File Sharing FAQ
These terms are often used interchangeably to describe the act of violating copyright laws by downloading or distributing copyrighted materials without permission from the copyright owner.
- File sharing is when you share (download or upload) electronic data files over a network connection, whether the network is secure or unsecure, public or private. File sharing is not illegal if you have permission from the copyright owner to share the files. It is illegal if you share copyrighted materials without permission from the copyright owner.
- Copyright infringement occurs when you download or share copyrighted materials —including music, movies, games, and software —from the Internet without consent from the author.
- Online piracy is the unauthorized use or reproduction of copyrighted or patented material. This term is often used to describe copies of movies, software or other media which are illegally copied and then sold overseas or on the black market.
- Downloading occurs when you receive or accept data files from a remote server, system or Web site to your computer system. If the files you receive are copyrighted works and you do not have permission from the owner to obtain or use those files, you have accepted an illegal download.
- Illegal uploading occurs when you send data files from your computer system to a remote server, system or Web site. If the files you send (or share) are copyrighted works and you do not have permission from the owner to distribute those files, you are illegally uploading.
There are three groups of people who care if you download or share music.
- The authors and owners of copyrighted works care if you download and share their materials without their permission. Copyright laws were created to protect the rights of citizens who create original works of music, image, art and text files. Only the copyright owners have the right to determine who uses and distributes their works. Owners who feel you have infringed on their copyright can hold you accountable for your actions.
- The University cares if you download or share music because by doing so via peer-to-peer software, you make the campus data network vulnerable to viruses and online criminals. In addition, when you download using a program such as BitTorrent, you consume a large amount of bandwidth from the network. Finally, the University, as an online service provider which provides access to the campus data network, is subject to the regulations set forth in U.S. copyright law and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. These laws require the University to be responsible and hold users accountable for their actions when using the campus data network. Failure to adhere to the laws can tarnish the University’s reputation and possibly result in sanctions or a reduction in funding from the state legislature.
- You should care if you download or share music. You should care about protecting the rights of copyright owners because you may be a copyright owner some day. You should care about protecting the campus data network and your computer from threats. You should care about protecting the image of your University.
If you are a UNC-Chapel Hill student:
- The University will take disciplinary action if you engage in illegal file sharing. For your first offense, you face immediate but temporary loss of campus data network privileges and must attend a mandatory conference with ITS administrators. On your second offense, you face extended and/or permanent loss of campus data network privileges and will receive a referral for potential Honor Court proceedings.
- Keep in mind that when a violation occurs, the University will make every effort to contact you. After three (3) failed attempts to reach you, the University will disable your Onyen. To avoid this consequence, you should respond to University notices and/or requests for a meeting.
If you are a member of the UNC-Chapel Hill faculty or staff:
- The University will take disciplinary action if you engage in illegal file sharing. Consequences include: a mandatory conference between you and your supervisor; formal notice of poor performance for inappropriate behavior recorded on your annual review; or termination.
To all users of the UNC-Chapel Hill campus data network:
- Violating the rights of a copyright owner can result in fines in the form of settlements or statutory damages. The courts determine the fines associated with copyright infringement, and fines can range from $200 per violation to $150,000 per violation. In addition to the statutory damages, if you are guilty of copyright infringement, you can be held accountable to pay costs and attorneys’s fees related to litigation. Many people, even several at Carolina, have found themselves being sued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) acting on behalf of its member record companies, and in many cases the violators have been forced to pay thousands of dollars in settlements to the RIAA. Across the nation, students have reported paying up to $4,000 in settlement fees to the RIAA for a single copyright violation.
For legal software distribution, the University provides access to computer software, some free and others available at a reduced rate.
For more options, see the following.
- The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) provides information on finding digital music through a wide variety of more than 60 online music services.
- The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) details how to get movies and TV shows easily and quickly online.
- Some software is available at no charge from the University’sShareware site.
- Additionally, other software is available at a reduced fee(indicated by a $) from the University’s Software Distribution office.