Digital Millenium Copyright Act




The distribution of copyrighted materials without permission (over the internet) can be a violation of federal law. The law is known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 ("DMCA"). Much of the music, video, or games that are downloaded via programs like BitTorrent are distributed without the permission of the copyright owner, and thus these downloads are illegal. Importantly, the programs that are most often used to download music, video, and games automatically allow file distribution from the computer they are installed on. Thus, a computer system may be illegally distributing copyrighted materials to the entire Internet without the computer owner's knowledge. The federal government and various organizations (such as the Recording Industry Association of America, RIAA) are very serious about enforcing the provisions of the DMCA legislation, and violations can carry very stiff fines and potential jail sentences.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has adopted a new tactic for dealing with copyright infringements, by-passing the cease and desist action of a DMCA notification to sending Preservation Notifications and/or Early Settlement letters. Preservation notifications indicate the RIAA may serve a subpoena requesting a user's name, addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and MAC (Media Access Control). Although the preservation notice usually does not contain sufficient information to qualify of a DMCA take down, the notice may provide enough information to support an investigation of an UCR policy violation of acceptable network use.

Pre-litigation "settlement letters" from the RIAA offer discount "pre-suit" settlement offers normally ranging $3,000 to $6,000. Settlement letters are an attempt to recover monetary damages without serving the University a subpoena gaining the individual's identity to take the accused offender to court. Since January 2007 almost three thousand university students have been sent these letters by the RIAA.

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What should you do?

What is the best approach to deal with this issue? Very simply, do not download or distribute copyrighted materials without appropriate permissions. And secondly, if you wish to download copyrighted material, find out how to acquire it legally and take appropriate steps to ensure your computer is not used for illegal file sharing.

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Why is this issue important to UCR?

Campuses are often "hot beds" of file sharing activities, both legal and otherwise, because of the large amount of network bandwidth that is available at many colleges and universities.

Many students, staff, and faculty do not realize that sharing of copyrighted materials (without permission) over the Internet is illegal. UCR wants to ensure that all campus constituents are fully aware of the law and act accordingly (it is obviously inappropriate to use UCR's network for any illegal activities).

Also, UCR students, staff, and faculty should be aware that colleges and universities must quickly respond to DMCA related inquiries since ISPs (Internet Service Providers, like UCR) can be held liable for copyright infringement if they do not promptly resolve illegal distribution activities once they become aware of them. As a result, UCR attempts to resolve DMCA queries in the most expeditious manner possible as soon as the campus is informed of a violation.

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What Happens during a DMCA Inquiry?

In general, most DMCA violations result in a "cease and desist" order and are resolved once copyrighted materials are removed from the computer in question. Subpoenas have been issued on behalf of the RIAA to acquire information on individuals engaged in illegal file sharing, with the goal of using this data for criminal investigations. Thus, it is more important than ever not to engage in file sharing of copyrighted materials (without permission) and to ensure your computer is not configured to do so.

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Those individuals who very actively engage in illegal file sharing are the most likely to face DMCA inquires and subpoenas. However, it is important to remember that downloading even one copyrighted song without permission is against the law and university policy. The best way to deal with this issue is simply not to download or distribute copyrighted materials without appropriate permissions.

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More Information

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Career OpportunitiesUCR Libraries
Campus StatusDirections to UCR

DMCA Information

Computing & Communications
Computing & Communications Bldg.

Tel: 951-827-4741
Fax: 951-827-4541
E-mail: dmca@ucr.edu