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: http://www.acns.colostate.edu
Phone: 970-491-5133

Also Contact:
Office of General Counsel
Web: http://www.csusystem.edu/general-counsel
Phone: (970) 491-6270
Original Effective Date: 8/3/2011
Last Major Revision: 1/31/2017
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 Act of 2008, Colorado State University has adopted a variety of measures to combat illegal file sharing that are described in this Plan.

However, 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.


Elements of the Plan

In accordance with the Higher Education Act of 2008; the University has adopted this Plan to combat unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material through peer-to-peer file sharing. The Plan consists of five elements, described below.

1. Technology-based deterrents

The University computing infrastructure has the ability to shape the majority of peer-to-peer (P2P) applications in use today. The University will use technologies that provide the ability to identify P2P applications and assist with the shaping of the traffic associated with such applications as appropriate to enhance the effectiveness of the Plan and consistent with preserving the IT infrastructure and University 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 website (http://www.housing.colostate.edu/file-sharing-guidelines). 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. The information describes the institution's policies with respect to unauthorized P2P file sharing and indicates the potential disciplinary actions that may be instituted for violations. It also explicitly informs the campus community that unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized P2P file sharing, may result in civil and criminal liabilities and 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. Related Policies

The Student Conduct Code prohibits violations of federal copyright law and University policies on computer use. Under Prohibited Conduct, sections 13 and 18 apply to such violations. These provisions make any copyright infringement by a student a violation of University policy that can result in disciplinary action being taken. In addition, the University's Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) prohibits any use of the University network for unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials.

Housing and Dining Services’ File Sharing Guidelines also include a “three strikes” model for responding to incidents of copyright infringement. Each instance of infringement will result in network access being disabled, requiring the student to have access restored after taking appropriate remedial actions, and there may be additional disciplinary actions imposed. The full policy may be viewed on the HDS website (http://www.housing.colostate.edu/file-sharing-guidelines#3%20Strikes).

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 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 Web site of the U.S. Copyright Office at http://www.copyright.gov, especially their FAQ's at http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq.

Legal Options for Digital Entertainment Services

There is a variety of legal methods of accessing and sharing copyrighted music, media and other works. CSU recommends that students and others use commercial services such as iTunes, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, and Spotify. Unlike P2P 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 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 shall set out the criteria used for assessing Plan effectiveness, which may include tools for assessing 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, the Director of Human Resources, and the Office 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.

Questions regarding this plan should be addressed to the Vice President for Information Technology, Dr. Patrick J. Burns, Patrick.Burns@ColoState.EDU.


Sample Notice to Students Regarding Illegal File Sharing


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




Print Version: Click Here to Print

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