Carnegie Mellon University

Copyright Violation Guidelines

This document contains the following sections:


Carnegie Mellon University policies prohibit the distribution of materials owned by anyone other than the person engaged in such distribution (whether officially copyrighted or not) without the permission of the owner. The distribution of copyright protected files without the permission of the copyright holder is illegal.

Recent developments lead us to address this issue and remind all users of the Carnegie Mellon network of our own policies and the laws. We also want to emphasize your own personal exposure if you are found to be in violation of copyright laws.

Applies to

This guideline applies to all campus affiliates. This includes students, faculty and staff members as well as guest account holders.

Purpose of the Guideline

The Carnegie Mellon Computing Policy establishes a general policy for the use of computing, telephone and information resources. The purpose of this guideline is to establish acceptable practices that support the policy as it applies to copyright violations.

This guideline was established to ensure that the Carnegie Mellon community has a clear understanding of proper procedure and usage. Computing Services reserves the right to modify this guideline as necessary. Any changes to this guideline will be posted to official.computing-news and will be reflected on this web page.

Definition / Clarification

ISP - Internet Service Provider
RIAA - Recording Industry Association of American
MPAA- Motion Picture Association of America

Guideline Statement

For anyone accessing the Internet through Carnegie Mellon's network, using either an institutionally-owned or personally-owned computer, the University serves as their ISP. The University is therefore bound by laws and policies that apply to ISPs. The University requires that all users of the Carnegie Mellon network learn and abide by relevant University policies which apply to such use as outlined in the Carnegie Mellon University Computing Policy.

As an ISP, the University is required to and has responded to complaints from copyright holders and organizations representing copyright holders, such as the RIAA and the MPAA, regarding computers on campus illegally distributing copyrighted materials. When receiving a "cease and desist order" from these and other organizations with credible evidence of the abuse and sufficient identification of the computers involved, Computing Services investigates the situation, informs the member of the community responsible for the computer(s) at issue of the complaint, and may disable network access for the hardware involved until such time as the issue is resolved. In some cases, there may be a minimum time of lost access (see the Residence Hall and Dedicated Remote Network Access Guideline for details). Most complaints received by the University are associated with peer-to-peer music and video distribution.

Recent developments suggest that if requested by representatives of copyright holders, Carnegie Mellon will be legally required to provide information about individual users who appear to be illegally distributing copyrighted materials on our internal network and/or to the Internet. These organizations (particularly the RIAA) have indicated or explicitly announced their intention to aggressively identify and bring suits against individual users for such distribution of copyrighted materials.

In such cases, it is the individual engaged in such distribution that will be legally liable and subject to possible fines (which according to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act can range from $750 to $150,000 per song if songs are the items being distributed illegally).

The RIAA recently won a legal case requiring Verizon, an ISP, to turn over the names of subscribers who, according to the RIAA, were engaging in illegal file sharing using their network. Furthermore, the RIAA recently sued four college students who were allegedly engaged in extensive sharing of copyrighted music on their colleges' networks. These suits were settled, with the students involved agreeing to pay between $12,000 and $17,000 in compensation. 

User Responsibilities and Procedures

Because of our University's standing policy and because of the announced intention by the RIAA to pursue personal suits as well as cease and desist orders to ISPs, we urge all members of the Carnegie Mellon community to strictly follow Carnegie Mellon's policies on the distribution of copyrighted material.

Revision History

Guideline Modified: October 17, 2005
Guideline Established: July 11, 2003