Copyright Infringement and Peer-to-Peer File Sharing

A student is responsible for the proper use and storage of all SDI learning materials received or obtained from the Institute and its resources. This includes electronic data as well as printed materials. The student should be aware of copyright laws and potential risks associated with file sharing. Violating copyright laws and/or appropriate file sharing protocols may be grounds for dismissal from the Institute. In addition, violators may be subject to prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.

Copyright Law and Infringement

Copyright is a form of protection provided by U. S. law (title 17, U.S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Section 106 of the copyright law provides the copyright owner exclusive rights to the following:

  • Reproduce the work in copies
  • Prepare derivative works based upon the work
  • Distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending
  • Perform the work publicly
  • Display the copyrighted work publicly
  • In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission

Section 501 of the copyright law states that “anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner…is an infringer of the copyright or right of the author.” Generally, under the law, one who engages in any of these activities without obtaining the copyright owner’s permission may be liable for infringement.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) attempts to address copyright in the digitally networked environment. DMCA addresses a number of significant copyright-related issues. Details on DMCA can be found at the United States Copyright Office website (

Peer-to-Peer File Sharing (P2P)

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) technology is a distributed computing software structure that enables individual computers to connect to and communicate directly with other computers. Through this connection, computer users (known as “peers”) can share communications, processing power, and data files. With respect to file sharing specifically, P2P technology allows “decentralized” sharing. Rather than storing files in a central location to which individual computers must connect to retrieve the files, P2P technology enables individual computers to share directly among themselves files stored on the individual computers.
A student may face a number of risks when he/she downloads and uses commercial P2P file-sharing software programs. If a student downloads a particular program, he/she could possibly download other software, such as spyware or adware that is bundled with the file sharing program. The user may not understand the configuration of the P2P file-sharing software’s “shared folder” and may inadvertently share sensitive personal files, or Institute files, residing on his/her hard drive. A user also might receive files with viruses and other programs when sharing files using P2P programs. These viruses could impair the operation of his/her personal computer. The student is at risk to receive or redistribute files that may subject him/her to civil or criminal liability under copyright infringement laws. More information about P2P can be found in reports at the Federal Trade Commission website.

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