The University of Arizona


Copyright Violations Using CSc Facilities

February 15, 2004
Peter J. Downey
Department Head

In all activities that involve equipment and other property of the University of Arizona, you are required to be aware of, and comply with, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that became law in 1998. The Act also applies to your personal behavior when using your own computing equipment.

I am writing this because egregious violations of this Act have been detected on our systems -- and unfortunately detected by outside litigants whose claims for relief may pose a serious threat to each individual violator, to this Department and to the University.

The DMCA says in effect that distribution of copyrighted materials over the Internet, without permission of the copyright holder, is a federal crime. It is a criminal offense, with penalties that include fines and prison. Civil litigants can also use the law to impose serious financial penalties, even if the Feds do not pursue an offender.

Although you may think that casual breaches of this act--amounting to a few MB--are safe from detection, you would be wrong. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) are actively monitoring peer-to-peer network offerings and aggressively pursuing offenders--even "small" offenders who are not violating copyright for financial gain. Legal notices have been served on the University for violations, resulting in internal investigations as well as potential penalties to individuals, their departments and the University. These investigations, if they result in findings against individuals, will lead to disciplinary action against the offender by the University, and could involve legal action against the individual by outside agencies.

Casual and ill-advised violations, carried out with a false sense of invulnerability and an imagined cloak of anonymity, could result in a nightmarish lawsuit -- not against the Department or University -- but against the offending individual.

Within the department, if copyright violations are detected, they will result in loss of computing privileges and possible further proceedings under the Code of Conduct. The offender will be fortunate if this is the extent of the consequences faced from outside litigants, who can pursue their claims, and have been known to do so.

Find out about the serious risks to which unthinking behavior is subject. Computer scientists appear to be no cleverer at concealment, and just a detectable as anyone else when they violate the law. A violation can be detected even if the offending files have been deleted.

Peter J. Downey
Professor and Department Head