Annotations in red by Cory Doctorow,, Canada-US Fulbright Chair, USC Annenberg Center for Public Diplomacy

From: Copyright Compliance
Date: Aug 23, 2006 6:33 PM
Subject: Copyright Compliance Notice

Dear Student:

This e-mail is being sent to all students at USC to make sure that you have the same information about copyright compliance.

The University of Southern California is committed to the education of its students. Part of the educational process includes the provision of Internet connections for students in classrooms, residences, libraries, eating establishments, and other places on campus. Students who live off campus also may access the Internet through USC's computers via modems and broadband connections.

Over the past several years, USC has increased its efforts to make students aware of policies governing the use of its computing facilities and systems to enhance their educational experience and keep them from violating╩╩university, state, and federal polices and laws that would negatively impact their student status.

As a part of this ongoing effort, we want to emphasize the fact that many of you may be risking complete loss of access to the USC computer system and both disciplinary and legal sanctions. Below is an overview of how students can place themselves and their computing privileges in jeopardy by inappropriately and illegally using USC's Internet access to access, download, upload, and otherwise share copyrighted materials without permission.

Is File Sharing Worth Losing Student Privileges at USC?

You are undoubtedly aware of the development and evolution of file-sharing software, also known as peer-to-peer networks ("P2P networks"), and the way that P2P networks can be used to share and exchange music, movies, software and other electronic materials.╩╩What you need to understand, however, is that the use of P2P networks to download or share copyrighted material, such as movies, music and software, can violate the rights of copyright owners, and can constitute unlawful copyright infringement.

Kudos for the use of "can" above -- as in "can violate the rights, etc." However, a little word here about the fair use provisions that apply to scholarship would be welcome right about here, since there's an entire body of copyright law and jurisprudence devoted to helping scholars make unauthorized, permission-free use of copyrighted works.

Copyright infringement occurs whenever someone makes a copy of any copyrighted work -- songs, videos, software, cartoons, photographs, stories, novels -- without purchasing that copy from the copyright owner, or obtaining permission some other way.

Wait, wait, wait. Doesn't USC have a law program? This is just utterly wrong. Copyright infringement occurs when you make a use without obtaining permission, provided that your use doesn't fall under the banner of fair use and other user-rights under copyright.

Infringement also occurs when one person purchases an authorized copy but allows others to make further unauthorized (or "pirated") copies.

Home taping is killing music! Honestly, it's like whomever wrote this never heard of the Audio Home Recording Rights Act, which provides for just this sort of use.

For example, if a student purchases a CD and creates an MP3 or other digital copy, and then uses a P2P network to share that MP3 or other digital copy with others, both the student and those making copies are infringing the rights of the copyright owner(s) and violating federal copyright law.

I liked this memo better when it contained words like "can" and "might." This just isn't true. There are innumerable circumstances in which this is wrong.

USC prohibits any infringement of intellectual property rights by any member of the USC community. As an academic institution, USC's purpose is to promote and foster the creation and lawful use of intellectual property.

This is the single most shocking thing I have ever read from a university. The purpose of a university is to promote learning and scholarship. To say otherwise is just jaw-dropping -- if we're to take this at face value, we'd measure USC's success by the number of patents filed and copyrights registered, rather than the caliber and quality of the research and work done by our students and faculty.

It is antithetical to this purpose for USC to play any part, even inadvertently, in the violation of the intellectual property rights of others. The USC policy regarding student use of USC computing resources clearly states that a student who reproduces or distributes copyrighted materials in electronic form without permission from the copyright owner may be removed from the USC computer system and face further disciplinary action.

So, apparently this means that scholars who take advantage of the legal carve-outs afforded to universities like USC are not welcome at this institution. Never mind that the Constitution's framers were clear on the purpose of copyright -- to promote culture and scholarship -- USC's Deputy Chief Information Officer and Vice President for Student Affairs know better than Ben Franklin.

Moreover, the possible negative consequences are not limited to discipline by USC: infringing conduct exposes the infringer to the risk of serious legal penalties. In response to the growth of infringement through P2P networks, the recording and motion picture industries have increased their efforts to identify and stop those who download unauthorized music and video files. Organizations such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) can and do monitor P2P networks, obtaining "snapshots" of users' Internet protocol addresses, the files that users are downloading or uploading from their P2P directories, the time that downloading occurs, and the Internet service provider (ISP) through which the files travel. (Gathering this information is not a violation of any users privacy rights because the user has voluntarily made his or her P2P directory available for public file sharing.)

In addition to monitoring networks and obtaining IP address "snapshots," copyright owners have been known to use P2P networks themselves, uploading and downloading copyrighted content to and from other users, all the while keeping a legal record of the actions of those other users.╩╩The idea that you will get caught only if you share (i.e., upload) copyrighted material is a myth-infringement occurs even if you are just downloading copyrighted content without permission, and you can be caught even if you do not share copyrighted files.

Once an IP address and other information is obtained, RIAA, MPAA and other copyright owners and their representatives can demand that an ISP remove any infringing╩╩copies from its system

What system? We're talking about P2P here, no files are hosted on an ISP's system.

and also may use the IP address to file a lawsuit and demand that the ISP to identify the infringing user. If the user is determined to have infringed copyrights, whether through P2P networks or other means, he or she also can be subject to sanctions such as significant monetary damages and the required destruction of all unauthorized copies.

As an ISP for its students and faculty, USC is increasingly receiving notices from RIAA and MPAA identifying the IP addresses of USC students who are believed to be sharing copies of copyrighted music and videos without authorization. USC will be taking steps to demand that the infringing conduct ceases immediately, including, where necessary, depriving that the identified student of any access to the USC computer system and perhaps commencing further disciplinary sanctions.

Nice to see the university so eager to spend your tuition bucks on helping the entertainment industry preserve its business-model. Now if they'd only promise in the same breath to thoroughly investigate the wild and notoriously inaccurate claims of Big Entertainment before harassing the students whose money keeps the university's lights on...

Obviously, if the complaining organization decides to take further steps to identify and prosecute the infringer, such conduct also puts the student at risk of incurring sanctions under federal copyright law, which can include monetary damages, and, in cases that are sufficiently extreme, criminal penalties -- both imprisonment and fines.

No one has ever been imprisoned for simple file-sharing.

Copyright law provides no exception from liability for university students.

Except for all those fair-use exceptions explicitly created to benefit scholars.

You need to be aware that sharing music, videos, software, and other copyrighted material is a violation of law and can expose you and those with whom you share to legal sanctions, as well as sanctions under USC's own policies. Please do not put yourself, your friends, parents, and USC in the awkward position of having to confront such issues.

Oh yes, please don't ask us to confront the changes in the way that knowledge is created, shared, improved upon and disseminated. We're only a university.

We trust that you will take this issue seriously and conduct yourself accordingly.

There Is an Alternative: Legal Downloading

USC has an agreement with Ruckus, a digital entertainment network designed to provide students, faculty, and staff with a legal, safe, and community-based way to explore and share music and movies. For more information, please go to .

Use this service if you want crippled music that locks you into a single vendor's products, and want to limit your music enjoyment to the infinitesimal fraction of music that is available in the stream of commerce. P2P networks comprise the largest library of human creativity ever assembled, but scholars have no business delving into such an archive.

You also of course should feel free to use any other legal digital entertainment provider.


Michael Pearce
Deputy Chief Information Officer


Michael L. Jackson
Vice President for Student Affairs