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SCU Response on Copyright and File Sharing

As part of our educational and scholarly mission, Santa Clara University is committed to facilitating open access to information through our computer networks. However, we cannot facilitate violating the intellectual property rights of others via those networks. Sharing music, videos, software and other copyrighted works in violation of copyright laws is illegal and can expose you and the University to civil and criminal sanctions, as well as sanctions under Santa Clara University's policies.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) are two of the primary, but not the only, associations that have attempted to vigorously enforce their rights under copyright law. To be clear about the University's position regarding use of Santa Clara's computer networks and computers: equipment and communication paths are not to be used for illegal activities. This means that file sharing of copyrighted materials (downloading or serving files) violates both the University's acceptable use policy and staff policies regarding electronic information (Policy 306 - Electronic Information Systems) and can lead to disciplinary action towards offenders.

The University has received notices alleging copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA requires that the University respond to such complaints by eliminating access to the infringing materials. Santa Clara's procedure in case of notification is to temporarily remove network access and refer the student/staff/faculty member to the appropriate internal disciplinary procedures. Continued violation of copyright laws can lead to permanent loss of network access or to other sanctions.

There is also substantial personal liability associated with file sharing of copyrighted materials. In four lawsuits filed against students in April, the RIAA sought $150,000 in damages per infringing work (i.e., having 1,000 infringing songs on a student's hard drive meant a suit of $150,000,000). Although those suits were settled before trial for substantially less money, both RIAA and MPAA have indicated they will continue to pursue damages at those levels. If the infringing files are placed on a University-owned machine, or the works have been downloaded by a University employee (including student employees) the University may also be exposed to potential liability.

A court ruling compels universities to identify (provide name, address, telephone number, and email address) individuals associated with machines suspected of containing infringing materials if we receive a subpoena requesting such information. Santa Clara will comply if we are served with a valid subpoena.

Regardless of your personal view of the ethics related to file sharing of copyrighted materials, it is an illegal activity, one with potentially serious repercussions criminally and financially, and for your relationship with the University. Please don't place yourself or your colleagues in such a difficult position.

Jan 8, 2016