CSU Policy: CSU Plan to Combat Illegal File Sharing

Policy Title: CSU Plan to Combat Illegal File Sharing Category: Information Technology
Owner: Vice President for Information Technology Policy ID#: 4-1018-019
Academic Computing and Networking Services
Web: https://www.acns.colostate.edu/
Phone: 970-491-5133

Also Contact:
Office of General Counsel
Web: http://csusystem.edu/general-counsel
Phone: (970) 491-6270
Original Effective Date: 8/3/2011
Last Revision: 7/2/2020
Print Version: Click Here to Print
Attachments to this Policy:


Colorado State University adheres to the highest ethical and moral standards concerning illegal sharing of copyrighted information. As required in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, CSU has adopted a variety of measures to combat illegal file sharing that are described in this plan.

Nothing in this plan is intended to prohibit or curtail the legal use of copyrighted material permissible under the Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act of 2002 (H.R. 22157), commonly referred to as the TEACH Act, revised Title 17 of the United States Code.


This plan encompasses best practices that are to be applied comprehensively in the University's environment. It applies to all students, faculty, and employees of the University.


File sharing or peer-to-peer file sharing is use of software programs such as LimeWire, Kazaa, Gnutella, uTorrent, BitTorrent, FrostWire and many others for sharing of copyrighted music, movies, games, software, and other files without the use of a central server. When P2P file sharing is done without the knowledge and consent of the copyright holder, it is a form of illegal intellectual property piracy.


Illegal file sharing is a violation of the rights of artists and other owners of copyrighted materials and is incompatible with the University’s goal of respecting and protecting intellectual property. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and other such organizations monitor file sharing on the internet and may notify the University when a computer on its network is illegally sharing copyrighted files. When this occurs, the University has an obligation to respond and take action to curtail the illegal practice by blocking users who are sharing copyrighted materials and permanently blocking repeat offenders from the use of CSU’s networks. In accordance with the Higher Education Act of 2008, the University has adopted this plan to combat unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material through P2P file sharing. The Plan consists of five elements, described below.


1. Technology-based deterrents

The University uses technologies that provide the ability to identify peer-to-peer applications. This is consistent with preserving the University’s IT infrastructure and digital resources.

2. Education

The University annually distributes educational materials to the campus community during "Cyber-Security Awareness Month” and through the Housing and Dining Services File Sharing Guidelines website. The information distributed outlines the legal obligations associated with P2P file sharing, provides examples of how certain uses of technology may constitute unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, and provides information on resources and alternatives for legally obtaining copyrighted material. It describes the institution's “three strikes” policy on unauthorized P2P file sharing and the disciplinary actions that may be imposed for violations. It also informs the campus community that unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized P2P file sharing, may result in civil and criminal liabilities and it summarizes potential civil and criminal penalties. An example of the type of “Notice to CSU Students Regarding Illegal File Sharing” that is distributed to students is linked at the end of this policy.

3. Policy Violations

The Student Conduct Code prohibits violations of federal copyright law and university policies on computer use, making any copyright infringement by a student a violation that can result in disciplinary action being taken. In addition, the CSU Policy on Acceptable Use prohibits any use of the university network for unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials.

Housing and Dining Services’ File Sharing Guidelines provide that each instance of infringement will result in network access being disabled, requiring the student to have access restored after taking appropriate remedial actions. Additional disciplinary actions may be imposed.

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 permission constitutes an infringement.

Damages recoverable for copyright infringement can include 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, including the Frequently Asked Questions section.

Legal Options for Digital Entertainment Services

There is a variety of legal methods of accessing and sharing copyrighted music, media and other works. EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology, offers extensive resources on this topic including information about how to legally download books, music, TV shows and movies. CSU recommends that students and others take advantage of these legitimate sources of digital content. Unlike peer-to-peer file sharing applications, these and similar services handle the copyright permissions and license fees (royalties) so that the end user is not responsible for them.  

Notice of Alleged Infringement

In the event that a student receives notice and an early settlement offer in conjunction with notice that he or she is suspected of illegal file sharing, it is recommended that the student contact Student Legal Services (284 Lory Student Center, 970-491-1482).

Typically, the University will receive a notice of alleged infringement and will be asked to identify the specific end user whose device was used to access or share content without permission. The University will take reasonable steps to protect the personal information and privacy of its students and employees to the extent that the law allows, while following procedures to stop the infringement and prevent its recurrence. However, the University is not responsible for a user’s actions that infringe copyright protections and will comply with legal requirements, such as subpoenas, in any action against a user.

Assessment of Plan Effectiveness

The Vice President for Information Technology will coordinate a periodic assessment of the effectiveness of this plan. The assessment shall consist of a review of current legal alternatives for downloading or otherwise acquiring copyrighted material, a review of the University's current technology-based deterrents, a review of the University's current educational efforts and a review of disciplinary actions for unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material. The assessment may include campus awareness of the risks and consequences of unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, availability of legal downloading alternatives, statistics on repeat violators and analysis of DMCA violation notices and settlement letters for trends and fluctuations in type and frequency. Based on this assessment, the Vice President for Information Technology, in consultation with the Office of General Counsel and the Division of Student Affairs will update this plan as needed.

Oversight of This Plan

The Information Technology Executive Committee (ITEC) is responsible for this plan, including adoption, modification and change.


Compliance with this policy is required. For assistance with interpretation or application of this policy, contact Academic Computing and Networking Services.


Sample Notice to Students Regarding Illegal File Sharing

DMCA Designated Agent Directory


Approved August 3, 2011 by ITEC

Revision Approved by Lynn Johnson, Vice President for University Operations on December 6, 2016

Revision approved by Rick Miranda, Provost/Executive Vice President on July 2, 2020




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