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January 12, 2010, Volume 56, No. 17

One Step Ahead

Another tip in a series provided by the Offices of Information Systems & Computing and Audit, Compliance & Privacy.

Filesharing and Copyright Infringement Complaints: An Ongoing Issue

As recently as the summer of 2008 the media were full of stories about copyright infringement lawsuits filed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) against people using software to illegally swap pirated music files. At Penn, a number of students and staff members have been the targets of such legal actions over the last few years. The RIAA announced late in 2008 that they would discontinue filing these suits—for the time being. Nevertheless, copyright holders continue to bombard universities like Penn with complaints in the form of “takedown” notices under which Penn is legally obligated to identify the individual responsible for the infringement, apply appropriate disciplinary measures, and ensure that the offending material is removed from the network. For students, these disciplinary measures can include fines, loss of network privileges, and notations on transcripts. For employees, involvement in illegal filesharing can result in sanctions and reprimands, and repeated offenses can result in termination.

Despite the (currently) diminished threat of lawsuits, the RIAA continues to file thousands of complaints, so allowing others to share music from your computer is still a risky business. More importantly, though, it may be of interest to you to know that the majority of complaints Penn receives relate to movies and television shows from NBC Universal, Home Box Office, Warner Brothers, Paramount and many others—and that list gets bigger every month. In addition, companies that produce and market application software (e.g., Adobe Photoshop),

electronic games (“Grand Theft Auto”) and “eBooks” (the entire Harry Potter series) continue to be very active in searching out instances of infringement of their intellectual property. As time marches on, more and more companies are taking advantage of their rights under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to search out copyright violations involving their digital materials, and those who think illegal filesharing is “just about music” may be in for a rude awakening.

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For additional tips, see the One Step Ahead link on the Information Security website: www.upenn.edu/computing/security/.

Almanac - January 12, 2010, Volume 56, No. 17