrighted material using file sharing programs, and hundreds of students have faced law suits in the tens of thousands of dollars for distribution of copyrighted songs, television shows, or movies.
Some actions you can take to avoid copyright law infringement and legal action include:
- Ensure that your file sharing application is not set to share the files you have on your computer. If it is set to share files, ensure that you have explicit permission from the copyright holders for sharing ALL of the files stored using this application.
- Ensure that the distributor of a file you are interested in downloading has permission from the copyright holder to be distributing it. Give yourself the benefit of doubt and assume that you do not have permission to download or distribute a file unless you have proof to the contrary.
- When you purchase music, movies, games, software, and other multi-media files, READ THE LICENSE carefully. It will tell you if you have permission to convert the material to other formats for your own use, and whether or not you can share the material with others.
- Educate yourself on what you can legally download and what you can legally share with others.
- Monitor the popular news and press to keep up-to-date on the efforts of the music and movie industries to propose legislation to safeguard their intellectual property rights, and ensure that your voice is heard by your local legislators when you have an opinion on these proposed measures.
- List of legal online music sources from RIAA (http://www.whymusicmatters.com/whymusicmatters.com/find-music.html)
- EDUCAUSE Legal Sources of Online Content (https://www.educause.edu/focus-areas-and-initiatives/policy-and-security/educause-policy/legal-sources-onli)
- How to not get sued for filesharing (https://www.eff.org/wp/how-not-get-sued-file-sharing) from the Electronic Frontier Foundation