What you Need to Know about Copyrights and File Sharing

Questions about Copyrights and File Sharing

What is copyright infringement?

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA), downloading and/or sharing of copyrighted material without permission of the copyright holder is illegal. The DMCA requires that Internet Service Providers such as WWU take steps to expeditiously remove or disable access to any copyrighted material being shared illegally from within its network.

WWU Responsible Computing policy states: “All users of the computing systems are to respect the rights of other computing users, respect the integrity of the physical facilities and controls, and respect all pertinent copyright, license, and contractual agreements.”

What is peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing?

Peer-to-peer (P2P) is a file sharing technology that allows computing devices to connect directly to multiple other computing devices to download or share files. This is in contrast to client-server distribution where users (clients) connect to a server to download files. P2P is a very efficient method for sharing content. Two of the more popular P2P protocols are BitTorrent and Gnutella.

P2P typically requires a software program (client) to be installed on a personal computer to download or share files. Some examples of P2P clients include uTorrent, Vuze, Tixati, and eMule. These clients connect to other clients over the Internet and allow users to send files marked as "shared" to other users, as well as to download copies of files that other users have shared.

Why is P2P file sharing blocked on the campus wireless network?

File sharing programs aggressively use large quantities of available bandwidth, which can cause slowdowns for others who use the network. Preventing peer-to-peer protocols will improve wireless bandwidth availability, in addition to protecting the university's network stewardship privilege, reducing the number of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaints, and minimizing students' susceptibility to large fines or lawsuits from video, audio, and print content providers.

What are the risks of P2P file sharing?

Because of its decentralized and unregulated nature, peer-to-peer file sharing is often used to share copyrighted works that those sharing the works do not have the right to share. However, it is important to remember that peer-to-peer is not anonymous, not secret, and can be unsafe. Files shared over the Internet can contain malware like viruses, worms, and Trojans. File-sharing applications themselves, if not properly configured, can slow your computer’s performance and share files and folders you do not intend to share with others. Some of these applications may also install unwanted browser toolbars and adware.

What if I have a legitimate need for P2P file sharing?

We know that there are legitimate reasons to use P2P file sharing that do not involve copyrighted material. If you need to download files using a P2P client, you can plug your laptop into one of several designated wired network jacks in the Library. Visit the Circulation desk on the 2nd floor of Haggard Hall for a network cable and directions to an available network jack.

Copyright violations on campus

The University does not monitor the content of your online activities. However, there are companies and organizations (like the Recording Industry Association of America, Warner Bros., Paramount, NBC, HBO, etc.) that locate people who are downloading or distributing copyrighted materials.

Copyright violation is a serious crime, and you should research copyright law if you want to know the possible legal consequences.

The University's procedure upon notification of a copyright infringement is:

  • You will be contacted to make you aware of the alleged violation.
  • Your wireless access will be disabled for a period of time.
  • You will need to remove the infringed work(s).
  • You will receive education regarding copyright violations (sometimes in-person, sometimes via email or phone).
  • You may be required to meet with the University judicial officer, which may result in other ramifications.
  • The copyright holder may pursue civil actions resulting in large fines.

ResTek's procedure upon notification of a copyright infringement is:

  • Your Internet connection is disabled.
  • You will be notified via your official email of the violation.
  • The incident is entered into the housing conduct system.
  • You will meet with your Resident Director to discuss the issue and appropriate sanctions.

Subsequent violations will result in more serious penalties.

File sharing alternatives

There are many good sites available for downloading music, movies, and TV shows; some for free and some that charge. Students who would like to pursue a free solution for home use can consider the following programs. These programs are just a few of the options available for students to consider - the University neither endorses nor supports them.


  • Last.FM The premier source for free music. Over 111,000 free mp3’s.
  • Freeplay Music
  • Internet.org Live Music Archive Many artists allow their live shows to be freely downloaded and shared.
  • Internet.org Moving Image Archive This library contains thousands of digital movies which range from classic full-length films, to daily alternative news broadcasts, to videos of every genre uploaded by Archive users.
  • Internet.org Text Archive Provides links to thousands of classic books and other texts. A host of the famous Project Gutenberg, one of the most ambitious projects to store books which are no longer covered by copyright.
  • Shoutcast A directory of free Internet radio stations.
  • NPR Music Music news, special studio recordings, and recorded concerts
  • KUGS Listen online to Western's own student-run radio station

Streaming Services


  • Amazon MP3 Pay per track or album.
  • Amazon Unbox Rent or buy thousands of movies and TV shows.
  • iTunes Apple’s pay-per-download music service.
  • Rhapsody A digital music service that lets you listen to whatever you want, whenever you want it. With online music stores, you pay for every track or album, but Rhapsody lets you listen to everything we’ve got for one low monthly price.
  • WalMart Music Pay per track or album.