Illegal File Sharing – HEOA Notice 2014

To:                 UWM Students

From:             Robert J. Beck, Ph.D.

Associate Vice Chancellor and UWM Chief Information Officer


Date:              10/6/14

Re:                  Unauthorized Distribution of Copyrighted Materials


Internet use is central to our higher education lives. In that context, it is crucial that you understand the rules governing use of copyrighted materials and that you not participate in the unauthorized distribution of such materials.

In August of 2008, Congress enacted the Higher Education Opportunity Act (the “Act”) to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. Several of the Act’s provisions are targeted at reducing the use of university networks to illegally upload and/or download copyrighted works, including through illegal peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. Among other provisions, the Act requires UWM to make an annual disclosure to its students regarding the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials. This memorandum was created to meet the specific requirements of such disclosure.

Unauthorized Distribution of Copyrighted Material

The unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized P2P file sharing, is illegal and may subject infringers to civil and criminal liabilities.

Federal copyrights laws, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), make it illegal to republish copyrighted information by downloading, uploading, or file-sharing media such as music, movies, games, or software. In addition to violating federal law, digitally sharing copyrighted materials without permission also violates the UWM Acceptable Use Policy, which requires that all persons using the UWM network comply with applicable laws, including copyright laws.

Penalties for Violating Federal Copyright Laws & UWM Policies

UWM is required by law to respond to valid complaints of copyright infringement from copyright holders and their agents. When UWM receives a valid complaint relating to illegal file sharing on its network and can identify the student alleged to have engaged in such activity, UWM’s Office of Information Security provides notice of the alleged infringement and disables network access until the steps outlined in the notice are followed or until a valid counterclaim is filed and evaluated. First time alleged infringers are required to remove the offending material. If the DMCA complaint relates to illegal file sharing, the student must then complete online training before regaining access to the UWM network. In the event that UWM receives a subsequent complaint for the same student, the student is referred to the Dean of Students who conducts an investigation and determines appropriate disciplinary action, which could include, but is not limited to, extended or permanent removal from the UWM network.

In the event that the alleged infringement occurs in the residence halls, internet privileges in the residence halls will be suspended for 30 days unless the resident successfully completes an on-line educational program and passes a related quiz. Second violations will result in a 60-day suspension of internet privileges.

In addition to UWM-related penalties, individuals also may be subject to monetary penalties for violation of federal copyright laws. Copyright holders and their agents may file a lawsuit against individual infringers and subpoena UWM for their names and contact information in order to obtain monetary damages.

Minimum damages under the U.S. Copyright Act are $750 for each instance of copyright violation. Even at this minimum rate, damages can be substantial – the illegal uploading or downloading of 100 songs could result in a $75,000 fine. There is no outer limit to damages and extensive legal fees could accrue even if a suit is settled early.

UWM Educational Efforts and Ways to Avoid Illegal File Sharing

The UWM Information Security Office has taken significant steps to educate the campus community about P2P file sharing, including focusing on ways in which students can ensure that they do not violate copyright laws and incur potential penalties.

Educational materials have included all-campus e-mails about P2P file sharing, informational letters to the parents of all incoming freshmen students about the risks of illegal P2P file sharing, information on illegal file sharing on the UWM Information Security website, and on-line training opportunities. In addition, UWM’s P2P File Sharing FAQ brochure is also available on-line and in print.

Please understand that installing a file-sharing program on a computer can make you susceptible to illegal file sharing. File-sharing programs allow the uploading and downloading of files whenever the program is running and many of these programs are continually running in the background. For that reason, it is recommended that if a file-sharing program is needed for legitimate reasons, it is used and then uninstalled immediately after use.

We encourage you to be safe and smart about sharing files so that you do not engage in illegal file sharing. A number of legal music-sharing sites such as Apple iTunes Music Store and Napster/Rhapsody are available if you wish to obtain music online. A comprehensive list of legal alternatives to file-sharing can be found at:

Be sure that you understand the information above and the information about file sharing found online in the links cited in this memorandum.

If you have questions or would like a paper copy of this notice, please contact the UWM Information Security Office at