Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Filesharing FAQs


I paid for my P2P service, so doesn't that mean I can download and it is legal?

LimeWire and other Peer-to-Peer (P2P) services are legal. They have their uses. However, if you pay for their services, you are still not entitled to download or share copyrighted music, videos, games, and such without permission. What you are paying for is more bandwidth and bells and whistles. Don't confuse this with the right to download anything. The service fees are not tied to any copyrighted materials or entitlements to use/download copyrighted material.


Where can I legally download music? 

Most music must be paid for in one form or another. In addition Higher Education Opportunity Act requires all colleges and universities to offer legal alternatives to unauthorized downloading.

Legal sources of Online Content as compiled by EDUCAUSE can be viewed at:


I got caught illegally downloading content. What does this mean now?

Having a DMCA violation is not the end of the world, but it does have long reaching effects. While on campus, it can keep you from getting on-campus employment and it can keep you from getting into certain required classes.

Michigan Tech will not share this information or any information about you, with anyone outside the University unless they are court-ordered to do so. This means that your parents will not be told (not by us anyway). The exception to this is when a background check is done for outside employment. If asked for and authorized by you, the employer would be told that there was a disciplinary action. This could affect that employment as well.


I already own the CD/DVD but it is broken or I left at home. Because I already purchased it, doesn't that mean I can download it without penalty?

When you purchased the physical media, that is what you purchased, just that physical media. This purchase does not give you any rights to online copies or downloads unless specifically stated by the company holding the copyright

However, this purchase does allow you to make backup copies. Backup copies are for your use only. Copies may not be given out to others and the number of copies is widely disputed. At any rate, a backup copy is wise in case of scratching or other destruction.


What is copyright and what is infringement of copyright?

Copyright is the legal way of saying who owns something. Any original work that can be recorded on some tangible medium is automatically copyrighted. The paper you wrote for your Humanities class is copyrighted, the photo you took of the sunset over the Portage Canal is copyrighted, and the silly song you made up with your friends and recorded to your computer's hard drive is copyrighted.

One thing that cannot be protected by copyright is facts. The statement that there is a war known as the War of 1812 cannot be copyright protected. It is a fact. If I made up a song about the war and it was an original work, that song can be copyright protected as it is now an original work and not just the fact.

Since all original works are automatically copyright protected, you are breaking that copyright protection when you do things like downloading, uploading, or sharing these original works without consent of the copyright holder. For instance, downloading a song from the Internet is breaking copyright unless you have permission from the artist to download that song. Ripping a DVD that you rented to your computer is breaking copyright in that your rental agreement only allows you to watch the movie on that original media and not any other. You are also breaking copyright by making copies of CDs and giving them out to friends. This is distribution, and without the copyright holder's permission, it is illegal.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act was put in place in 1998. This act heightens the penalties for copyright infringement on the Internet. The way the law is written, the person committing the copyright infringement is presumed guilty unless they can prove their innocence. Michigan Tech takes violations at face value and deals with them in accordance with the law and the way it is interpreted. Thus if you are charged with a DMCA violation, you are responsible for proving your innocence. Michigan Tech does not look for these infringements nor will they help you build your case of innocence.


I bought a CD, so can I move the files to an iPod or other digital music player?

Purchasing music on a physical media entitles you to that physical media and backup copies. That is all you get according to the RIAA (Recording Association of America). To date there have been no recorded cases of any lawsuits against anyone copying CD's they have lawfully purchased to their computers. it stands as a "gray" area.


But I didn't know...

In today's society, ignorance is not bliss. If you did not realize that what you were doing was illegal, or it was happening without your knowledge, or the software was on a computer you borrowed, you can still be held liable.

Not knowing that something was illegal is not a defense that will get you very far. If you are unsure of the legality of something, think about it this way, if you would otherwise have to pay for the product, in a store or at an online retailer, chances are the "free" copy you have found is not legal.

If you have paid for a file sharing program, that does not entitle you to free downloads—just the bells and whistles of the site itself. Most of those programs share without your knowledge, or can, if you do not keep track of them.

Borrowing a computer with software that can share can also be a problem. Michigan Tech's policy states that you are responsible for anything that you put on the network. Thus, borrowing a computer and using it to log on to the network with your user id could lead to you being caught sharing if the computer is set up to do this.


But I heard… But I thought… The many myths

If it is on my computer less than 24 hours they can't catch me.
It does not matter how long the file is on your computer and it does not matter if you downloaded the entire file or not. Just one byte of the file being transferred to your computer is enough.

Sharing files of CDs I own is just like letting them borrow the CD.
This is not true. When you purchase a CD, you are purchasing that copy of that CD. You can make backup copies, but those copies are for your use only. If you make a copy of a CD and hand it out to someone, that is distribution; and is illegal without the proper permissions.

No one is being sued any more.
Lawsuits are still being filed by companies like the RIAA and MPAA. They are not getting the same news coverage that they did a few years ago, but the lawsuits are still out there.

Michigan Tech is watching the network and pointing out what you are doing to the RIAA.
Michigan Tech does watch the network, but only for network disturbances. No one is watching the content that your computer is passing on through Michigan Tech's network. If we knew about the illegal activity, Michigan Tech would be liable for the activity. Thus the University does not know about the activity until it is brought to our attention in the form of a notice from the copyright holder.

The music industry is the only one that is sending out notices, so if I don't share music, I won't be sued.
The type of copyright material that is being sued over is as varied as the actors that have played Bond. The government has been sued for use of photographs; Apple has sued Psystar for allowing Mac OS to run on non-Apple hardware; and Pez Candy Inc. has recently sued the Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia for copyright infringement.

Files hosted by web sites in other countries are not covered under the DMCA as it is a U.S. law.
If a file has U.S. copyright holder, it does not matter where it comes from. Files that had previously been thought of as not having a copyright that anyone cared about, like Anime, can bring prosecution.

Downloading television programs is legal because they were just broadcast to the world anyway.
If you are downloading the program from the copyright holder's site, then they are offering up for download and giving permission for it to be downloaded. If you can't find it on their site, but on any other site, chances are they have not given their permission for it to be downloaded/uploaded/shared so it would be in violation of the DMCA to do so.

The difference between recording something at home and watching it verses downloading it, is that when something is recorded on tape or DVR, it is presumed that you are recording for your own viewing at a later date and not distributing or sharing.


For how much can I be sued?

An October 2007 law suit against a young working mother in Minnesota brought a verdict of $9,250 for each file shared. In July 2009, a federal jury found a Boston University graduate student responsible for $675,000 in damages. These funds were awarded to four record labels for distributing 30 songs.

Penalties for copyright infringement also include civil and criminal penalties.


When can I use copyrighted material without getting permission and not getting in trouble?

Please refer to:

Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for non-profit educational purposes

  • The nature of the copyrighted work

  • The amount and substance of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole

  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission.

Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.


My connection is being shared through a router—who will get the violation?

One of the problems with sharing a connection is that you are opening yourself up for trouble. Unless you can prove it was someone else (which is nearly impossible), the person who registered the network device is the one that will be held responsible for the violation.