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Copyright and File-Sharing

  • 80% of Americans view stealing a DVD from a store as a serious crime.
  • 40% of Americans view downloading movies illegally as a serious crime.

What's the difference?

No, not 40%. In reality, there is no difference between these two crimes. Downloading a movie, music album or book from the Internet without the copyright owner's permission is the same as if you walked into a store, stuffed the DVD (or CD) into your pocket and walked out.

This survey, done by the Solutions Research Group in January 2007, shows the magnitude of the problem with illegal music and movie downloads. Most illegal downloading occurs on peer-to-peer (P2P) networks such as BitTorrent, LimeWire, DC++, Ares and eDonkey. These networks do not obtain permission to share copyrighted material online, unlike legal services such as iTunes and Amazon.

University policy on file-sharing

Sharing or downloading copyrighted files without permission over the UR network is illegal and a violation of University policy! You should review the University's Acceptable Use Policy and Copyright Policy.

Why is it illegal?

The purpose of copyright is to protect the rights of the creators of intellectual property. Copyright holders have the sole right to copy, modify, and distribute their works. Therefore copyright helps to prevent the unauthorized use or sale of these works.

How would you feel if someone read your groundbreaking research paper that consumed a year of your life and then posted it on the Internet for anyone to download and copy? Or if you wrote a song or book?

Well your research paper is considered "intellectual property," the same as a recording artist’s song or a painter’s mural. So if you wouldn't appreciate someone distributing your work to the entire online community without your permission, then perhaps you should think twice before downloading or distributing an artist’s work without their permission.

How can I tell if the site I'm downloading from is legal or illegal?

Determining if a website is offering music, movies or books illegally can sometimes be difficult. There are two warning signs to look for that could indicate a site is illegal: 

  • If the site uses a peer to peer file sharing network such as BitTorrent, Limewire, DC++, Ares or eDonkey to distribute the content, it is almost definitely an illegal website.
  • If other websites like Amazon or iTunes are charging money for the content you are looking for, but this particular website offers them for free, it is an illegal website.

In addition, many artists, record companies, and movie studios list on their websites whether they allow the distribution of their materials on the Internet. Check their websites first before downloading their material from legally questionable third party sites or making their material available to others.

Lastly, copyrights can last for anywhere between 50 and 120 years. But once the copyright has expired, the works that were copyrighted fall into public domain. Works in public domain can be distributed, downloaded, and copied by anyone legally. So chances are that if the work was made recently, it’s probably under copyright.

Where can I view or download free music, movies, and TV shows legally?

There are also several other options:

  1. ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC all allow viewers to watch their television shows on their websites for free. New episodes are usually available online the morning after they first air on television.
  2. Netflix (paid) and Hulu (free or paid subscription) allow you to stream movies and television shows directly to your computer without downloading.
  3. and Entertainment Magazine Online offer free movie downloads for movies that have passed out of copyright and into the public domain.
  4. Pandora allows to create your own radio station on the Internet that only plays the songs or genres that you like. FineTune allows you to listen to your favorite artists as well as create playlists.  And they’re free, of course.

With all these options available to you, what are you waiting for? Try these free and legal online services today!


If the University receives a complaint against you from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), or other copyright holding associations, you will be notified by email. For each complaint filed against you, you will face escalating consequences.  The consequences are based upon whether you are a student, staff, or faculty member:


  • 1st complaint- You will receive a warning from University IT and an informal letter of warning from the Dean of Students Office.
  • 2nd complaint- You will have your NetID account suspended, there will be official disciplinary action from the Dean of Students' Office (most likely disciplinary probation and community service), and incur a $180 NetID reconnection fee.


Please reference the following Human Resources policy -

  • 1st complaint- You will receive a warning from University IT and your supervisor will be copied in on that notice.
  • 2nd complaint- You will receive a warning from University IT and your supervisor as well as Human Resources will be copied in on the notice. 


  • 1st complaint- You will receive a warning from University IT and your department chair will be copied in on the notice. 
  • 2nd complaint- You will receive a warning from University IT and your department chair and dean will be copied in on the notice. 


Other dangers of illegal file-sharing

Personal Loss:
If you don’t think you’ll get caught by the RIAA or the University, then perhaps you should consider what else could be happening while you’re downloading media illegally from peer-to-peer networks. While you’re getting the hottest new music and movies, some hacker could be downloading your confidential and personal information.

“How?” you may ask. Peer-to-peer (P2P) programs function by allowing users to connect to each others’ hard drives in order to access and copy files. Any files stored in shared folders are fair game for others to copy and steal. Some P2P programs don’t even create shared folders; they simply utilize existing folders such as “ My Documents” and its subfolders. That means that anything stored in your “My Documents” folder is up for grabs, including any Word documents, financial software files, photos, and other personal data. This can result in identity theft.

Computer Problems:
Did you know that one out of every three computer attacks occur through P2P file-sharing networks? Hackers know that viruses and spyware can be easily spread through peer-to-peer networks, so they take advantage of this. They can simply name a file containing a virus after a popular song. Then when the users open the file, no song plays; instead, their computers get infected. 

Your torrent client could help hackers hijack your computer

Uninstall your P2P file-sharing clients

To avoid the consequences from the University and the copyright holding agencies, we recommend that you uninstall your peer-to-peer file sharing clients. On Windows, use Add/Remove Programs to uninstall the software, and on a Mac, drag the application to the Trash. 

More information

Don't become a statistic! Know the law on downloading and distributing copyrighted files.

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