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Kansas State University

Illegal File Sharing at K-State

Sharing and downloading copyrighted material (movies, music, etc.) from the Internet without proper authorization is considered piracy-a violation of federal copyright laws and K-State policy. To combat piracy, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) have been successfully suing file sharers all over the United States. For those at K-State, the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 places specific requirements on universities to deal with the problem. This is addressed in K-State's plan to combat illegal file sharing.

You can learn more about K-State's plan to combat illegal file sharing based on the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 in this document.

Copyright Infringement

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.

Most of the piracy on the Internet is carried out using Peer-to-Peer (P2P) network applications such as Kazaa, eMule, BitTorrent and Gnutella clients like LimeWire.

While these programs can facilitate the quick and easy sharing of files, using them to share copyrighted files is prohibited by K-State policy and federal law.

You can find a list of prohibited file sharing programs here.

Piracy is a form of copyright infringement that refers to the illegal copying, distribution, or use of software, music, movies or any other media that can be digitally stored and transferred. Illegal piracy causes significant lost revenue for publishers, which in turn results in higher prices for the consumer.

There are four categories of piracy:

  1. Social Piracy: The unauthorized duplication of only the media, not the packaging, original art, label, title, etc. There is no pretense that these are legitimate products. Examples of social piracy include mixed discs that friends share with one another and software applications that are copied for coworkers.
  2. Counterfeit Piracy: The unauthorized copies of media as well as the unauthorized duplication of original artwork, label, trademark, and packaging. Counterfeits are passed off as legitimate and are often used by the pirate for monetary gain.
  3. Bootleg Recording: The unauthorized recordings of live concerts, movies, or musical broadcasts on radio or television.
  4. Online Piracy: The unauthorized uploading of copyrighted material to be made available to the public. Downloading copyrighted material from an Internet site or a Peer-to-Peer network is illegal.

Summary of Civil and Criminal Penalties for Violation of Federal Copyright Laws

Penalties for copyright infringement can include both 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 no less than $750 and no more than $30,000 per work infringed. For "willful" infringement, a court may award up to $150,000 per work infringed. A court can 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.

For more information, please see the Web site of the U.S. Copyright Office at www.copyright.gov, especially their FAQ's at www.copyright.gov/help/faq.

Penalties for Violation of K-State Policy

In addition to the federal laws, K-State's IT Usage Policy prohibits the use of IT resources for illegal purposes, such as piracy of intellectual property. More specifically, K-State's P2P File Sharing Policy prohibits the use of P2P file sharing applications, illegal acquisition or sharing of music, movies, games, and the like. Consequently, P2P file sharing applications commonly used for illegal purposes are blocked on K-State's network using technology-based deterrents.

For violating K-State IT policy, a full range of sanctions are available that include the suspension of access to network resources or other appropriate university discipline, up to and including termination of employment and expulsion.

K-State has specific procedures it must follow when notified of an alleged copyright infringement under the DMCA. After confirming the infringing activity, network access for the computer involved in the illegal activity is blocked and the infringement noticed is passed on to the owner of the computer.

Pirating any media can cost you both federally and in university. A few songs or a movie is not worth expulsion or fines, and is definitely not worth jail time.

Additional Dangers

In addition to the legal and policy issues related to downloading media from unauthorized sources on the Internet, many new viruses and worms also proliferate across P2P networks. It is possible to download a file that appears benign and end up with a malicious program that takes control of your computer.

Not only are there malicious programs masquerading as downloadable files but sometimes the illicit file sharing programs themselves can cause problems. File sharing consumes shared bandwidth which can significantly slow down other Internet-related activities for you and others on the K-State network. Also, if the program is incorrectly configured, it may even share files on your computer that you never intended anyone else to see like bank records, personal information, or confidential University data.

Legal Alternatives

The most simple solution is to just buy it. It assures that you don't violate any laws, download and viruses, and the quality of the media.

Several services are available that allow you to pay for the music, movies or television shows on a per-item basis, or through an "all you-can-consume" monthly fee.

Most of these services include licenses with each song that allow you to copy the song to multiple listening devices and store it on your computer, for your personal use only. Furthermore, these pay-per-download services charge as little as 50 cents per song or a few dollars for movies and they have hundreds of thousands of selections in their catalogs.

Some of these sites include:

A comprehensive list of legal file sharing alternatives can be found on Educause's Legal Sources of Online Content website.

Additional Resources

Criminal penalties and civil remedies for violation of Federal copyright laws are summarized in this Congressional Research Services report:

There are several other sites that have more information on piracy and what you can do to keep from violating these laws:

Download this informational handout about Illegal File Sharing for K-Staters.