Peer-to-Peer File Sharing & Copyright Law

Industry organizations (e.g. Recording Industry Association of America: RIAA) have filed copyright infringement lawsuits against individual college students who have used file sharing programs to share copyrighted material. Lawsuits are expected to continue in the near future. Some uses of the peer-to-peer technologies are perfectly legitimate but some activities are not (e.g., copying and sharing of music files without the authorization of the copyright owner). Goucher College wants you to be aware of these issues and situations.

To avoid the risk of potential lawsuits due to copyright infringement, the college is advising students to carefully restrict the use of file sharing applications to material that is legal to share, to disable the file sharing software, or to change the file sharing options for the software. A resolution was passed by the Student Government (SGA) to block all incoming and outgoing peer-to-peer program Internet traffic. Examples of these programs include, but are not limited to, BitTorrent, KaZaA, Morpheus, Limewire and Bearshare. The SGA took this action because of the high levels of spyware, computer viruses, use of these programs to transmit and receive copyrighted material, and high bandwidth utilization associated with these programs. Effective December 21, 2004, peer-to-peer file sharing programs have been blocked on campus. The software that is used to identify and block peer-to-peer file sharing programs is updated continuously by the vendor.

Students are encouraged to visit free music sites such as Pandora. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) provides students with recommendations for legal alternatives for listening or downloading music. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) provides students with a variety of new and legal ways to get movies and television shows.

You should be aware that the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject community members to civil and criminal penalties as follows:

  • In general, anyone found liable for civil copyright infringement may be ordered to pay either actual damages or "statutory" damages affixed at not less than $750 and not more than $30,000 per work infringed. For "willful" infringement, a court may award up to $150,000 per work infringed. A court can, in its discretion, also assess costs and attorneys' fees. For details, see Title 17, United States Code, Sections 504, 505.

  • Willful copyright infringement can also result in criminal penalties, including imprisonment of up to five years and fines of up to $250,000 per offense.

  • For more information, please see the Web site of the U.S. Copyright Office at, especially their FAQ's at

The college supports a climate of trust and respect and does not ordinarily read, monitor, or screen electronic mail, Internet access, or the computer activities of individuals. The college expects students to be aware of current laws and applicable college policies with respect to computer, network, and Internet activities.

To be in compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the College has designated an agent to receive notices of copyright infringement from copyright owners. If the College receives notification from a copyright owner that you have engaged in infringing activity, it will investigate the complaint, and, if appropriate, notify you to take down the offending material and cease from engaging in such conduct. In addition, if you violate copyright law by engaging in unauthorized file sharing, you may be subject to discipline under the College's Copyright Policy, Computer Use Policy, and other applicable College policies. Violations of copyright law may also subject you to civil and criminal prosecution. For more information, please see the Policies section of the Information Technology website.