Copyright Infringement and File Sharing

Williams’ Computing Ethics and Responsibilities require that we follow all applicable federal, state, and local laws, including laws pertaining to copyright.  If you are looking for movies, music and other media, we recommend:

Modern technology easily allows you to enjoy copyrighted video images, audio recordings and other digital materials. Unfortunately this could also make it possible to violate College policy and US copyright law. For this reason you should know the use of popular file sharing programs to download copyrighted music and video material, in many cases, places you in violation of College policy and U.S. law.  Our library has more information about copyright.

The entertainment industry is aggressively seeking out copyright law violators

The College does not scan our network for illegal traffic in copyrighted material and cannot protect you from the legal recourse that exists for copyright holders.  You also need to be acutely aware that law enforcement agencies, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and other copyright holders of digital media such as HBO, Universal Studios, the Business Software Alliance, and the Entertainment Software Association actively monitor the Internet for users who are distributing copyrighted material. The recording, film and software industries have recently become very aggressive in their active pursuit of copyright infringement. They have spent millions of dollars, and they have hired hi-tech firms to develop and maintain software that is able to search the Internet and identify unauthorized distribution of their protected titles. This active monitoring is specifically designed to search for distribution of materials using the most commonly used software packages.

How Williams College handles Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notices or early settlement letters

When Williams receives a copyright violation notice the Digital Millennium Copyright Act requires the college to take action. If you are accused of infringement, the College’s DMCA agent will send you an email notice. If you believe you are not responsible for the offending computer, you should respond immediately. If you are a student, all computers and other devices registered in your name will be removed from the Williams College network automatically for a period of one week.  For subsequent offenses, the computer and all other networked devices belonging to you will be disconnected for two or more weeks, the student will also meet with the Dean of the College, and disciplinary action will be likely.  Graduate students will meet with the Director of their program.  You must respond to the Chief Information Officer promptly that you have stopped sharing the offending files or your computers and other devices will remain off the Williams College network indefinitely. If you are a faculty or staff member, the Dean of the Faculty (for faculty) or your supervisor and department head (for staff) will be notified. You must also respond promptly that you have stopped sharing the offending files or your computer will be removed from the Williams College network until you respond.

If you receive a notice and choose to not stop sharing the file(s), you have the right to petition the College to restore the computer to the network (for students, after the one-week or two-weeks College penalty) while you pursued the matter legally with the alleged copyright holder or its designated agent.

The notice may include a settlement offer.  You, as an individual, are responsible for any copyright infringement that might have resulted from illegal file sharing, so you will need to decide whether to pursue the settlement offer referred to in the notice. If you want legal advice on how to respond to this you need to contact your own attorney, the College cannot assist you in this matter.

File sharing programs also open up your computer to viruses and malware. You put yourself at risk for very damaging viruses that can render your computer unusable. We are increasingly seeing student computers incapacitated by malware picked up via file-sharing software. It can take a long time to clean an infected computer or you may have to pay for outside services.

Please keep in mind that you are responsible for all uses of your computer, and that network use by a computer can be traced to its registered owner.