Downloading and Copyright Infringement

We've heard all of the excuses – "Everyone is doing it so the authorities will never single me out for prosecution." "I didn't know I was doing anything wrong!""I'm not hurting anyone.""My roommate said making a backup was okay.""There wouldn't be a place on the web to download it if it wasn't okay."

The bottom line is unless you own the copyright; you can't copy or share it without permission.  That includes music, videos, software or textbooks from the Web.  If you do it, it is stealing and it is just as illegal as shoplifting.   It is against the law and against Auburn University policy (http://www.auburn.edu/oit/it_policies/appropriate_use_infotech.php).  

It's just not the Auburn way.

I believe in honesty and truthfulness, without which I cannot win the respect and confidence of my fellow men…

I believe in obedience to law because it protects the rights of all...  

And because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I believe in Auburn and love it. 

-George Petrie (1945)                     (excerpts from The Auburn Creed)

What's all the fuss about?

Auburn University is obligated to enforce the Digital Millennium Copyright Act(DMCA) – and it's the right thing to do.  To protect you and Auburn University, peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing is not accessible via our wireless network, AU_WiFi.  File sharing web sites and applications, including those that share illegal audio and video files, are blocked to prevent copyright violations. Legal methods to download music on the Internet will continue to be accessible.  

Auburn University has received complaints from the owners of copyrighted works being pirated by users in the on-campus residential community and AU is held accountable for the actions of these students. The Universityand the employees or students committing the violations could be held liable for damages.  When accessing downloadable digital resources off-campus you'll have to let your conscience be your guide.  So, no excuses – don't download copyrighted material without permission!


  • "Everyone is doing it so the authorities will never single me out for prosecution." 
    In the last year there have been 13 students wearing orange and blue who thought the same thing.  They were wrong.  Legal action was filed against these 13 Auburn University students by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).  It's no joke.  In the last year, Auburn received 164 legal notices of violations. 

    Yes, it COULD happen to you and the consequences are significant:  criminal penalties for first-time offenders can be as high as five years in prison and $250,000 in fines even if you didn't do it for monetary or commercial gain.  Civil penalties can run into many thousands of dollars in damages and legal fees from $750 up to $150,000 PER SONG.  If the student is underage, Mom & Dad are held liable.  If you are facing jail time and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, it may seem inconsequential that you will also be losing your AU computing access for violating network security policy.  But that's exactly what will happen.  

  • "I didn't know I was doing anything wrong."
    This is one excuse that will be too little, too late after you're caught!  It is your responsibility to educate yourself and ensure you aren't violating the law.  These are examples of violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) from http://www.musicunited.org/:

    Somebody you don't even know e-mails you a copy of a copyrighted song and then you e-mail copies to your friends. 

    You make an MP3 copy of a song because the CD you bought expressly permits you to do so. But then you put your MP3 copy on the Internet, using a file-sharing network, so that millions of other people can download it. 

    Even if you don't illegally offer recordings to others, you join a file-sharing network and download unauthorized copies of all the copyrighted music you want for free from the computers of other network members. 

    In order to gain access to copyrighted music on the computers of other network members, you pay a fee to join a file-sharing network that isn't authorized to distribute or make copies of copyrighted music. Then you download unauthorized copies of all the music you want. 

    You transfer copyrighted music using an instant messaging service. 

    You have a computer with a CD burner, which you use to burn copies of music or videos you have downloaded legally onto writable CDs for all of your friends (that's the illegal part).

  • "I'm not hurting anyone."  
    "According to the Institute for Policy Innovation, global music piracy causes $12.5 billion in economic losses every year and approximately 71,060 lost jobs In the U.S. alone. (see document)  It's having a very real and harmful impact on countless musicians, songwriters, and performers—virtually everyone, from recording engineers to record-store clerks, who dream about making a living providing music to the public. The theft of music has compromised the industry's ability to invest in the new bands of tomorrow. "(Source:http://www.musicunited.org/).   

    Ouch!   Still don't think you are hurting anyone?  Read more at http://www.musicunited.org/4_shouldntdoit.html

    You could be hurting yourself too.  Don't take our word for it.  Here's what the US Department of Homeland Security has to say about how file sharing makes you vulnerable to virus infection, attacks, and exposure of your own personal information http://www.us-cert.gov/cas/tips/ST05-007.html  
  • "My roommate said making a backup was okay."  
    Be careful here!  Section 117 of the Copyright Act grants permission to make an "archival" or backup copy of software you purchased legally but does NOT give you the authority to make a backup copy of other material like music or movies or other copyrighted works that have been downloaded. http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-digital.html.   You can make limited backups of music downloaded legally, under some circumstances.   Check the Terms of Service for the source of your legal download for specific details (i.e. iTuneshttp://www.apple.com/legal/itunes/us/service.html).  And yes, there is software and freeware available that can circumvent the copy-protection used on commercial DVDs that will enable you to copy them.  Having the hardware or software to make unauthorized copies doesn't give you the right to steal.

  • "There wouldn't be a place on the web to download it if it wasn't okay. "  
    Do you believe everything you read on the Internet?  That's a dangerous practice for lots of reasons.  Sharing music, videos or textbooks on peer-to-peer networks like Ares, BitTorrent, Gnutella, Limewire, Morpheus and Textbook Torrents is against the law.  

    Textbooks are expensive and piracy in that area is growing on college campuses as well – see  http://chronicle.com/free/2008/07/3623n.htm.  You wouldn't steal a muffin from the cafeteria because you felt it was overpriced, would you?  Of course not.  Stealing textbooks by downloading them illegally is the same thing on a grander scale. 

    Even when you are trying to do the right thing, you need to be cautious of file download sites on the Web.  Check this warning list maintained by the Center for Democracy and Technology before you sign uphttp://www.cdt.org/copyright/warninglist/  It identifies potentially deceptive & dangerous fee-based download services.  And when in doubt, just don't. 

So, you want to do it the right way but aren't sure how to tell what's okay and what isn't.  Where do you turn?

Try one of these resources:

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