Information Technology Services

File Sharing Compliance

Top Three Ways to Ensure Compliance with the Law

1. Do not install P2P file-sharing software on your computer

  • By default, P2P applications will search for and share content on your computer with others. P2P applications usually run as soon as you turn on your computer and continue to run in the background. Even if you disable uploading, copyrighted content in a “shared” folder can be seen by others using the same P2P network and many P2P programs may reset preferences to resume uploading.
  • The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and other content owners use the same P2P software that file sharers do! Their aim is to catch file sharers sharing their protected content with others. If you’re running a P2P program, chances are that the RIAA is running the same software. In fact, the person downloading a song from you may be working for the RIAA and may be compiling evidence against you. It has happened to thousands of P2P users, and it can happen to you.

2. Do not use a University network for file sharing

  • Content owners specifically target illegal file sharing on university networks. The RIAA has employed aggressive legal strategies, such as forwarding the University legal documents for alleged infringers and filing infringement lawsuits.

3. Always be sure to secure your wireless router in your residence hall or home

  • If you’ve registered your wireless router using your NetID, any activity that occurs on the router can be tracked back to you. This means that if your roommate is sharing copyrighted works using the wireless connection that you set up in your residence hall, you can be held personally responsible, and be sued by the RIAA.
  • If you use VPN connections from home, your home network becomes visible as part of the MWSU network.

What are the consequences of sharing copyrighted materials?
Copyright infringement constitutes a violation of university policy and may create potential liability for both civil and criminal actions. The actions that the university takes are described in the section “How does the University handle DMCA takedown notices?”

Please note that action on the part of the university as a matter of policy does not remedy or immunize a user against possible legal actions that the content owner, or in very serious cases involving large quantities of material possible criminal actions on the part of law enforcement. A content owner may bring an infringement claim against a user and by law is entitled to a minimum of $750 for each infringement; if intent to infringe copyright is demonstrated, statutory damages may go as high as $150,000 per infringement. Since 1997, the No Electronic Theft Act eliminated the requirement that the infringer make a profit from the infringement, thus creating liability specifically in the case of file sharing type of programs and their users. For users who distribute large quantities of copyrighted materials, or advertise their services to users even though they receive no financial benefit, they may be subject to criminal investigations and incarceration if proved guilty.

Portions of this page are based on web documentation produced by Yale University and are used with permission.