As a new academic year begins, and we are all settling into new routines, we want to bring to your attention a serious matter that is all too often not given a second thought until it is too late -- the illegal downloading of music off the Internet.
According to U.S. copyright law, it is illegal both to upload and download copyrighted music, pictures, software, or written text without permission. In other words, even if you never download a single song off the Internet, but merely upload, say, legally purchased songs to a file-sharing program, you can still be found in violation of the law.
And the penalties are severe. Criminal penalties for first-time offenders can be as high as five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Civil penalties can run into the many thousands of dollars in damages and legal fees. The minimum penalty is $750 per song.
Since 2007, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has increased its efforts to monitor peer-to-peer file sharing of copyrighted music on college campuses, and the College has, in fact, been receiving an increasing number of "settlement letters," identifying the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of students whom the RIAA believes have unlawfully downloaded copyrighted music. These letters offer to settle legal claims without litigation for a sum of money. If the individual does not settle, or does not respond to the letter, the RIAA brings a lawsuit against the student.
Legal action brought by the RIAA is a private matter between the student and the RIAA, and the College cannot advise you on the proper response should you receive such a letter. You are urged to consult with legal counsel of your own choosing who is knowledgeable about copyright law in order to determine how to respond.
The most effective way to avoid a claim of copyright infringement is just to not download or share any copyrighted content unless you are certain that you have the owner's permission. It is simply not worth the distraction, worry, legal fees, fines, and risk of criminal penalties.
If you have questions, contact the Office of the General Counsel at x42038. For more information, visit:
RIAA's P2P Lawsuit Site
Music United Copying FAQ
Barnard College Computer Use Policy
Best wishes for a good start to the Fall Semester.