Sharing Music and Movies

Your Responsibilities at Gettysburg College with Respect to Copyright Law

Many members of the Gettysburg College community have questions about their rights and responsibilities with respect to use of copyrighted material, particularly the sharing of music and movies in digital format over the Internet. This document provides an overview of Gettysburg's policies and procedures governing music and movie sharing and how we deal with alleged violations. Recent legal actions by the Recording Industry Artists Association (RIAA) against violators of music copyright have made it imperative that everyone understands the risks of their behavior when sharing music and movies with others.

Copyright Law

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material regardless of the format of that material. Copyright law is complicated and its interpretation is sometimes controversial. In an effort to help us all better understand what is allowable by law and why some services that have been provided in the past may now be restricted, see this useful site for important copyright information

Peer-to-Peer Programs (P2P)

Spurred on by the widespread use of the Internet, P2P programs have been developed to allow people to share information in digital formats. In particular, programs like KaZaA, Gnutella, Morpheus, AudioGalaxy and others are commonly used to share music and movies without regard to the restrictions placed on that material by the copyright owners. Most commercially produced music and movies are copyrighted and cannot be freely shared. This is the law.

Gettysburg College does not examine the information content that is being transmitted (e.g. the music itself) but does monitor the type of information (e.g., that is an MP3 file) in order for us to give priority to academic and business use of our network. Members of our community must follow college-defined policies for appropriate use of technology resources.

Gettysburg College's IT policies and the Network Use Policy.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

The DMCA specifies procedures that Gettysburg College must follow when notified an individual using our network is violating copyright laws. If the copyright holder contacts Gettysburg about a violation we will investigate the facts, prepare a situation report and forward the case to College Life (in the case of an alleged student violation) or Human Resources (if an alleged employee violation) for appropriate administrative action. The individual has the right to claim that the material is not protected by copyright and then a legal process begins. To date, every notice we have received has resulted in the offending material being removed.

Recent Legal Actions

Recently, the RIAA has taken further action to subpoena the names of people who are sharing large amounts of music. If Gettysburg receives a subpoena, we are required to provide the name of the violator who is using our network. These subpoenas can lead to lawsuits, substantial financial penalties and perhaps jail time. In the spring of 2003, for example, four students at other colleges settled copyright claims against them out-of-court for approximately $15,000 each. The repercussions for illegally sharing copyrighted material over the Internet are serious.

Some people have argued that the recording industry has been overcharging for music CDs and that music sharing is justified. Others feel that the recording industry has been too slow to adopt legal ways for music to be distributed over the Internet at lower cost. Regardless, most music and movie-sharing violates the law that we are bound to uphold. If you distribute copyrighted music and videos you are putting yourself at risk of losing computing privileges, being charged by the Gettysburg College judicial board, and facing prosecution under civil and criminal laws.

Protecting Yourself

You may be making audio and video files available on your computer for uploading over the Internet without your knowledge, or permission through functionality built into file-sharing software resident on your computer.

If you have further questions, contact the ITHelpdesk at ext. 7000.