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STUDENT JUDICIAL PROGRAMS

                                                                     A Principle Unit Within the Division of Student Affairs

     

Frequently Asked Questions
About Copyright Violations at UMBC

What is peer to peer file sharing?
Why is file sharing illegal?
What is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)?
What is UMBC’s policy regarding file sharing?
How does UMBC know that I’m sharing files?
What happens if I receive notification from SJP that I have allegedly illegally shared files?
First Time Copyright Violation

Second Time Copyright Violation

What is peer to peer file sharing?
Peer to peer file sharing (also known as P2P) is when people are able to directly share files, resources, media, etc. with one another through a network.  P2P programs can be downloaded by users for the purpose of sharing large files such as business reports, documents, and personal media (home movies, etc.), which may be difficult to share through other means.  Most P2P programs do not differentiate between types of files that can be downloaded and allow users on the network to access and upload all the files on your computer, often without your explicit consent or knowledge. 
(Sources: here and here)

Why is file sharing illegal?
File sharing itself is not illegal, but the material shared can be illegal.  The intent of most file sharing programs is to make it easier to share, however, many file sharing clients do not prevent the sharing of copyrighted files, thereby, facilitating illegal distribution of copyrighted material.  Typically, this copyrighted material includes music, film, and computer software, all of which are protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).  Thus, each time music or media files are downloaded to your computer or uploaded from it via a P2P program, you are participating in copyright infringement and violating federal law.

What is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)?
The DMCA is the federal law that prohibits the copying and/or distribution of digital copyrighted material without permission from the owner.  With regards to file sharing, the DMCA prohibits the sharing of digital media illegally through P2P programs.  As mentioned above, most P2P programs will share media from your computer without your knowledge; thereby making you an illegal provider of copyrighted material.  There are P2P programs that allow you to download music legally, but it is your responsibility to understand the functions of the P2P program you’re using and make appropriate decisions when downloading copyrighted material.

What is UMBC’s policy regarding file sharing?
“UMBC prohibits the downloading or sharing of the intellectual property and copyrighted works of others, without permission or consent of the copyright holder…”  Additionally, the policy states that you will be responsible for any illegal file sharing that occurs under your user name.  Thus, each time you authenticate to the UMBC network on any computer, you are responsible for what happens under your authentication.  Additional information regarding UMBC file sharing and copyright policy can be found on the UMBC Residential Life website and Student Judicial Programs website (Rule 19).

How does UMBC know that I’m sharing files?
There are a few steps in place that help UMBC officials intervene and hold accountable sources of illegal file sharing:

  1. Agents acting on behalf of musicians, artists, software companies, TV media corporations, etc., monitor the illegal downloading of material owned and copyrighted by their clients.  The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association of American (MPAA), and BayTSP Inc., are some of the many agents representing owners of copyrighted material.
  2. If agents, such as those mentioned above, discover instances of illegal downloading or uploading, they are able to identify the network IP address associated with the download.  In the case of UMBC, they are able to identify the origin of a given file to be from the UMBC network (IP beginning 130.85.XXX.XXX).  Consequently, these agents contact UMBC’s Office of the General Counsel with notification of the violation, and a request to take action to prevent further illegal downloading.  These agents are able to provide information such as the file name, type, protocol, and the date and time of download. 
  3. The General Counsel’s Office forwards the information to UMBC’s Department of Information Technology (DoIT) in order to discover who was authenticated to the network at the time of download.  DoIT is able to determine the specific origin of the file and provide the name, user ID, and other pertinent information of the student allegedly responsible for the copyright infringement.  This information is then forwarded to Student Judicial Programs (SJP).
  4. SJP then proceeds to notify the identified student of the allegation of copyright infringement and asks him/her to set an appointment to meet with a conduct officer.  The student is informed of the name and date of download of the file they have allegedly downloaded. 

What happens if I receive notification from SJP that I have allegedly shared files?

First Time Copyright Violation:
There are a few possible scenarios that can occur if you receive communication from SJP regarding illegal file sharing.  In all instances, you will be asked to schedule a meeting with a conduct officer to discuss the allegation.  This meeting is designed as an informal discussion between you and the conduct officer to discuss the facts of the case in order to determine whether or not you are responsible for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).  Below are a few potential scenarios:

Scenario 1:
Based on the evidence available, the Conduct Officer can find that you are not responsible for violating the DMCA and allegation is rescinded.
Scenario 2:
If you accept responsibility for violating the DMCA, you will be asked to complete three conditions in an effort to help deter future copyright violations:

    1. Fine  - You must pay a $175.00 fine that will be posted to your UMBC account 
    2. Suspension of ResNet – Your ResNet privilege will be suspended for up to two (2) weeks.  Your UMBC account will remain intact permitting your access from non-residential locations at UMBC.  Additionally, this suspension of privileges will not be implemented during finals as the intent of this sanction is not to interfere with students’ academic success.
    3. Educational Project – You must create a poster or flyer educating other students about copyright violations, the hazards of peer to peer file sharing, and/or the dangers of using unsecured wireless routers.

Once you accept responsibility, the decision and conditions as determined by the Conduct Officer are final and you may not appeal the conditions.  First time instances of file sharing are not considered a violation of the code of student conduct and will not appear on student disciplinary records for the purpose of background investigations.  This process serves as a warning for first time offenders to allow them the opportunity to change file sharing behaviors before they have a greater judicial impact.

Scenario 3:
If you do not accept responsibility for violating the DMCA, you can request an Administrative Hearing, which means that your case will be heard by another university official.  You are allowed to present additional evidence, if any, in your defense to the Administrative Hearing Officer.  The Administrative Hearing Officer will make the final determination regarding your case.  S/he can decide one of three things:

  1. Rescind the charges, which means that upon further review the Administrative Hearing Officer, determined you were not responsible for the violating the DMCA.
  2. You are responsible for violating the DMCA, which means that upon further review the Administrative Hearing Officer still finds that you responsible for violating the DMCA.  If that is the case, the sanctions listed under “Scenario 2” (above) will stand.
  3. You are responsible with reduced conditions, which means that upon further review the Administrative Hearing Officer still finds you responsible for violating the DMCA, but you have presented information that warrants reduced conditions as determined by the Officer.

The decision and conditions as determined by the Administrative Hearing Officer are final and you may not appeal the conditions.

Second Time Copyright Violation
If you have been found responsible for a copyright violation before, and have received a notice alleging another infringement, you will be asked to meet with a Conduct Offer for a Pre-Hearing Conference (PHC).  Similar to a first time violation, this conference is designed as an opportunity to discuss the facts and evidence of the incident and determine whether or not you are responsible for violating copyright policy (Rule 19 under UMBC’s Code of Student Conduct).  Below are a few potential scenarios:

Scenario 1:
Based on the evidence available, the Conduct Officer can find that you are not responsible for the copyright violation and the charge is rescinded.
Scenario 2:
If you accept responsibility, you will be sanctioned with Judicial Probation and be asked to complete three conditions as part of your sanction in an effort to help deter future copyright violations:

  1. Fine  - You must pay a $300.00 fine that will be posted to your UMBC account 
  2. Suspension of ResNet – Your ResNet privilege will be suspended for up to four (4) weeks.  Your UMBC account will remain intact permitting your access from non-residential locations at UMBC.  Additionally, this suspension of privileges will not be implemented during finals as the intent of this sanction is not to interfere with students’ academic success.
  3. Educational Project – Complete an educational program as assigned by the Conduct Officer, and as determined by your record regarding copyright violations.

This sanction will be a part of your judicial record and will appear for the purpose of background investigations.  You may indicate an intent to appeal the sanction within two (2) business days of receipt of the decision.

Scenario 3:
If do not accept responsibility, you can request a Student Judicial Board hearing, which means that your case will be heard by a board comprised mostly of your peers, who are serving as the Conduct Officers for this violation.  You are allowed to present additional evidence, if any, in your defense to the Student Judicial Board.  The Board will make a decision regarding your case.  They can decide one of three things:

  1. Rescind the charges, which means that upon further review the Student Judicial Board determined you were not responsible for the alleged copyright violation.
  2. You are responsible, which means that upon further review the Student Judicial Board still finds you responsible for the copyright violation.  If that is the case, you will be sanctioned with Judicial Probation and the conditions listed under “Scenario 2” (above) will stand.
  3. You are responsible with reduced conditions, which means that upon further review the Student Judicial Board still finds you responsible and sanctions you Judicial Probation, but you have presented information that warrants reduced conditions as determined by the Officers

Again, this sanction will be a part of your judicial record and will appear for the purpose of background investigations.  You may indicate an intent to appeal the sanction within two (2) business days of receipt of the decision.  You may petition to have this sanction expunged from your record at a later date.
*For more information regarding the Judicial Process and Procedures and Safeguards, refer to the Student Judicial Programs website.

 

 

 

 

2011 Office of Student Judicial Programs

Student Judicial Programs
UMBC
1000 Hilltop Circle
Baltimore, Maryland 21250
Phone: 410-455-2453
Fax: 410-455-1456
conduct@umbc.edu