Information Technology Services

File Sharing Frequently Asked Questions

What is a takedown or Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Notice?
Takedown or DMCA Notices are the most common type of copyright infringement notices that the University receives. Content owners such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) send these notices to the ISP provider (MWSU) from which the file was made available.

How does the University handle takedown DMCA (RIAA and MPAA) notices against students?
When Missouri Western State University, as an ISP provider, receives a takedown DMCA notice regarding a particular user, the notice provides the user’s external IP address, infringement details, the date and time of the infringement. The user’s external IP is then traced to the internal IP, the MAC address, and finally to the user’s ID.

The user is then notified by email that their personal computer was used to reproduce and/or distribute unauthorized copies of one or more copyrighted recordings. The Director of IT Services and the System Administrator are also notified of the infringement.

The email states that this is a violation of federal copyright laws and the MWSU Computing Guidelines.

The email includes instructions for obtaining assistance in properly removing any illegal file(s) and the elimination of the file sharing capability within the file sharing application (e.g. Limewire, Gnutella, Frostwire, Napster, BitTorrent, etc.) used to distribute the file(s) from your computer.

The user is required to provide written confirmation of compliance, by emailing the ITS System Administrator by the date indicated in the original email.

What happens if I don’t acknowledge the notice or comply with the University’s requests?
If the user does not comply by the date indicated in the original email (usually five business days), the user’s access to the MWSU computer resources and MWSU network is terminated.

Should the user violate any MWSU Computing Guideline or the MWSU Acceptable Use Policy during the remainder of the current semester, the user’s access to the MWSU computer resources and MWSU network is suspended.

If I comply with all of the University’s requests, am I protected from further action against me?
As a matter of University policy, you must comply with the procedures. It is important to understand that even if you comply fully with the University’s takedown procedure, you are not shielded from potential liability from third parties like the RIAA, who retain the right to sue you for the underlying infringing activity.

What is a Preservation Notice?
The RIAA sometimes sends preservation notices to MWSU requesting that MWSU preserve contact information of the persons associated with IP addresses alleged to have infringed their copyrighted works. MWSU will generally comply with such notices; however, MWSU will not release the contact information based on the preservation letter alone. Preservation notices are sometimes followed by early settlement letters (see below).

What is an Early Settlement Letter?
The RIAA sends campus ISPs, such as MWSU, “Early Settlement Letters” to be forwarded to the persons associated with IP addresses alleged to have infringed their copyrighted works. The early settlement letter advises the user that he or she may soon be subject to a lawsuit in connection with the allegedly infringing activity, provides a sample of the recordings that the user allegedly infringed, and suggests that user consider settling the claim to avoid the RIAA filing their claims in court (the “Early Settlement Letter” includes a link to a settlement website where a credit card payment can be made ).

Since December 2008, the RIAA has stated publicly that it has suspended its early settlement process, but there is no guarantee that it will not sue students again.

If at some point, Early Settlement Letters are reintroduced and you receive one, you may wish to seek the advice of an attorney. The University’s Office of the General Counsel does not represent students, so you would need to seek independent legal representation.

Past letter recipients who did not want to settle with the RIAA were frequently sued. As part of this process, the RIAA would issue a subpoena to MWSU requesting the disclosure of your name and identifying information.

How does MWSU respond to subpoenas from the RIAA?
If served with a valid subpoena from the RIAA, the University will comply with the subpoena, providing the requested information.

I didn’t personally upload any copyrighted materials. Am I still responsible?
You are responsible for any violation that occurs using your registered network addresses. This includes any downloading that occurs on a wireless router that you have registered on the University network or activity using a VPN connection to the MWSU network.

I bought those songs legally using iTunes (or similar software). Why am I receiving a complaint?
Even if you have legally purchased a copyrighted work, it is still a violation of copyright law to distribute it to others without the content owner’s permission. If you are making the works available for downloading (whether knowingly or not), you may receive an infringement notice or be subject to other legal action based on the copyright holder claims that you are allowing other people to download their material.

How can I be sure that I am not sharing copyrighted works on my computer with others?
By default, P2P file-sharing applications enable uploading of files from your computer to others. To stop uploading, you either have to remove the P2P application from your computer, locate and change the options that control uploading in the application, or disconnect the computer from the network. Even after you have disabled uploading on a P2P application, a software update or other resetting mechanism may reset your preferences to resume uploading. You can reduce this risk by monitoring your use of the software, learning about the underlying technology, and familiarizing yourself with the laws that govern your use of these applications. If you want to be certain that you are not distributing copyright files over the Internet and campus network contact ITS Help Desk for assistance in removing the P2P software application.

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