File Sharing

The University of Michigan is in the information business, and that requires sharing of information. However, University policy explicitly prohibits use of its computer systems and networks to violate copyright (see SPG 601.07: Responsible Use of Information Resources). Some forms of file sharing—for example, illegally downloading and sharing MP3 files of popular music—violate copyright. It is important for all users of the University's systems to understand their responsibilities and the University's responsibilities regarding copyright.

Lawful downloading of music and movies is possible through sites such as Apple iTunes, MSN Music, Rhapsody, Ruckus, etc. See the comparison of Online Music Stores (Wikipedia).

User Responsibilities

Members of the University are obligated to know what is and is not allowed under copyright, including appropriate and inappropriate forms of file sharing. Anyone seeking a University computing account is required to abide by the terms of SPG 601.07: Responsible Use of Information Resources. This policy requires users to comply with copyright law and provides information about the sanctions for misusing University information resources.

Users are subject to criminal and civil liability for violation of laws related to copyright, and members of the University of Michigan community have been prosecuted successfully for violations of copyright law.

University Responsibilities

The University has two responsibilities: enforcement and education. As an Internet Service Provider (ISP) the University provides network support for many thousands of students, staff and faculty. The University must enforce law and policy related to copyright infringement on its computer systems and networks. This includes infringements such as illegal sharing of music as identified by the Recording Industry Association of America, or RIAA. The RIAA has cited the University's compliance procedures and education campaigns as models for higher education.

The law that governs many of the University's actions with regard to copyright is the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act). The DMCA requires the University to assign a DMCA Agent to notify users accused of violating copyrights through file sharing or other means that a complaint against them has been received. Such users must then either remove the material or inform the DMCA Agent that s/he is not in violation. When the DMCA Agent receives notice that there is no violation, the user is then put in touch with the complaining party to work out resolution of the complaint. If the user does not respond to the DMCA Agent's notification in a timely manner, the user's network access to the disputed material is blocked.

The University's educational efforts take many forms. Incoming students at orientation participate in the "Smart Computing" session where issues of file sharing, software piracy, copyright law, and appropriate use of University IT resources are discussed. All students must abide by SPG 601.07, which requires compliance with copyright law. Violations of the provision can result in sanctions including suspension or revocation of computer accounts and access to networks, non-reappointment, discharge, dismissal, and/or legal action.

House Judiciary Committee Survey of University Network and Data Integrity Practices

On May 2nd, 2007, President Mary Sue Coleman received a survey about the University of Michigan's practices with regard to network and data integrity from members of the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property.

The House Judiciary Committee survey, the University's response, and the University's cover letter are available for download in PDF, along with an Excel spreadsheet of appendices.

Other University of Michigan Resources

Press Releases

Page maintained by Melissa Smith Levine
Last modified: 07/01/2016