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Information Technology Services

Southwestern has seen a dramatic increase recently in the number of illegal downloading complaints since we have upgraded to our new 200MB pipe in August, 2010. In the first two months after implementing the new pipe we received 10 infringements notices from our ISP. In order to protect both the university and our students from legal action we are beginning to take preventive measures (such as this FAQ) as well as developing policies to discourage illegal downloading.

What are the typical applications that are used for illegal downloading?

Gnutella, Limewire, Morpheus, BitTorrent, Ares, Aimster, Bearshare, Kazaa, Imesh and Napster are a few of the more common names from over the years. There are dozens and dozens of applications that fall into this category.

How do I know if something is copyrighted?

Most music, videos, lyrics, books, TV shows, etc. are copyrighted. You would be better to assume that everything is copyrighted unless you know specifically otherwise.

Aren't I covered under "fair use"?

No. Fair use covers things like making a copy of a purchased CD for use in your MP3 player or car. It does not allow you to download music for free that you would normally have to purchase.

I just was forwarded an email about illegal downloading. What does this letter mean?

There are three types of letters that we have seen recently and each one is treated a little differently. The most common letter is what is referred to as a "take down notice." These are forwarded on to the user and generally, they are just asking for the infringing material to be removed from the computer. In general, they believe that most people will do the right thing if asked.

The second kind is referred to as a "pre-litigation letter." These are letters that are sent to us as the Internet service provider asking us to forward them to the users. They specify that they intend to subpoena the subscriber information and legal action is about to be taken against the Southwestern user. Depending on when this issue is settled in the process determines the financial settlement. Southwestern does forward these letters to the users and recommends that the user consult with their personal attorney on what to do.

The third kind is referred to as a "preservation notice." These inform that a "pre-litigation letter" is forthcoming and/or requests that we preserve any information regarding the user. These letters do NOT get forwarded to the users.

What are Southwestern's policies regarding illegal downloading?

It depends on what type of letter is received.

  • Take down notice
    • 1st incident – letter is forwarded with a reminder of the school's policy on illegal downloading; network connectivity is suspended until the individual informs Information Technology Services that the offending material has been removed from their computer.
    • 2nd incident – letter is forwarded; individual is charged a $100 fine; network connectivity is suspended until the fine is paid; matter is referred to the Dean of Students or, in the case of a faculty or staff member, the Personnel Office.
    • 3rd or repeated incidents – letter is forwarded; individual's personal devices are permanently banned from the network; matter is referred to the Discipline Committee; individual may be subject to increased fines or possible dismissal. 
  • Pre-litigation letter
    • 1st incident – same as 2nd incident above
    • a 2nd incident – same as 3rd incident above
  • Preservation notice
    • All incidents – records are preserved for 6 months

What can happen to me if I violate copyright laws?

Aside from university sanctions, you are subject to the federal and state copyright laws punishable up to three years in jail and $250,000 in fines per infraction.

Why was I not told about this?

Beginning Spring 2011 it will be mentioned as a part of the device registration process. You will have to check a box certifying that you read and understood the contents of this page.

It will also be mentioned during orientation and assemblies.

How can I check the validity of the forwarded note?

You can call the Information Technology Services at 817-202-6411. They have a copy of every message that gets forwarded on.

Does Southwestern check the validity of the complaints?

The complaints come from a few sources and we merely forward them on. Each email typically comes with a certificate to ensure the authenticity.

What should I do?

Follow the instructions in the forwarded letter. This typically means removing the infringing material with take down notices. Pre-litigation letters have specific instructions. When in doubt with pre-litigation letter, consult your personal attorney before taking any action. You may want to unplug your computer from the network to ensure that nothing further happens with your computer until your attorney instructs you what to do.

What if I didn’t download this?

This is usually a rare case, but it could happen. Please contact Information Technology Services at 817-202-6411 and report this so we can look into it further. In some cases, two incidents are on the same complaint because they occurred from two systems using the same IP address at different times. Those are usually separated out and both parties get individual messages. The original message is not altered. In these cases, we create a record for each individual.

What if my roommate or a friend was the one doing this?

If he or she was using your computer or a computer that was registered with your login credentials, you may still be responsible. For the purposes of Southwestern's actions, please call Information Technology Services at 817-202-6720 so that it can be documented.

Will I get a take down notice prior to getting a pre-litigation letter?

There are many instances where students have received pre-litigation letters without having previously received a take down notices.

If I removed the copyrighted material, will I be protected from being sued?

That is up to the complainant. There has been only one instance that we know of where an individual who removed copyrighted material after received a "take down notice" still received a pre-litigation letter.

Do I have to remove XYZ file sharing program?

We do not regulate what applications you should or should not use nor how you use them. Most individuals do remove the application to avoid any possible future complaints. If you are having difficulty removing the applications, you can call Information Technology Services at 817-202-6720.

Will Southwestern release my information to the complainant?

Southwestern will NOT release any of your information to anyone outside of Southwestern without a subpoena, court order or through some other legal process.

Can I get more information from the complainant?

Most letters have an email address where you can respond. Keep in mind that Southwestern will NOT release any of your information to anyone outside of Southwestern without a subpoena or court order. If you give that information to them, that is your business. You may want to consult with your personal attorney before responding.

What will Southwestern do to protect me?

The network is merely a conduit, and Southwestern will take the necessary steps to protect itself. The actions you take on the network are strictly your own and at your own risk.

Southwestern will NOT release any of your information to anyone outside of Southwestern without a subpoena or court order.

I don’t have a personal attorney. Can I get legal advice from Southwestern?

No. The university attorneys represent the university and do not offer personal legal advice.

I paid for XYZ file sharing program. Doesn’t that make me legal?

In most cases, it does not make it legal. By paying for the application, you may get enhanced features, but it does not mean that the material you download or upload has been licensed for your use.

Why doesn’t Southwestern block these applications?

Southwestern's network is merely a conduit. Southwestern does not have the resources to continually police all of the applications and network traffic. It is no different than someone using a telephone for illegal acts. Just as it would be prohibitive for the phone company to monitor and block that traffic, the same holds true for the network.

While we have packet shaping software that monitors and manages bandwidth usage, it does not block applications. File sharing normally consumes lots of bandwidth. We have plans to make some tools available so that you can see if you are a high bandwidth user.

How does the RIAA track alleged music pirates?

How do I remove the P2P applications?

While removing P2P applications can be very tricky, these sites do their best to try an explain how to do it.

Is there a way that I can get the P2P applications to stop uploading?

Keep in mind that some court cases have held that merely downloading is still infringing behavior.

Who can I contact for technical help?

You can call the Information Technology Services at 817-202-6411. Be aware though that a reformat of your computer and reinstallation of the operating system may be necessary as it is the only method available to ensure complete peer-to-peer application removal. If you require serious intervention such as this, there will be a $100 base charge.

Why can't you just uninstall the application instead of a complete reformat of my system?

Some of these applications are very difficult to remove. Even though you have uninstalled the application, some leave a small portion of the application behind that still is allowing your copyrighted material to be shared out. So while you think you have removed the application and your liability, it still exists. The reformat option is the only way Information Technology Services will guarantee that any P2P application is fully disabled on your system.

Where can I find legal sites to download music and get more information on this topic?