Reminder regarding illegal peer-to-peer file sharing

This annual notice reminds UNC Charlotte faculty and staff of the personal risks and legal consequences of unauthorized downloading and distribution of copyrighted materials, including illegal peer-to-peer file sharing. All faculty and staff are expected to respect the intellectual property rights of others and refrain from copyright infringement.

“Copyright” is legal protection for creative intellectual works, which is broadly interpreted to cover any tangible expression of an idea. Music, movies, text, graphics, art, photographs and software are examples of types of works protected by copyright. The creator of the work, or sometimes the person who hired the creator, is usually the copyright owner.

“Use” of a work means copying, distributing, making derivative works, publicly displaying, or publicly performing the work, and includes downloading and uploading content on the Internet. Unless one has permission, it is illegal to use peer-to-peer applications to share copyrighted media online. An individual may obtain permission in several ways:

The most common legal exception in an educational setting is “fair use.” “Fair use” is a legal term, and one should not assume that a use a person intends to make is “fair use” without examining several variables in order to determine whether the use constitutes “fair use.” Atkins Library has a website devoted to copyright that provides helpful guidance in navigating copyright and plagiarism issues.

Although it may be lawful to use peer-to-peer file sharing software, the illegal distribution of copyrighted files with that software is not. In many situations, either downloading or uploading even part of a copyrighted work without permission is copyright infringement. Peer-to-peer file sharing also increases the likelihood that others could access confidential data on your computer or install destructive computer viruses that could spread across the University’s network.

Copying, distributing, downloading, and uploading content to or from the internet or other electronic resources without legal exception or permission may also infringe the copyright for that content. Even an innocent, unintentional infringement violates the law. Violations of copyright law using the University information resources may create personal liability for an individual as well as liability for the University. Faculty and staff who commit copyright infringement using University information resources or who otherwise violate the Information Technology Services Standard for Responsible Use may be subject to disciplinary action. Violations of law may be referred for criminal or civil prosecution.

Be mindful of the law and University policy, and consult with the Office of Legal Affairs if there are questions about how copyright law affects the use of University information resources. Refer to these policies and resources for more information: