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Copyright at UVa: Students

Copyright Matters

This site has been set up to help you understand copyright laws and policies as they apply to digital materials here at UVa. We're here to tell you about the University's commitment to protecting lawful copyrights, the administrative process used to handle infringement cases, and ways you can protect yourself from being involved unwittingly in illegal activities.

UVa takes copyright issues very seriously. If you download a song or a movie, a computer game or a software application in violation of its copyright, you're not just using lots of bandwidth—you're stealing. If you share those copyrighted materials with others, you're helping them to steal, too.

Don't think you'll get caught?—Think again! Industry lawyers target individuals who violate their copyrights—as evidenced by illegal copyright litigation.

What happens at UVa if we receive a DMCA copyright complaint (take-down notice or violation)?

(AKA: what happens if you get caught pirating...)

Sample DMCA Copyright Violation Notice (Take-down Notice)

The copyright holder or its agent sends a violation notice to the University administration. The University generally does not monitor the network for content and does not itself generate copyright violation notices to its network users. However, given receipt of this notification, the University will undertake an internal investigation to determine whether its network has been used in a manner inconsistent with law or the University's Respect for Copyrights of Digital Materials and Software Policy and take appropriate action, if necessary.

To satisfy the requirements of the DMCA and UVa policy, if you receive a DMCA take-down notice (AKA copyright complaint):

  1. You must delete the file(s), song, movie, etc., unless it was obtained legally. If you got it by illegal download, copying from someone else's DVD, etc., then delete it.
  2. We strongly recommend you remove or disable the file sharing software on your computer (also called "torrent" software). For assistance, please consult: Resources for Controlling Peer-to-Peer (P2P File Sharing Applications You can also, for free, contact the UVa Help Desk at: 434-924-HELP or UVa Help Desk Web Consult Page
  3. We will forward the DMCA copyright complaint we receive from the copyright holder to you for your response. You must REPLY promptly to the email we send you with this statement typed out: "I have ceased the unauthorized sharing of copyrighted material from my computer."
    Note: You should only reply to us,, not to the copyright holder or agent.
  4. If you don't reply to the email we sent you by the next business day, your computer's UVa network access will be blocked.
    When you open a web browser (e.g, Internet Explorer (IE) or Firefox) you will be re-directed to a Network Registration Block webpage where you can resolve the issue by attesting that you have followed the steps above and ceased the unauthorized sharing of copyrighted material. Your computer will be automatically re-connected to the UVa network within 5 to 60 minutes.
  5. If this is not the first DMCA copyright complaint incident, your computer's UVa network access will be blocked IMMEDIATELY as described above. Then we will forward the DMCA copyright complaint to you for your response. You will be able to unblock your computer as described above or we will unblock it after we receive an appropriate reply
  6. If after your second repeat incident you have a third (or more) DMCA copyright complaint indicent, in addition to your computer's immediate disconnection from the UVa network (as described above) you will also have to meet with a dean of students from your school.

Please be aware that regardless of what UVa does, the copyright holder may still pursue additional legal remedies.

While it may well be that you were unaware that the activity is illegal - or that someone else has used security vulnerabilities on your computer to conduct illegal activity without your knowledge - you are still responsible for how your computer is used. If you need some guidance on how to secure your machine against hackers and other threats, visit our information security site at and follow the link for users of personal computers.


If you are certain that you are legally using the material the copyright owner says you are infringing upon, or that the copyright owner has misidentified the material, you can file a counter-notice - after you remove the specified material from your computer or network access to your computer (network device) has been disabled. If is highly unlikely that you should file a counter-notification. To do so, you must reply to the UVa email you received and show us you have completed the steps detailed in the DMCA counter-notification webpage.

Can the University protect the personal identities of alleged illegal file sharers at UVa from industry representatives?

The University cannot protect individuals who, knowingly or not, distribute copyrighted material without an appropriate license or authorization. Typically, when the copyright holder or its agent or representative sends a DMCA copyright complaint to UVa, they don't ask us to identify the specific person whose computer hosted the alleged infringement; they just want it stopped. If they do make such a request via a court order (e.g., subpeona), though, the University has no choice but to comply. Individual students have been sued for copyright violations in cases like these.

Joel Tenenbaum's illegal filesharing troubles started while he was a college student, but didn't end when he graduated in 2006. After many court appearances and several verdicts, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Mr. Tenebaum's appeal, and in June 2013, after exhausting all other court appeals, the original judgement in the long-running file-sharing case between Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Boston student Joel Tenenbaum was upheld. The original damages awarded were $675,000 for sharing 30 songs ($2,250 for each song). Details at:
Supreme Court declines to hear Joel Tenenbaum appeal Wikipedia - Joel Tenenbaum

To catch a thief...

Wonder how the copyright holder catches alleged illegal file sharers (pirates)? Read the article from the May 2008 Chronicle of Higher Education at: How the RIAA Catches Alleged Music Pirates

You might also want to know that "accidental" "unintended" or "someone else used my computer" has not been accepted as a defense in file sharing law suits.

So we're not kidding when we say you could be liable to huge fines—even jail time—if you infringe. If it comes to the University's attention that you're violating digital copyrights, you could find your computer with no network access.

Leaving home to go to college means more autonomy for you, more freedom to make your own choices. It also means a greater burden of responsibility and accountability—so choose wisely.

So while it may seem quick, easy, and free, illegal file sharing and downloading do​es not come without serious costs to you.

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