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Community and Ethical Standards

Downloads, File-Sharing, and Copyright Infringement


The Office of Community and Ethical Standards encourages our students to use copyrighted materials appropriately as defined by U.S. Copyright Law. To learn more about fair use of copyrighted materials.

Peer-to-Peer File Sharing

In regards to the appropriate use of copyrighted materials, the use of peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks for the sole purpose of obtaining materials outside of the copyright owner's exclusive rights of reproduction and distribution is a violation of U.S. federal law and could be subject to disciplinary action by the University. According to the U.S. Copyright Office:

"Uploading or downloading works protected by copyright without the authority of the copyright owner is an infringement of the copyright owner's exclusive rights of reproduction and/or distribution. Anyone found to have infringed a copyrighted work may be liable for statutory damages up to $30,000 for each work infringed and, if willful infringement is proven by the copyright owner, that amount may be increased up to $150,000 for each work infringed. In addition, an infringer of a work may also be liable for the attorney's fees incurred by the copyright owner to enforce his or her rights.

Whether or not a particular work is being made available under the authority of the copyright owner is a question of fact. But since any original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium (including a computer file) is protected by federal copyright law upon creation, in the absence of clear information to the contrary, most works may be assumed to be protected by federal copyright law.

Since the files distributed over peer-to-peer networks are primarily copyrighted works, there is a risk of liability for downloading material from these networks. To avoid these risks, there are currently many "authorized" services on the Internet that allow consumers to purchase copyrighted works online, whether music, e-books, or motion pictures. By purchasing works through authorized services, consumers can avoid the risks of infringement liability and can limit their exposure to other potential risks, e.g., viruses, unexpected material, or spyware."

From the United States Copyright Office Website. For more information on Copyright and Digital Files.

Acceptable Use at Clemson University

Clemson Computing and Information Technology (CCIT) provides information to Clemson University students on the meaning of acceptable use of computing technology at Clemson. The following is an excerpt:

"Clemson University is dedicated to providing a safe, reliable and robust information technology infrastructure for faculty, staff and students. In doing so, there are some general expectations of acceptable use of the computing systems located or connected to Clemson University to ensure that the computing systems maintain their highest level of efficiency and reliability. Many university functions rely heavily on the accessibility of computing systems and the university must take every reasonable action to protect them."

The following are examples of misuse of computing resources in the context of illegal downloading and file-sharing:

  • Unauthorized duplication, distribution or alteration of any licensed software. This includes software licensed by the university and licensed software accessed using the computing networks.

  • Attempting to gain unauthorized access to any computing resource or data, or attempting to disrupt the normal operation of any computing resource or network — at Clemson or anywhere on the Internet.

  • Knowingly infecting any computing resource with a software virus.

  • Using university computing or network resources for personal gain or illegal activities such as theft, fraud, copyright infringement, piracy (e.g., sound or video recording), or distribution of child pornography or obscenities.

For more information on Safe Computing Policies at Clemson University.

The following is from the Clemson University Student Handbook:

"No student shall allow any person to use his/her ID and/or password, create access into the computing network in such a way that will bypass University security systems, attempt unauthorized access and use other computing resources or data, violate software licenses or copyrights while using University equipment, or use computing services in any way which may violate federal, state, or local law."

Legal Alternatives

As stated in the "Peer-to-Peer File Sharing" section, there are "many ‘authorized' services on the Internet that allow consumers to purchase copyrighted works online." Below is a list of authorized services available to all consumers. This is not an exhaustive list. If you would like to know more about the authorization of an online service to provide copyrighted materials for purchase, please consult the Terms of Use of the service or seek legal advice.

Also, there is a distinction between purchasing a digital file and paying for a subscription service. Paying for a subscription service gives you the right to use that P2P network's software, but does not give you the right to obtain any copyrighted materials on the network without the original copyright holder's written permission. For more information concerning the legitimacy of paid subscription services, consult the Terms of Use Policy of the web site or seek legal council.

Office of Community and Ethical Standards
Office of Community and Ethical Standards | 202 Sikes Hall, Clemson, SC 29634