U-M encourages all students, faculty, and staff to engage in safe and legally compliant sharing of copyrighted materials. Downloading or sharing copyrighted material (such as music and videos) can be illegal if done without the permission of the copyright owner whether you profit from it or not.
About the Law
If you are infringing copyright, even unwittingly, you can be subject to civil damages of between $750 and $150,000 per work infringed and even criminal fines of up to $250,000 and jail time.
You are responsible for any digital copyright violations associated with your computer and network access if you give others permission to use them.
- Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA) (U.S. Copyright Office Summary)
- Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) (U.S. Department of Education)
Copyright Compliance at U-M
U-M provides the following information in compliance with the law:
- Annual Copyright Compliance Message to Students (2021-22)
- U-M Plan for Compliance with the HEOA
- DMCA Agent and Copyright Infringement Complaints
In addition to civil and criminal penalties, illegal downloading or file sharing is a violation of the following U-M policies. Repeated violations may result in sanctions imposed by the Office of Student Conflict Resolution.
- Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities (students only).
- Responsible Use of Information Resources (SPG 601.07). This policy characterizes any violation of third party copyright as "unethical and unacceptable."
- U-M Network Responsible Use Agreement (primarily for students who live in University Housing).
Learn more about copyright compliance and how to report issues and concerns, and your right to use copyrighted material without permission under certain circumstances, from the U-M Library Copyright Office's Copyright Basics.
Hazards of Using P2P File-Sharing Software
- Your files are shared automatically. Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharing software (such as BitTorrent) not only receives files, but automatically allows others to access them.
- Auto start-up. P2P programs may start up automatically when you turn on your computer, letting others access your files without your knowledge or consent. You are responsible for the file sharing activities of your computer, even when you are unaware of the activity.
- Security risks. P2P technology may make your computer vulnerable to malicious software or viruses.
Test Yourself and Take Action
- Copyright Compliance Quiz (U-M login required). Test your knowledge of what music, movies, books, and more you can and cannot share from your computer and mobile devices.
- Legal Resources for Downloading Copyrighted Material. This page lists some sources of legal downloads.
- How to Uninstall Filesharing Software (Cornell University). Instructions for safely and completely uninstalling filesharing software from your computer.