Annual ITS Disclosure of Detroit Mercy Policies Related to Illegal Downloading

Downloading, copying and sharing material, such as music, movies, games, and applications, for which the copyright holder has not given rights is both against the law and University of Detroit Mercy’s Acceptable Use Policy. Piracy harms developers and publishers, creates unfair competition for legitimate companies, damages brands through the distribution of substandard products, and exposes users to a range of IT risks including malware, security breaches, and data loss.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), also referred to as H.R. 4137, was signed into law on August 14, 2008. The HEOA primarily addresses obstacles that make it difficult for qualified students to obtain a college education, but it also includes specific statements requiring colleges and universities to comply with digital copyright laws.

This law requires Detroit Mercy to take the following steps to deter illegal downloading:

  • An annual disclosure to students describing digital copyright law and campus policies related to violating copyright law.
  • A plan to "effectively combat" copyright abuse on the campus network using a "variety of technology-based deterrents."
  • Provide access to and offer alternatives to illegal downloading.

Annual Disclosure

Detroit Mercy uses the following methods to inform the University community about copyright law and campus policies related to violating copyright law:

Technology-Based Deterrents

The ITS department has installed a packet filtering solution to drop incoming and outgoing TCP/IP and UDP packets from all known illegal file-sharing and peer-to-peer (P2P) services.

University owned equipment will be routinely checked for common P2P applications. P2P based applications are neither authorized for use nor supported by the ITS department.

Offer alternatives to illegal file sharing

There are numerous free and commercial services available that provide legal ways to copy and/or use various types of digital content, including such things as popular music and video titles. EDUCAUSE, the foremost information technology consortium in higher education, maintains a website of links to legal sources of online content:

Detroit Mercy strongly recommends that the campus community employs these or other such services as ways to ensure that users of electronic media are in compliance with Federal copyright law.

Software Copyright Violation Notice

When the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) or any copyright owner sends the ITS department a warning or “settlement letter” with Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of alleged offender requesting that the University forward the letter to the user whom they allege have infringed the copyright upon, ITS will internally identify and forward the notice to the individual whose computers are on record as assigned to the IP address identified in the settlement notice. 

The University is not responsible for the accuracy of the identification of addresses to which notices are sent or for how individual users elect to respond to such notices.  All users of University IT resources are ultimately responsible for their own conduct and for responding to any notification received from a copyright owner that is passed on by the University.  Users who have questions regarding a notice should contact legal counsel of their own choosing for advice. 

Violations will be dealt with as documented below:

  • On the first detection, ITS will block the port and/or MAC address of the offending device.  The user of the device will need to meet with the ITS Help Desk manager to discuss the activity and take corrective action to eliminate the activity.  Once cleared up, ITS will remove the block. 
  • On any successive detection, ITS will block the port and/or MAC address of the offending device.  The student user of the device will need to report to the Dean of Students.  The Dean of Students will then handle the case according to the Student Code of Conduct.  Once the Dean of Students communicates approval in writing to lift the block for the offending device to ITS, then and only then, ITS will remove the block.  In the case of an employee, the employee will meet with the AVP for IT.  The AVP for IT will then handle the case in conjunction with the employee's supervisor.  Once the ITS department verifies removal of copyrighted materials, ITS will lift the block for the offending device.

In cases of detection, the outcome may also lead to:

  1. Temporary or permanent loss of computing privileges
  2. Temporary or permanent blacklisting or disconnection from the University's network
  3. Judicial sanctions as prescribed by the Student Code of Conduct or the Employee Handbook
  4. Monetary reimbursement to the University or other appropriate services
  5. Temporary or permanent separation from the University
  6. Prosecution under civil and criminal laws

Summary of Civil and Criminal Penalties for Violation of Federal Copyright Laws

Copyright infringement is the act of exercising, without permission or legal authority, one or more of the exclusive rights granted to the copyright owner under section 106 of the Copyright Act (Title 17 of the United States Code).  These rights include the right to reproduce or distribute a copyrighted work.  In the file-sharing context, downloading or uploading substantial parts of a copyrighted work without authority constitutes an infringement.

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 attorney's 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 on Copyright, Software Enforcement, and the U.S. Law