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Copyright FAQ

Is it legal to download or store copyrighted materials on my computer?

Generally, you are infringing on copyright if you download or store copyrighted material that was not legally obtained. Most downloading over the Internet of commercially available copyrighted material (movies/music) though file sharing systems (i.e., BitTorrent) is illegal. However, if you legally obtained the music, movie or software you can in most cases store the content on your computer. In these situations you only violate copyright law if you allow others to download the content from your computer.

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How does a copyright holder find out if I have unlawfully obtained copyrighted materials on my computer?

Copyright holders search the Internet to determine if copyrighted material is being illegally distributed. They often search using the same peer-to-peer software (BitTorrent, Ares) used by those sharing files. When they discover that a file is being shared they issue a copyright infringement notice to the network provider (i.e. Lehigh University) from which the file was transmitted.

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I have received a notification that my computer is sharing copyrighted materials, what do I need to do?

Carefully read over and follow the instructions specified in the notice. At a minimum you will be asked to remove the offending material and also uninstall the file sharing software. In most cases if this is your first and only offense there will be no further action necessary. However, if we receive any future copyright infringement notifications against you it can lead to loss of network access and referral to the Dean of Students for disciplinary action.

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I have received a notification that my computer is sharing copyrighted materials, but I either don't have the materials mentioned or was unaware I was sharing them with others. How is this possible?

In this situation you most likely have some kind of file sharing application installed on your computer. These applications are usually by default set to automatically share all media files stored on a computer. You will need to remove the file sharing application to avoid future trouble. Another possibility is that if you are running an illegal wireless access point in your residence there might be nearby students connecting to your access point who are illegally sharing copyrighted material. In this case as the owner of the access point the illegal file sharing will be traced back to you. This is one of the reasons that Lehigh's acceptable use policy does not permit students to run their own wireless access points on campus. There are cases where a copyright infringement notification is incorrect. If you receive a notification that is incorrect you will be given the opportunity to dispute it. In these situations you will be asked to work with LTS to verify that the infringement is incorrect.

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Does Lehigh University share any information regarding a violator with the Copyright holder?

As part of the normal processing of copyright violations, Lehigh does not provide the names of individuals or our findings in the investigation to the Copyright holder or their representative. The only exception to this would be if we received a court order, warrant or subpoena from a governmental or law enforcement official.

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What are the consequences if my computer is found to have been sharing copyrighted materials?

Penalties for copyright infringement include civil and criminal penalties. In general, anyone found liable for civil copyright infringement may be ordered to pay either actual damages or "statutory" damages affixed at not less than $750 and not more than $30,000 per work infringed. For "willful" infringement, a court may award up to $150,000 per work infringed. A court can, in its discretion, also assess costs and attorneys' fees. For details, see Title 17, United States Code, Sections 504, 505. Willful copyright infringement can also result in criminal penalties, including imprisonment of up to five years and fines of up to $250,000 per offense. For more information, please see the Web site of the U.S. Copyright Office at www.copyright.gov, especially their FAQ's at www.copyright.gov/help/faq.

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The Copyright infringement notice I received contains a "settlement offer" for a sum of money, what should I do?

It is possible that some copyright infringement notices may contain some type of “Settlement Offer”, and ask you to pay a fine. It is important to note that Lehigh University does not require an individual to accept any settlement offer as part of the University process for resolving copyright violations. It is recommended that before accepting or declining such offers an individual do research and/or seek legal guidance.

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For additional help, please contact the LTS Help Desk at 610-758-4357 or helpdesk@lehigh.edu