Illegal Downloading

CMU has seen a dramatic increase recently in the number of illegal downloading complaints. In the spring of 2006, we received a total of eight complaints. In the fall of 2007, we received 600. Also in 2007, 51 CMU students had direct legal action taken against them for copyright infringement.

What are the typical applications that are used for illegal downloading?

Gnutella, Limewire, Morpheus, BitTorrent, Ares, Aimster, Bearshare, Kazaa, Imesh and Napster are a few of the more common names from over the years. There are dozens and dozens of applications that fall into this category.

How do I know if something is copyrighted?

Most music, videos, lyrics, books, TV shows, etc. are copyrighted. You would be better to assume that everything is copyrighted unless you know specifically otherwise.

Aren't I covered under "fair use"?

No. Fair use covers things like making a copy of a purchased CD for use in your MP3 player or car. It does not allow you to download music for free that you would normally have to purchase.

I just was forwarded an email about illegal downloading. What does this letter mean?

There are three types of letters that we have seen recently and each one is treated a little differently. The most common letter is what is referred to as a "take down notice." These are forwarded on to the user and generally, they are just asking for the infringing material to be removed from the computer. In general, they believe that most people will do the right thing if asked.

The second kind is referred to as a "pre-litigation letter." These are letters that are sent to us as the Internet service provider asking us to forward them to the users. They specify that they intend to subpoena the subscriber information and legal action is about to be taken against the CMU user. Depending on when this issue is settled in the process determines the financial settlement. CMU does forward these letters to the users and recommends that the user consult with their personal attorney on what to do.

The third kind is referred to as a "preservation notice." These inform that a "pre-litigation letter" is forthcoming and/or requests that we preserve any information regarding the user. These letters do NOT get forwarded to the users.

What are CMU's policies regarding illegal downloading?

It depends on what type of letter is received.

Take down notice:
1st incident – letter is forwarded
2nd incident – letter is forwarded; the individual may be referred to the Office of Student Life or, in the case of faculty or staff members, the proper personnel office; and all incidents become part of the individual's record. There are usually fines and probations related to these incidents.
3rd or repeated incidents – Same as second but increased fines and possible dismissal from CMU.

Pre-litigation letter:
1st incident – same as 2nd incident above
2nd incident – same as 3rd incident above

Preservation notice:
All incidents – records are preserved for 6 months

Copyright infringement is also referred to in the following policies:

  • Responsible Use of Computing policy, Rules 1b, 5, and 5d
  • Student Code of Conduct: 3.2.18 computer Abuse or 3.2.10 Theft

What can happen to me if I violate copyright laws?

Aside from university sanctions, you are subject to the federal and state copyright laws punishable up to three years in jail and $250,000 in fines per infraction.

Why was I not told about this?

It is mentioned as a part of the registration process, and an entire page in the registration process is devoted to it. You had to check a box that you read and understood the contents of those pages.

It is usually mentioned during orientation and numerous different campaigns have been tried to get the word out.

How can I check the validity of the forwarded note?

You can call the Office of Information Technology at (989) 774-3662. They get duplicates of every message that gets forwarded on.

Does CMU check the validity of the complaints?

The complaints come from a few sources and we merely forward them on. Each email typically comes with a certificate to ensure the authenticity.

What should I do?

Follow the instructions in the forwarded letter. This typically means removing the infringing material with take down notices. Pre-litigation letters have specific instructions. When in doubt with pre-litigation letter, consult your personal attorney before taking any action. You may want to unplug your computer from the network to ensure that nothing further happens with your computer until your attorney instructs you what to do.

What if I didn’t download this?

This is usually a rare case, but it could happen. Please contact the Office of Information Technology at (989) 774-3662 and report this so we can look into it further. In some cases, two incidents are on the same complaint because they occurred from two systems using the same IP address at different times. Those are usually separated out and both parties get individual messages. The original message is not altered. In these cases, we create a record for each individual.

What if my roommate was the one doing this?

If he was using your computer, you may still be responsible. For the purposes of CMU's actions, let us know so that it can be documented.

Will I get a take down notice prior to getting a pre-litigation letter?

Twenty-three students received pre-litigation letters in the Spring of 2007. None of these students had previously received any take down notices forwarded by CMU.

If I removed the copyrighted material, will I be protected from being sued?

That is up to the complainant. To date, we have seen only one instance of an individual who removed copyrighted material after received a "take down notice" and still received a pre-litigation letter.

Do I have to remove XYZ file sharing program?

We do not regulate what applications you should or should not use nor how you use them. Most individuals do remove the application to avoid any possible future complaints. If you are having difficulty removing the applications, you can call the CMU IT Help Desk at (989) 774-3662 and have a repair technician assist you. (This is a chargeable service.)

Will the ResNet techs remove the applications for me?

No. Their job is to get systems to where they can pass the Client Security Assessment that usually just entails getting the systems patched, current antivirus applications and updated signatures. They usually do not have the time to look at other problems.

Will CMU release my information to the complainant?

CMU will NOT release any of your information to anyone outside of CMU without a subpoena, court order or through some other legal process.

Can I get more information from the complainant?

Most letters have an email address where you can respond. Keep in mind that CMU will NOT release any of your information to anyone outside of CMU without a subpoena or court order. If you give that information to them, that is your business. You may want to consult with your personal attorney before responding.

What will CMU do to protect me?

The network is merely a conduit, and CMU is going to protect itself. The actions you take on the network are strictly your own and at your own risk.

CMU will NOT release any of your information to anyone outside of CMU without a subpoena or court order.

I don’t have a personal attorney. Can I get legal advice from CMU?

No. The university attorneys represent the university and do not offer personal legal advice.

Where I can learn more about the copyright laws?

Here are a few useful links on copyright laws:

I paid for XYZ file sharing program. Doesn’t that make me legal?

In most cases, it does not make it legal. By paying for the application, you may get enhanced features, but it does not mean that the material you download or upload has been licensed for your use.

There are a few sites for legal music downloading. A list can be found at:

Why doesn’t CMU block these applications?

CMU’s network is merely a conduit. CMU does not have the resources to continually police all of the applications and network traffic. It is no different than someone using a telephone for illegal acts. Just as it would be prohibitive for the phone company to monitor and block that traffic, the same holds true for the network.

While the Network Bandwidth Quota system doesn’t block applications, file sharing normally consumes lots of bandwidth. If you are being affected by the quota system, you should be looking into why you are consuming so much bandwidth.

How does the RIAA track alleged music pirates?

Below is a good article explaining their process.

How do I remove the P2P applications?

While removing P2P applications can be very tricky, these sites do their best to try an explain how to do it. Use the information at your own risk.

Are there any utilities that can be used to remove P2P applications?

Below is a commercial application which claims to be able to remove P2P applications. This has not been tested by Central Michigan University.

Is there a way that I can get the P2P applications to stop uploading?

Many applications do not allow you to turn off the uploading feature.

Who can I contact for technical help?

You can call the CMU Help Desk at (989) 774-3662. The CMU IT Technical Services group can assist with this. Be aware though that a reformat of your computer and reinstallation of the operating system is the only method available to ensure complete peer-to-peer application removal. This service will be available through CMU IT AFTER the first three weeks of the fall term for a $100 base charge.

Why won't the ResNet Depots remove these applications?

The ResNet Depots do not have the time to spend several hours doing a rebuild of a computer system during the first three weeks of the fall term.

Why can't you just uninstall the application instead of a complete reformat of my system?

Some of these applications are very difficult to remove. Even though you have uninstalled the application, some leave a small portion of the application behind that still is allowing your copyrighted material to be shared out. So while you think you have removed the application and your liability, it still exists. The reformat option is the only way CMU IT will guarantee that any P2P application is fully disabled on your system.

Where can I find legal sites to download music and get more information on this topic?

You can find a list of legal sites, more Frequently Asked Questions and additional resources at ​


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Phone: 989-774-4000

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