Peer-to-Peer File Sharing Policy

Many people utilize peer-to-peer file sharing software such as Bittorent, Gnutella, Kazaa and others to download music, movies, software or books. If you do not have the permission of the copyright owner, it is illegal to download these files. The software may also make the files you have on your computer available to be downloaded by others on the Internet. This is always an issue unless you personally own the copyright to the work. Even if you have a legal right to a copy, you may not have the right to share it with the general public.

Copyright Related Laws and Sanctions:

Copyright is the legal protection that creators have over the use, distribution and reproduction of their works, including music, movies, books and software. Copyright infringement occurs when people use, distribute or reproduce these works without the permission of the creator or copyright owner. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) further defines the penalties for copyright infringement, related to digital works.

Courts may award penalties for copyright infringement up to $30,000 per work. If the violation is considered “willful infringement” the penalties may be up to $150,000 per work infringed. There can also be attorney’s fees and willful copyright infringement can result in imprisonment of up to five years and additional fines.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act requires colleges and universities, including Andrews University, to take certain steps to respond to and attempt to prevent the illegal sharing of files.

The Andrews University Computers and Networks Policy includes the “storage or transmission of copyrighted materials without the owner's permission” as a prohibited activity. Those who act in violation of this may be subject to loss of access to network resources and potentially Student Life sanctions.

Andrews University’s Procedures and Sanctions:

  • Lawyers for copyright holders (usually movie or music producers) watch peer-to-peer sites to see who is advertising their protected material as available for download. They email letters called DMCA notices to the University. 
  • Information Technology Services staff review these notices and match as far as possible the provided IP address to an individual. An email is sent to the individual associated with that IP address directing them to remove the material from their peer-to-peer sharing area.
  • If there are additional DMCA notices for the same individual, an interactive conversation will be held with the individual (on phone or in person) to ensure that the individual understands the problem and the necessary steps to correct it.
  • If there are multiple DMCA notices for the same individual and the person is not cooperative in working to resolve the problem, the student’s access to network resources will be removed. The student’s information will also be given to the University’s Student Life office for appropriate sanctions. Additionally, the individual’s name and contact information may be made available to the organization sending the DMCA notices.

Plan to Effectively Combat the Unauthorized Distribution of Copyrighted Material:

Information Technology Services employs bandwidth shaping technologies to detect and limit outgoing peer-to-peer traffic. This causes those attempting to illegally download copyrighted material to have very slow download speeds causing unsatisfactory experiences. Overall bandwidth utilization is frequently reviewed to ensure that this mechanism is functioning successfully.

Additionally the Information Security Officer receives DMCA notices, matches IP addresses to  individuals and works with them to get the copyrighted material removed from peer-to-peer file sharing areas. In the rare case of an uncooperative individual, network access is removed, the case is referred to the Office of Student Life and the information may be turned over to the organization representing the copyright holders.

Alternatives to Illegal Downloading:

Educause maintains a site that lists legitimate online services for students to utilize as an alternative to illegal downloading. Andrews University students are encouraged to utilize these free or for-pay sites to legally obtain the content they are seeking.