Annual Copyright Compliance Letter
Below is the text of the letter sent to all USC students about copyright compliance, copyright infringement, peer-to-peer networks, and fair-use. For additional information about the types of correspondence referenced below, please see the Types of Copyright Infringement Notifications page.
Dear [USC Student]:
This email is sent annually to all students at the University of Southern California to provide information about the lawful use of copyrighted materials on USC’s computing networks and in USC facilities, as well as the consequences of illegally sharing (uploading, downloading, etc.) copyrighted materials, including movies, television shows, music, and software.
Please read the message below carefully to learn about:
- Copyright infringement.
- The risks of illegal file sharing.
- Options for legally acquiring digital media.
Understanding Copyright Infringement
USC is committed to promoting awareness of copyright laws, particularly regarding file sharing. This message is not intended to be a comprehensive treatment of copyright laws; it is intended to provide basic information to help you understand the differences between legal and illegal file sharing.
Contrary to what many students believe, U.S. federal law treats the unauthorized sharing, (uploading, downloading, or streaming) of copyrighted material, including digital files, as a serious offense that carries serious consequences. Over the past few years, many students from USC and other universities have ignored copyright restrictions and, as a result, have been sued and have paid thousands of dollars in financial settlements.
In general, copyright infringement occurs whenever someone makes a copy of any copyrighted work, including television episodes and music without permission (i.e., a license) from the copyright owner and without falling within the specific exceptions provided for under the copyright laws.
If you use the Internet, including USC’s network, to access, download, upload, or otherwise share copyrighted materials without permission, you are likely infringing copyright laws.
Risks of Illegal File Sharing
Any USC computer account holder who infringes copyright laws risks a lawsuit by the copyright holder, loss of access to the USC computer network, and disciplinary action by USC, along with possible civil or criminal fines and imprisonment.
As an Internet service provider for its students, faculty, and staff, USC receives notices from copyright organizations such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) identifying the IP addresses of USC account holders believed to be sharing copies of copyrighted material without authorization. USC reserves the right to demand that the infringing conduct cease immediately; where necessary, USC will revoke the identified individual’s access to the USC computer network. In serious situations, further disciplinary sanctions may also be appropriate.
Note that once you participate in illegal file sharing, you may be subject to a lawsuit even after you have destroyed any illegal copy or copies of copyrighted material that were in your possession. For more information on U.S. copyright laws, see www.copyright.gov.
Fair Use and Legal Downloading
Limited use of copyrighted materials without permission is allowed under the legal doctrine of “fair use,” such as for purposes of news reporting, criticism, commentary, or teaching. Whether use of copyrighted material without permission constitutes fair use depends on a very detailed, case-by-case analysis of various factors. For a better understanding of fair use, visit the U.S. Copyright Office website at www.copyright.gov.
Many resources exist for legal downloading and streaming of copyrighted materials. Note that when you purchase copyrighted content, it is important to understand the permissions and digital restrictions that apply so as to avoid copyright infringement.
To learn more about legal alternatives to copyright infringement, see cio.usc.edu/copyright/resources.
P2P Networks and Copyright Infringement
USC advises all computer account holders to use extreme caution when installing peer-to-peer (P2P) software and to read all user agreements carefully beforehand. To avoid inadvertently violating copyright laws, make sure that you understand how any P2P software is configured and operates before you install it.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) networks such as BitTorrent are meant to facilitate file sharing. Some P2P programs have default settings that may make music or film files that you have legitimately acquired available to other users of the P2P network without your knowledge. In such cases, you may unwittingly participate in copyright infringement.
Be aware that sharing movies, television shows, music, and other copyrighted digital materials may be a violation of law and can expose you and those with whom you share materials to civil and criminal penalties.
Please be responsible in your use of copyrighted materials.
For general advice about online safety, including how to recognize phishing messages, please visit the ITS website at https://itservices.usc.edu/security.
Chief Information Officer
Vice President for Student Affairs