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Avoiding Copyright Infringement

What happens if I receive a copyright infringement notice, and how can I avoid it?

Downloading or distributing whole copies of copyrighted material for personal use or entertainment without explicit permission from the copyright owner is against the law. Copyright law applies to materials such as music, movies, games, and other software in digital and analog format. File sharing applications such as KaZaA, BitTorrent, eDonkey, and LimeWire are not illegal, though many people using such applications share illegal materials, and don’t have permission to distribute them. When you download a copy of one of these illegally distributed files to your own computer, even if you download only one song, you are committing an illegal action. In addition, purchasing a music CD generally does not give you the right to distribute or share the songs on it.

While the law may permit the fair use of a copyrighted work for such purposes as teaching, scholarship, research, criticism, comment, news reporting, etc., don’t assume that all such uses are “fair.” Fair use depends on a balance of four factors: the purpose of your use, the nature of the work, the amount of the work used, and the effect of your use on the potential market of the work.

While Brescia University does not actively search for instances of copyright violation, investigations into degradation of service and network problems, as well as routine security administration, can expose violations. In such cases, the University is obligated to investigate, just as it is for complaints of illegal activities or inappropriate use taking place on the Brescia network. Copyright owners do actively search for copyright infringements of their works using the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). When Brescia IT Department receives such a complaint or discovers a violation via other means, the University is legally required to remove the offending material from the Brescia University network.

I received a communication from the University about illegal downloading. Am I being accused of illegal downloading?

The University can receive a number of different types of notices regarding alleged copyright infringement by members of the University community. The different types of notices are discussed below.

a. Copyright Infringement Notice

The University receives a number of copyright infringements notices periodically. These notices are typically sent to the [email protected] (or similar address for the regional campuses) or by postal mail from our Internet Service Provider. These types of notices typically refer to the transmission of material on the University’s network that allegedly infringes upon the copyright of another. The University receives many of these notices from trade associations (e.g., the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) or the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) who are authorized to act on behalf of the artists that they represent.

Sample infringement notice

These infringement notices identify an alleged offender by Internet Protocol (IP) address. In many cases, the University is able to use its IT resources and log files in order to identify the individual using the particular IP address at the time indicated in the infringement notice. If the University is able to reasonably identify the user under its current technological practices, we will forward the copyright infringement notice to the individual so identified.

b. RIAA Settlement Letters

In March 2007, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) increased its efforts to curtail unlawful peer-to-peer file sharing of copyrighted music over the Internet, and on college campuses in particular. As part of their new increased effort, the RIAA is sending University Internet Service Providers (ISP) “settlement letters” with Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of alleged offenders requesting that the ISP forward the letters to users whom the RIAA alleges has infringed upon RIAA copyrights. These letters threaten a lawsuit against the individuals who are identified in the letter by an IP address, but offer to settle the claim (the alleged illegal infringement) for a sum of money.

RIAA Settlement Letter sample

When Brescia University receives a notice of threatened legal action from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) or any other copyright holder, it will forward that document to members of the Brescia community identified as the owner on record at Brescia of the Internet Protocol (IP) address provided to us by the RIAA (the University can reasonably identify the user under its current technological practices). Although Brescia University is not obligated to forward such documents, we feel that it is in your best interest to be fully informed and aware of a pending legal action against you from the RIAA.

Brescia University is not passing judgment on whether the RIAA allegations are valid; but is merely forwarding the documents sent to the University from the RIAA. It will be entirely up to you to decide how to respond to this notice. At no point during this identification and forward process will the University provide identity information to the RIAA. The University will merely forward the RIAA settlement letter to the student and the individual student involved can determine the course of action that he or she wishes to pursue.

c. Subpoenas

Witnesses to litigation are sometimes in possession of materials relevant to an impending lawsuit. A subpoena is the mechanism used to make a formal legal demand for the production of needed items. Brescia University will at all times comply with valid subpoenas requesting information.

Brescia University provides identity information to third parties only in conjunction with valid subpoenas or other valid, legal requests and in compliance with other applicable laws such as FERPA. Brescia University will not provide any identity information other than that information which is publicly available without a legal obligation to do so.