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Copyrighted Materials FAQ

I received a communication from the University about illegal downloading. Am I being accused of illegal downloading?

What should I do if I receive a copyright infringement notice from the University?

What should I do if I receive a settlement letter from the RIAA?

If the University receives a settlement letter from the RIAA and identifies an IP address as belonging to me, will the University share my identity information with the RIAA?

I have downloaded music off of the Internet. How do I tell if that music was copyright protected?

What is P2P file sharing technology?

I received a communication from the University about illegal downloading. Am I being accused of illegal downloading?

The University can receive a number of different types of notices regarding alleged copyright infringement by members of the University community. The different types of notices are discussed below.

a. Copyright Infringement Notice
The University receives a number of copyright infringements notices each day. These notices are typically sent to the abuse@purdue.edu address (or similar address for the regional campuses). These types of notices typically refer to the transmission of material on the University’s network that allegedly infringes upon the copyright of another. The University receives many of these notices from trade associations (e.g., the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) or the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)) who are authorized to act on behalf of the artists that they represent.

Sample infringement notice

These infringement notices identify an alleged offender by Internet Protocol (IP) address. In many cases, the University is able to use its IT resources and log files in order to identify the individual using the particular IP address at the time indicated in the infringement notice. If the University is able to reasonably identify the user under its current technological practices, we will forward the copyright infringement notice to the individual so identified.

b. RIAA Settlement Letters
In March 2007, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) increased its efforts to curtail unlawful peer-to-peer file sharing of copyrighted music over the Internet, and on college campuses in particular. As part of their new increased effort, the RIAA is sending University Internet Service Providers (ISP) “settlement letters” with Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of alleged offenders requesting that the ISP forward the letters to users whom the RIAA alleges has infringed upon RIAA copyrights. These letters threaten a lawsuit against the individuals who are identified in the letter by an IP address, but offer to settle the claim (the alleged illegal infringement) for a sum of money.

RIAA Settlement Letter sample

When Purdue University receives a notice of threatened legal action from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) or any other copyright holder, it will forward that document to members of the Purdue community identified as the owner on record at Purdue of the Internet Protocol (IP) address provided to us by the RIAA (the University can reasonably identify the user under its current technological practices). Although Purdue University is not obligated to forward such documents, we feel that it is in your best interest to be fully informed and aware of a pending legal action against you from the RIAA.

Purdue University is not passing judgment on whether the RIAA allegations are valid; but is merely forwarding the documents sent to the University from the RIAA. It will be entirely up to you to decide how to respond to this notice. At no point during this identification and forward process will the University provide identity information to the RIAA. The University will merely forward the RIAA settlement letter to the student and the individual student involved can determine the course of action that he or she wishes to pursue.

c. Subpoenas
Witnesses to litigation are sometimes in possession of materials relevant to an impending lawsuit. A subpoena is the mechanism used to make a formal legal demand for the production of needed items. Purdue University will at all times comply with valid subpoenas requesting information.

Purdue University provides identity information to third parties only in conjunction with valid subpoenas or other valid, legal requests and in compliance with other applicable laws such as FERPA. Purdue University will not provide any identity information other than that information which is publicly available (such as in the Purdue directory) without a legal obligation to do so.

What should I do if I receive a copyright infringement notice from the University?

All users of Purdue information technology resources are ultimately responsible for their own conduct and for responding to any notification received from a copyright owner. The University cannot advise you on the course of action that is in your best interest should you receive a copyright infringement notice. The University strongly recommends that, if you have any questions regarding such notices, you consult with legal counsel of your own choosing who is knowledgeable about copyright law.

The University reminds you that the generator of the copyright infringement notice does not receive any information about your identity from Purdue University without a court order. If you choose to contact the generator of the notice, you are identifying yourself to that generator.

What should I do if I receive a settlement letter from the RIAA?

All users of Purdue information technology resources are ultimately responsible for their own conduct and for responding to any notification received from a copyright owner. The University cannot advise you on the course of action that is in your best interest should you receive a settlement letter from the RIAA. The University strongly recommends that, if you have any questions about a settlement letter, you consult with legal counsel of your own choosing who is knowledgeable about copyright law.

If the University receives a settlement letter from the RIAA and identifies an IP address as belonging to me, will the University share my identity information with the RIAA?

When the University first receives a settlement letter from the RIAA or any other copyright holder, it will attempt to accurately identify the student who was associated with the IP address provided by the RIAA. Only if the University can identify the student associated with the IP address with a reasonable degree of accuracy will the University forward the RIAA settlement letter to the student identified. At no point during this initial identification and forward process will the University provide identity information to the RIAA. The University will merely forward the settlement letter to the student and the individual student involved can determine the course of action that he or she wishes to pursue.

However, the RIAA and other copyright holders do have legal mechanisms that they can use to attempt to compel the University to provide the identity information of the student associated with the IP address that was allegedly involved in illegal file sharing or copyright infringement. Purdue University provides identity information to third parties only in conjunction with valid subpoenas or other valid, legal requests and in compliance with other applicable laws such as FERPA. Purdue University will not provide any identity information other than that information which is publicly available (such as in the Purdue directory) without a legal obligation to do so.

I have downloaded music off of the Internet. How do I tell if that music was copyright protected?

Nearly all current content available on the Internet is subject to copyright protection from its moment of creation. The best protection from any claims of copyright infringement by the RIAA or any other third party is to not download or share copyrighted content unless it is from a source where you know that the copyright owner has given his or her permission for you to download or share the content. Unless you have explicit permission from the copyright owner to copy, download, or share the material, you should consider it copyright protected and refrain from downloading it or sharing it. There are many sites on the Internet that offer the opportunity to legally purchase (and in some cases download for free) music, movies, and games. The Additional Resources links on the SecurePurdue webpage at: http://www.purdue.edu/securepurdue/copyright.cfm can provide you with initial sources for searching for content that can be legally purchased and downloaded.

What is P2P file sharing technology?

Peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing technology allows users to make files available for other users to download and use. File sharers store files on their computers and the P2P file-sharing software enables other users to download the files onto their own computers. Examples of P2P file sharing networks include BitTorrent, Gnutella, and LimeWire.

Although the vast majority of file sharing occurs with P2P applications across Internet-based connections, new utilities allow widespread file sharing within local computer networks, such as Purdue’s ResNet and Air Link systems.

While P2P file-sharing software and other similar applications are not unlawful, using those types of applications to make copyrighted materials available to others for downloading is a copyright violation. Even if a user has legally obtained copies of copyrighted materials and stored them on their computer, they must take care to protect those copies from unauthorized copying by others. As such, file sharing technologies should be used responsibly to ensure that copyrighted materials are not being made available for copying by people not legally entitled to do so. Students who have installed peer-to-peer file sharing programs on their computers and wish to disable such services can visit the University of Chicago’s webpage to learn how to disable file sharing on a number of common programs.