Illegal File Sharing Risks and Legal Alternatives

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Potential for Lawsuits

There are penalties associated with illegally downloading and sharing files using applications such as BitTorrent, uTorrent, Ares, Popcorn Time, and Kazaa.  These penalties for illegal file sharing or other copyright violations extend to those files you have obtained while using your personal computer on UVA’s network. Exchanging your future for a free and illegal copy of Game of Thrones does not seem like a fair exchange.

Copyright owners such as major entertainment companies have technology that will detect illegal streaming and downloading over the internet and will contact UVA with specific location details used to identify you.  Although UVA does not regularly monitor for illegal content on the network, the University will use this information to contact you and require that you immediately discontinue the illegal use. The University will not protect individuals who use or share (whether knowingly or not) copyrighted materials without an appropriate license to do so.  As evidenced by lawsuits, illegal downloading of music and movies can be extremely costly. How costly? Here are the costs for which you may be liable as a copyright infringer:

  1. Offender pays the actual dollar amount of damages and profits.
  2. The law provides a range from $200 to $150,000 for each work infringed.
  3. Offender pays for all attorney's fees and court costs.
  4. The court can issue an injunction to stop the infringing acts.
  5. The court can impound the illegal works.
  6. The offender can go to jail.

Read about two different stories involving student violations on C|Net News; then decide if you can afford the "free" music and movies you get by file sharing.  Do you want to be known for such acts when being considered for a job?

Unwanted Sharing of Personal Files

Aside from potential lawsuits and fines, there are costly security aspects you might want to consider before using peer-to-peer applications.  P2P applications can expose all file contents on your computer, including confidential data files, saved emails, financial records, etc., making them vulnerable to exploitation which could lead to identity theft and other types of fraud. For this reason, UVA's Information Security Office strongly advises against installing and using these applications. If you have a P2P program already installed, we recommend that you remove it. To find out how, visit UVA's web page that explains how to remove P2P applications.


Legal Alternatives

Rather than illegally downloading movies, try searching the UVA Library collection for movies and shows to stream or DVDs to check out. You should also check the EDUCAUSE web page that provides a long list of legal sources of music, TV shows, movies, and videos.


More Information

If you would like to find out more about copyright laws and issues, including U.S. and international law, fair use, and public domain status, these websites are a good place to start.

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