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Hints for Sharing and Downloading Music and Movies

Sharing Movies and Music Legally
Sharing movies and music is fun and easy, but it can be legal issue and a violation of university policy if done incorrectly and illegally. Lawsuits initiated by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) have resulted in financial issues for students. There are a number of websites that provide music and movie files that can be downloaded legally or additional information about downloading. You can check out the risks of illegal downloading or file-sharing by watching the video on Campus Downloading.

Summary of University Policy, Civil and Criminal Penalties
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 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 website of the U.S. Copyright Office, especially the FAQ's.

Oakland University policy prohibits the sharing of material in violation of copyright. Review University Policy #890 Use of University Information Technology Resources, section II, c. Sanctions for policy violations are described in section IV.  Please review the university Copyright:  Plan for Compliance.

Check First
Your best friend may say the site is legal, but is it? You best check for yourself. Before you download music or movies or install software to download or share, you should check these lists first:

The MusicUnited website provides links to many legal music pages where you can locate MP3s and other forms of digital music that are provided for free or at a small charge.

Motion Picture Association of America
The MPAA is the movie industry group active in protecting the intellectual property rights of American filmmakers and motion picture studios.

Recording Industry Association of America
The RIAA is the recording industry trade group active in protecting the intellectual property rights of American recording artists throughout the world.

Business Software Alliance
The BSA is the software industry group that promotes legal downloading of commercial software.

United States Copyright Frequently Asked Questions
Copyright FAQ — A series of commonly asked questions and answers from the United States Copyright Office.

Chilling Effects
Chilling Effects provides information useful in understanding all sides of the copyright issue and the protections that the First Amendment and intellectual property laws provide for online activities.


April 2013