University policy explicitly prohibits individuals from using its computer systems and networks to violate copyright law. Some peer-to-peer file-sharing—including uploading or downloading copyrighted music—may violate copyright law. It is important for all users of the University's systems to understand their responsibilities and the University's obligations regarding copyright.
What is peer-to-peer file sharing?
File sharing is the process of making files available for other users to download and use. Peer-to-peer, commonly known as P2P, sharing is when individuals store files on their personal computers and enable their computers as servers so that others may download the files.
Is peer-to-peer file sharing unlawful?
Peer-to-peer file sharing is not, itself, unlawful. It is what and how one shares files using peer-to-peer networks that that may or may not be lawful. There are many legitimate and lawful uses of peer-to-peer networks. There are also unscrupulous and unlawful uses of those networks. It is the responsibility of all University constituents who use peer-to-peer technology to do so lawfully.
What is appropriate file sharing and what isn't?
Unless you are the copyright holder or have express permission to share someone else's copyrighted works, you are almost certainly violating someone's copyrights if you upload copyrighted works to the Internet to share via a peer-to-peer network.
While there are some circumstances in which unauthorized downloading may be lawful, downloading songs instead of purchasing them is clearly unlawful. Unless you are the copyright holder or have express permission to download someone else's copyrighted works, you are highly likely to be violating someone's copyrights if you download copyrighted works via a peer-to-peer network.
What is the University doing to educate the campus community?
Besides addressing the issue in orientation sessions, the Office of Information Technology has begun an education process to assure that those using WMU resources to share files are aware of what they are doing. See what you need to know about peer-to-peer file sharing.
What are the sanctions for violating University policies?
Violations of these rules are subject to the investigative and disciplinary procedures of the University with the Office of Information Technology acting in an advisory role. Complaints against students' abuse are usually forwarded to and handled by the Office of Student Conduct. Complaints against faculty and staff are forwarded to and handled by the supervisors and/or the appropriate vice president and sometimes, in the case of faculty members, to the provost's office.
Where can I find information related to copyright issues?
See copyright policies.
How did the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) track me down and why am I being targeted?
The University doesn't know the specific method the RIAA uses to identify individuals on campus. Nonetheless, the RIAA is able to identify IP addresses that it alleges were unlawfully used to upload copyrighted music to the Internet. The RIAA has begun a more targeted campaign to discourage unlawful peer-to-peer file sharing by focusing its efforts on postsecondary institutions.
How and when will I be notified if I'm in violation?
The University's computer security officer will notify all owners of offending IP addresses as soon as possible.
What if I don't want to settle with RIAA? What are my options?
With the threat of any lawsuit, it is a good idea to consult an attorney. If the RIAA sues you and you don't want to settle, the alternative is to defend yourself against the lawsuit.
What if I fail to respond to a notice of violation?
If an individual fails to respond, the RIAA will file a lawsuit in Federal District Court. The RIAA will issue a subpoena to the University compelling it to disclose the name associated with a particular IP address.
Will the University defend me?
No, it is recommended that you seek independent legal representation.
Will the University also seek disciplinary action against me?
Individuals who have received previous written warnings regarding peer-to-peer file sharing may receive disciplinary action from the University.
Should I delete all software and files from my computer?
In this context, it is entirely up to each individual what programs and files they keep on their computers. However, if the RIAA has targeted your IP address, it has all the information it needs. Destroying evidence will not invalidate the case against an individual.
How do I know if I have file-sharing software on my computer?
Generally, individuals must download the software needed for file sharing. If you are not sure if you have this software, please contact the Help Desk for assistance at (269) 387-4357, option 1.
Could I be in violation for downloading music or is this just for file sharing (uploading)?
Yes, it is possible to unlawfully download music. However, the RIAA typically targets individuals who have uploaded (shared) files. Nonetheless, unlawful downloading or uploading of copyrighted music is a violation of University policies and (of course) the law.
How can I stop people from getting into my files? How can I protect myself?
Please see File Sharing Safety Precautions for instructions on how to disable file sharing on each one.
Why doesn't the University remove the technology/software from campus computers that enable illegal file sharing?
Most file sharing takes place on computers owned by individuals. The University does not have the authority to unilaterally remove these applications from personal computers. Moreover, there are many legitimate and lawful uses for these applications, for instance in research, teaching, and scholarship. A number of P2P providers exist on the Internet, some legitimate, some not. Individuals who download music or videos from these sites may be exposed to the software that enables file sharing. In order to avoid sharing, the individual must know how to "turn off" that feature. The Help Desk how to previously mentioned does a very good job of explaining how to disable such file sharing.
What is the difference between uploading and downloading?
In a complete file-sharing cycle, items are uploaded from one computer and downloaded into another. One could upload and share songs they had written and recorded with others who have written and recorded their own music and this is a lawful activity. Peer-to-peer software, however, doesn't distinguish between content that is copyrighted and content that is not. Having peer-to-peer software installed on one's computer leaves the door open for copyrighted songs, which may have been purchased and downloaded legally, to be unlawfully uploaded without the owner of the computer's knowledge or permission.
How can I download music or other copyrighted works?
Downloading itself is not illegal per se. It is what you download that may violate the law. There are many companies that sell access to digital works and you may purchase them through those vendors. You should read their terms of conditions carefully though as there are sham companies that appear to be legal but are not.
Am I safe if I turn off uploading in my peer-to-peer software?
Not necessarily. Any time you have peer-to-peer software installed on your computer you take a risk. Some applications will reset themselves to upload every time you use them, even if you'd previously set them not to upload. You are responsible for your use of this technology. If you choose to use it, you will have to keep checking to assure that you are using it lawfully.
Am I violating University policy to have peer-to-peer software on my computer?
No. There are lawful uses for this technology. It is how you use the software that may violate University policy and/or the law.
Am I violating University policy to use peer-to-peer software to upload and download?
Not necessarily. It is how and what you upload and download that may violate University policy and/or the law.
How is it possible for someone to upload without their knowledge?
Many peer-to-peer applications come already configured to upload. If one does not specifically reconfigure the application to prevent uploading, it is possible to be uploading without knowledge of doing so. With some applications, even if one has reconfigured them to not upload, they will reset themselves to do so. Also, if one allows others to use their computer, they may have downloaded and installed these applications unbeknownst to the computer's owner.
What is the University's peer-to-peer education project?
The Office of Information Technology runs an automated system that notices when computers on WMU's networks (ResNet and WMUnet) appear to be uploading files using peer-to-peer file sharing technology. They will then send an e-mail to the person identified as the registered owner of the computer. This system does not look at content being uploaded, nor content on the computer's hard drive, it will simply send an e-mail to the computer's owner letting them know that their computer appears to be engaged in peer-to-peer uploading and referring them to this website.
Why is the University doing this?
The University is doing this because many people who are using file sharing technology are doing so in ways that may result in copyright infringement or other risks. WMU receives hundreds of notices of illegal downloads via Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaints, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) preservation notices or RIAA pre-settlement, subpoenas, and/or settlement letters. Many users reported that they had not intended to upload and/or that they thought they'd turned uploading off or confined it to uploading files they could lawfully upload. This project is a way to provide education to those who are at risk of unlawful file sharing.
How does the project work?
The project runs on University networks and doesn't block uploading. It will simply send an email to the computer's registered owner informing them that uploading is taking place from their computer. Nothing is downloaded to the user's computer and it does not affect the performance of the computer or the network. Neither content of the file(s) being uploaded, nor the computer's hard drive is looked at.
If I am using my file-sharing software to lawfully upload, will I still get emailed?
Yes. The project does not discern whether or not you are uploading legal files. It will send an email every time it notices uploading, but not more than once per 24 hour period. If you upload every day, you will receive an email every day.
Can I opt-out of receiving these messages?
No, at this time, you may not. It is easy to be unwittingly uploading and being informed when it is happening may save you from serious consequences.
Can others see my uploading activities?
Yes, anyone on the Internet who chooses to look may see it, including the RIAA who is looking and who is sending cease and desist notices.
Does the University care about the unlawful downloading of copyrighted material?
Yes. It is a violation of University policy to engage in copyright infringement, which includes using peer-to-peer file-sharing software to download copyrighted works.
Is any other information being monitored on my computer?
No, the education project only recognizes peer-to-peer file sharing uploading activities and the IP address of the computer that is uploading. It doesn't identify any of the computer's hard drive content, or even if the item being uploaded is lawful or unlawful.
Will I be in trouble with the University if this project identifies me as one doing lots of peer-to-peer filesharing?
This project is an educational tool, not an enforcement tool. It is designed to be a service to inform you so you may determine for yourself if your file-sharing activities are lawful or unlawful.
Where can I go for support and/or questions?
Please see Digital Millennium Copyright Act violations for more information or you may also contact the Help Desk at (269) 387-4357.