P2P File Sharing

Peer to Peer File Sharing and the Law

Important Notice to all Centre College Network Users

The downloading and sharing of copyrighted files (music, videos, and software) continues to be an issue of great concern. Such actions are illegal without the express permission of the copyright holder. Both the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) have a history of suing individuals who are charged with the downloading and distribution of copyrighted materials. Copyright infringement includes civil and criminal penalties. In general, anyone found liable for civil copyright infringement may be ordered to pay either actual damages or “statutory” damages affixed at not less than $750 and not more than $30,000 per work infringed. For “willful” infringement, a court may award up to $150,000 per work infringed. A court can, at its discretion, also assess costs and attorneys’ fees. For details, see Title 17, United States Code, Sections 504, 505. Willful copyright infringement can also result in criminal penalties, including imprisonment for up to five years and fines of up to $250,000 per offense. Court rulings suggest that Centre College, as an Internet Service Provider (ISP), could be compelled to provide the identities of individuals using the campus network (whether on personally-owned or College-owned computers) who are engaged in unauthorized downloading, uploading, or distribution of copyrighted materials should a lawsuit be brought by a copyright holder such as the RIAA. Recent cases suggest that college students are being specifically targeted by the RIAA. From January through August of 2003 the University of Arizona received 300 official notices of copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Students at Princeton , Rensselaer Polytechnic, and Michigan Tech have also been sued.

Accordingly, this notice is posted as a reminder that each constituent of the Centre College community is advised to comply with all applicable laws and to act wisely and judiciously in the use of peer-to-peer file sharing. Further, it is noted that infringement of copyright laws is already defined as a violation of the College's ‘Acceptable Use Policy' (found in the Student Handbook ) governing use of the College computer network. The College regulates Internet bandwidth to give higher priority to those activities that are a critical part of the instructional program and its related administrative functions; lower priorities are in place for recreational use of the bandwidth.

So, what activities are allowed?

You may rip music that you have legally purchased to MP3 format, you may store such songs in your computer or MP3 player for personal use, and you may burn “mix” CD's using your own legally obtained CD's as long as you do not distribute them to others. On the other hand, you may not distribute, upload, download, or transmit music or movies without the express consent of the copyright holder. Furthermore, you should be aware that file-sharing software comes with the default set to share all MP3's stored on your computer, thus making you a distributor even if that was not your intention. Some of these programs also contain spyware that can record computer usage, deliver advertising and other unsolicited files, and allow others access to your files and resources.

Anyone who engages in the downloading and distribution of copyrighted materials is in violation of the College's Acceptable Use Policy , and further in violation of the copyright law. It is best to educate yourself about the law governing digital copyright, and then act wisely.

For further information, you may read Centre's full HEOA P2P Compliance Procedures.