Illegal File Sharing and Downloading at UNCW and the DMCA
In October 1998, Congress and the President signed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The intent of the DMCA is to restrain and eliminate illegal downloads and file sharing – piracy of proprietary content.
The most significant provisions of the DMCA:
- It is a criminal offense to circumvent anti-piracy measures built into software.
- Provided they comply with the statutory requirements, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), including universities providing bandwidth, internet, and other electronic services to their faculty, students, and staff, are not susceptible to vicarious infringement exposure due to the activity of their users simply by providing the network transmitting the illegal files.
- ISPs are liable if they have knowledge of infringing downloads and they fail to remove or have the infringing material removed from users’ sites.
P2P file sharing and illegal downloading occur in the university environment since the institutions are generally providing users significant bandwidth distribution for research and scholarship. Because the DMCA requires copyright holders to notify UNCW if a student user has illegally downloaded content, students who utilize their computing privileges to misuse the bandwidth for illegal downloads and file sharing will face:
- The termination of their computing privileges;
- Further university disciplinary action; and/or
- The very real prospect of criminal prosecution by the notifying holder of copyright.
Sharing and/or downloading copyrighted music, videos, and film is both illegal and against UNCW policy. It is critical that students understand the implications of illegal file sharing and downloading are severe, and that they refrain from such activity. The recording and motion picture industries have adopted an increasingly aggressive position in finding and prosecuting individual infringers, particularly in the university setting, for the sole purpose of making an example of impermissible uses and deterring other infringing activities.
A highly recommended alternative is for student users to subscribe to a legal downloading service so they can legally and permissibly download digital media and keep themselves safe from prosecution and/or revocation of their Internet & Computing privileges.
The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) lists many of their approved music downloading services.
UNCW has the following procedures in place to deal with students who are in violation of applicable copyright laws:
- UNCW receives an official complaint about a student's illegal file sharing or downloading from the RIAA, MPAA (Motion Pictures Association of America), or other official organizations.
- IT Security reviews network logs to locate the registered user of the machine indicated in the complaint. This information as well as the complaint is sent to Office of the Dean of Students.
- The student receives an email notifying them of the complaint. The actual complaint is also in the email so the student can see both the verbiage used by the alleging party and the details of the infraction.
- Attached to this email is a warning letter that notifies the student that any additional complaints will result in them being charged with a violation of the Code of Student Life. This warning letter also includes links to ITSD policy, the Code of Student Life, Campus Downloading.com, and the video on Campus Downloading.com.
- If a second violation occurs, the student is documented through the conduct process and if found to be responsible will be placed on disciplinary probation and/or lose their internet access privileges.
UNCW expects all users of its system to comply with applicable copyright laws. For more information on our copyright stance, go to: http://www.uncw.edu/www/copyright.html
Summary of Civil and Criminal Penalties for Violation of Federal Copyright Laws
Copyright infringement is the act of exercising, without permission or legal authority, one or more of the exclusive rights granted to the copyright owner under section 106 of the Copyright Act (Title 17 of the United States Code). These rights include the right to reproduce or distribute a copyrighted work. In the file-sharing context, downloading or uploading substantial parts of a copyrighted work without authority constitutes an infringement.
Penalties for copyright infringement include 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, in 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 of up to five years and fines of up to $250,000 per offense.
In accordance with the DMCA, UNCW has designated an agent to receive notification of alleged copyright infringement occurring on Web pages or computer servers. If you believe that your copyrighted work is being infringed on a UNCW site, please notify our designated agent, preferably by e-mail at:
Administrator: Zachery Mitcham
Campus mail box: #5619
U.S. Mail: UNC Wilmington, 601 S. College Road, Wilmington, NC 28403