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Offline Computer File Restoration Guidelines

Questions often arise as to the ownership of offline files (on magnetic tape) that are stored on centrally operated computers. One question that is asked often is, "Who owns the files - the University or are they considered personal and private?"

In an effort to protect valuable property rights in research, and to protect personal individual privacy rights, while protecting the ownership rights of the University, Computing Services has established the following guideline for certain types of accounts.

At regular intervals and at the end of each semester, online files are stored offline on back-up tapes. Semester back-up tapes are kept for a period of five years. Other backup tapes are kept for shorter periods, during that time, the same rules of access, stated in the following paragraphs are applicable. At the end of the five year period, files on backup tapes are deleted. The University makes reasonable efforts to provide access to computer files; however, the University makes no implied guarantee that access of offline/online computer files will always be available. On rare occasions, computing staff may access others' files, but only when strictly necessary for the maintenance of a system. permission to access files will not be granted to any individual(s) unless there is a legal reason for such access and approval has been given by the University Attorney or the Vice-Provost of Computing Services.

Additionally, there are specific offline computer file restoration guidelines for each of the following types of accounts:

Research Accounts: Accounts opened for the purpose of conducting research are considered to be the property of the Principal Investigator and the University as specified by their agreement under the Intellectual Property Policy. Even if accounts are paid for by outside sponsors, the accounts are the property of the University. For practical purposes, this means that the offline files in research accounts may be accessed, when the account is still active, only by the account owner, the Principal Investigator, or persons specifically authorized. If the account is not active, files may be restored and accessed only by the Principal Investigator.

Faculty Teaching Accounts
: Accounts opened by the University faculty are considered to be for teaching purposes, and are considered to be the personal property of the faculty member. Offline files in such accounts may be accessed only by the faculty member or persons (s)he specifically authorizes.

Student Accounts: Accounts opened by Carnegie Mellon students are considered to be for learning purposes, and are considered to be personal property of the student who opens them. Offline files in such accounts may be accessed only by the student or person (s)he specifically authorizes. Because student's personal and/or course related accounts are their personal property, employers should provide student employees with a separate account for their work related files.

Work Related Accounts: Accounts opened in the name of a paid employee or other person performing University work are considered to be the property of the University. Employees using University accounts, operated at University expense, do not have rights of personal privacy as to accounts. Access to offline files in active work-related accounts may be authorized or limited by the supervising manager. If the account is not active, files may be restored and accessed only by the appropriate manager.

Personal/Private (external) Accounts: Accounts may be opened for personal use, under special arrangements with the University. Such accounts may be opened by parties external to the University, and by persons affiliated with the University such as faculty members, students, and paid employees. Offline files in personal/private accounts may be accessed only by the person in whose name the account is opened. The account owner may issue authorization to anyone else.