You, as a university faculty, staff or student, are the target of a national crackdown on the illegal downloading and distribution of copyrighted digital media via peer-to-peer (p2p) file sharing applications. If you use a p2p file sharing application, you may be violating federal law by unwittingly distributing copyrighted video (movies) and sound (music) files. The motion picture and recording industry associations have pursued and won civil cases for thousands of dollars against college and university students for copyright infringement.

 

Any MSU Billings student, staff or faculty member who uses the MSU Billings Network for the illegal downloading or distribution of copyrighted material risks a lawsuit from the copyright owner, loss of access to the MSU Billings Network and resources, and disciplinary action by MSU Billings.

 

Understanding Copyright Infringement

 

Consistent with MSU Billing’s educational principles, we believe that education is the most effective element in combating illegal file sharing.

 

In general, copyright infringement occurs whenever someone makes a copy of any copyrighted work, such as music, video, software, cartoons, photographs, or manuscripts, without permission (e.g., a license) from the copyright owner and without falling within the specific exceptions provided for under the current copyright laws. These exceptions include "fair use" (limited circumstances where use of copyrighted material without permission is allowable for purposes of news reporting, criticism, commentary or teaching) and provisions of the Audio Home Recording Act, which allows for noncommercial copying of lawfully acquired music onto recordable compact discs (CD-Rs). For more specific information about current U.S. Copyright law, please visit http://www.copyright.gov/.

 

How does Copyright Infringement occur using p2p file sharing?

 

Peer-to-peer (p2p) computing is a powerful technology that has many uses. p2p networks can be used to share and exchange music, movies, software, and other digital media. The use of p2p networks to upload, download or share copyrighted digital media can violate the rights of copyright owners.

 

For example, when a p2p network user downloads a copyrighted movie for which he/she has not purchased the rights to view, they are violating copyright law in 2 ways:

  1. By obtaining a copy of a movie that they have not purchased the right to view, and
  2. Because of the nature of a p2p network, they are also offering to distribute the copyrighted movie to others who have also not purchased the right to view.

Although some copyright owners release music and video under more generous licenses, such as Creative Commons licenses, all of the major music labels and movie production companies view the sharing of their music and movie files over p2p networks as copyright infringement.

 

Additionally, some p2p applications have default settings that index the files on your computer and make music and video files that you have legitimately acquired available to other users of the p2p network without your being aware of the sharing activity. In such cases, you may unwittingly participate in copyright infringement. Not being aware that your computer is making files available to other users is not a defense for copyright infringement. You are responsible for all of the activity that transpires through your MSU Billings network account or your registered residence hall connection.

 

Consequences of Copyright Infringement on the MSU Billings networks

 

University policy prohibits the use of the MSU Billings Networks to violate copyright law.

 

MSU Billings Network users need to be aware that MSU Billings will pursue and investigate any complaints of copyright infringement on MSU Billings servers made under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

 

For students, staff and faculty members who live or work on campus (in university owned buildings, the residence halls or in family and graduate housing) and use the campus network, be aware that MSU Billings will investigate and punish all copyright violators, using the following strategies:

  • MSU Billings Information Technology will identify and contact faculty, staff or students using the campus network who are targets of claims of copyright infringement. If the individual cannot be contacted, the individual's network connection will be disabled until the user speaks with the Chief Information Officer or one of the IT network analysts.
  • First offenses are opportunities for education about copyright law and how to prevent future violations of copyright law and acceptable use of the campus network.
  • Second and subsequent offenses will result in the loss of campus network service for an indefinite time period, as well as a referral to a sponsoring department head for disciplinary action if staff or faculty, or for students the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs for possible disciplinary action including, but not limited to, permanent or temporary loss of access to the campus network and/or eviction from on campus housing.

Civil and Federal Consequences of Copyright Infringement

 

Infringing conduct exposes the infringer to the risk of serious civil and/or criminal legal penalties. Civil penalties may include actual damages and profits, or statutory damages ($750 to $250,000 per digital work that is infringed). Criminal penalties can include fines and imprisonment. More than 20,000 college and university students have had copyright infringement lawsuits filed against them since the early 2000s.

 

Trade groups such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) vigorously monitor p2p networks, obtaining "snapshots" of users' Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, the files that the users are downloading and sharing (uploading)from their p2p directories, the date and time that downloading or uploadingoccurs, and the Internet Service Provider (ISP) network from which the files are offered.

 

Once the IP address and other information have been obtained, the RIAA, the MPAA and other copyright owners can and do send copyright infringement notices to the MSU Billings network administrators demanding that access to the infringing files be removed immediately. They may also choose to file a "John Doe" lawsuit and issue a subpoena to MSU Billings, demanding the identity of the user connected to that IP address.

 

MSU Billings Technology used to Detect and Deter Illegal File Sharing

 

MSU Billings Network administrators currently employ bandwidth shaping technology to prioritize network traffic. MSU Billings severely limits the amount of bandwidth available to p2p applications.

 

Additionally, MSU Billings Network administrators monitor the network traffic to identify the largest bandwidth users. Identified heavy users may have their network connection limited to ensure fair use of a shared resource.

The MSU Billings network administrators have methods and procedures in place to accept and respond to Copyright Infringement claims under DMCA.

 

MSU Billings will periodically review methods and procedures for detecting and deterring illegal file sharing using relevant assessment criteria, such as the number of copyright infringement claims over a defined period of time.

 

Legal Alternatives to Copyright Infringement

 

For legal alternatives to illegal downloading, Educause maintains a list with links to more than 50 resources for legal alternatives for downloading such as ABC.com, Listen.com, Netflix and iTunes.

 

In conclusion, you need to be aware that sharing music, videos, software, and other copyrighted material may be a violation of both MSU Billings policy and federal law and can expose you to institutional sanctions, and civil and criminal penalties. Please be responsible in your use of copyrighted materials.