July 17, 2013


SUBJECT:    File Sharing and Copyright Violations

Copyright agencies are continuing to target universities - UC San Diego is no exception. This year, we have already received hundreds of copyright violation notices. When you use peer-to-peer programs such as uTorrent, FrostWire, or eMule, among others, to share copyrighted files, you open yourself up to serious risks, including:

* Malware Infection - Hundreds of users each year unknowingly download infected files from peer-to-peer programs. Malware disguised as media and legitimate software is designed to steal your personal information, including usernames and passwords for bank accounts and credit card numbers. This is a multi-billion dollar business.

* Identity Theft - In 2009, studies concluded that file sharing software carries significant risk of identity theft. After only a few hours of perusing the Gnutella network (FrostWire), researchers were able to find 45 birth certificates, 42 passports, and 208 tax returns. As we store more and more data on our computers, using these networks increases the risk of identity theft and can cost you thousands.

* Lawsuits - Although most notices delivered to UC San Diego are straightforward "cease and desist" notices, each carries with it the potential for a lawsuit and the loss of thousands of dollars. While we haven't received a lawsuit in the last few years, over 100 UC San Diego students have been sued for copyright violations in the past, some for the first time they shared a copyrighted file. Even early settlements out of court cost thousands of dollars and involve a substantial time investment.

* University Sanctions - Sanctions for staff and faculty are determined by their department. Students receiving a notice have their network devices temporarily blocked (often at inopportune times) and are required to attend a presentation on file sharing and copyright violations. Repeat violations for students result in referral to the Office of Student Conduct for sanctions imposed by their college Dean's office, which may include fines of $150 - $300. It is important to know the facts regarding the use of peer-to-peer programs. Common myths about file sharing and copyright law include:

* You can only get caught if you download the whole file.
* Downloading a TV show is the same as recording it.
* If you only download one file, you won't get a copyright violation.
* You will not get sued for a copyright violation without first getting a "cease and desist" notice.
* You have to download files to get a copyright notice.
* You can't get a copyright violation if you have purchased all the media files on your computer.
* If the material is not available in the US, it is not copyright protected. * You won't get caught if you do illegal file sharing on the wireless or VPN networks.

These are all false! For the latest information on copyright law, the University's policies regarding file sharing, the risks outlined above, and legal alternatives, please visit our website at

And remember, if you are trying to get the latest songs, movies, anime, software, or other copyrighted content for free, beware. A copyright agency is probably watching, and what is "free" at the time may end up costing you thousands of dollars. The Academic Computing & Media Services (ACMS) Help Desk maintains a list of free alternatives to popular software such as Adobe Photoshop and Final Cut Pro. See Legal Alternatives at

Be careful, know what's on your computer, and if you have questions or concerns regarding safe computing practices and university policies concerning illegal file sharing, feel free to contact the ACMS Help Desk ( We are here to help!

Jeff Henry
Academic Computing & Media Services
Campus DMCA Agent