Copyright procedure summary

Overview of copyright enforcement at UNC-Chapel Hill

The help.unc.edu document UNC-Chapel Hill Copyright Information and Policies contains some of the procedures that UNC-Chapel Hill has adopted to enforce copyright protection. Please note that any disciplinary action taken by the university when notified of a copyright violation linked to a computer on the UNC network may differ depending on whether the user of the computer was a staff, faculty, or student at the time of the alleged infringement. In addition, different rules may apply depending on the department with which the user is affiliated.

General procedure for a copyright violation by students

The procedure for copyright enforcement by UNC-Chapel Hill can be summarized as comprising the following steps:

  • Receipt of a notice regarding the alleged infringement by the UNC Copyright Office.
  • Disabling of the network access for the computer listed in the copyright violation notice.
  • Notification of the student about the alleged infringement.
  • If the students accepts responsibility for the copyright violation, a Copyright / Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) Meeting will take place.
  • The student will be asked to remove any infringing content from the computer as well as be advised to remove any filesharing software.
  • The student will sign and date a form attesting that they understand university policy in regards to copyright infringement and assert that they are in full complinace with that policy.
  • Computer network access will be restored. Network access is usually done within 24 hours of completing the AUP meeting and removing any infringing content from the computer.

Notice of copyright violation and network access

In general, a first offense will result in the UNC Copyright Office disabling network access upon receipt of a copyright violation. In addition, Information Security staff will send out an email to the owner of the computer used in the infringement explaining that a device registered to the registered owner was involved in an alleged copyright infringement.

The Information Security Office regularly receives notices from copyright holders implicating devices on the UNC network in copyright infringement. Based on the IP address and the date and time given in such a notice, ITS staff identifies the registered owner of the device listed in the notice and prevents the device from connecting to the UNC network. The registered owner will receive an email informing them that their device was used in an alleged infringement and that they will have to meet with ITS staff.

Please note that initially, ITS staff will only prevent the device used in the alleged infringement from connecting to the UNC network. Owners of such devices can still access the network for checking email or completing homework through the use of computers in university computing labs. If a meeting between the owner and ITS staff is not scheduled in a timely manner, ITS staff may disable the onyen of the owner, thereby preventing the owner from accessing any computing device requiring onyen authentication. This will affect the ability of students to register for classes or for staff members to check electronic paystubs.

Removal of infringing content

To have network access restored, the student or staff member receiving the email alleging the infringement will have to remove any infringing material from the device. This includes files for movies, TV shows, music, computer games, etc. Please note that in order to infringe copyright, the files do not necessarily have to have been downloaded by the student or staff member. Making copyrighted files, such as mp3 format songs, available to download by others (distribute) is sufficient to infringe copyright. Because of this legal standard, some file sharing software, such as Limewire, are more likely to put users at risk of copyright violations compared to other software programs. Limewire has the ability to run as a background application. This means that upon booting up the computer, Limewire starts to run, even though the user has not opened the program. If filesharing has not been or cannot be disabled, having a filesharing program running in the background puts the computer user at risk of infringing copyright. If you just run Limewire on your computer with copyrighted files stored in a folder accessible to be public, that may be sufficient to constitute copyright infringement. See The Hidden Risk Of File-Sharing for more information on how running Limewire on a computer can be a significant security risk.

AUP meeting

In addition to removing any infringing files and software, every student or staff member will have to meet with University staff to discuss the alleged violation. These meetings are short, usually less than 30 minutes, and are primarily intended to educate the users of files-haring software about copyright law and what can constitute infringement. At the conclusion of the meeting the student or staff member will be asked to sign a form stating that any infringing files have been or will be removed and that the staff member or student understands the copyright policy adopted by UNC-Chapel Hill. At the present time, the AUP meetings take place in ITS Manning. See the attached map excerpt for information on the location of ITS Manning. On the map, the ITS Manning building is located at the bottom, in the center. The Campus Shuttle (U) stops at the intersection of Manning Dr. and Paul Hardin Dr. (see map for details).

Please arrive a few minutes before the scheduled meeting time and let the staff in the Security Office know that you have arrived for an AUP meeting.

Failure to meet with ITS administrative staff in a timely manner will result in the disabling of the onyen and thereby preventing the user from accessing a number of University services that require such authentication, including class registration, Blackboard or payroll.

Additional procedural aspects

    1. receiving a notice alleging a copyright violation, many studentsare concerned about penalties.
      1. the notice constitutes a first copyright violation for the student, no entry will be made on the permanent record of the student.
      2. copy of the copyright violation and any documents associated with the incident will be maintained by the UNC Copyright Office. As indicated below, UNC-Chapel Hill has received a number of pre-litigation settlement letters. As a result, some first time offenders incurred significant costs to avoid lawsuits for copyright violations. The fact that UNC-Chapel Hill treats a case as a standard first offense has no bearing on the likelihood of the student receiving a pre-litigation settlement letter. Also note that these letters will usually arrive months after the AUP / copyright proceeding by UNC-Chapel Hill has been completed.
      3. first offenses, no honor code proceeding will take place. Honor code proceedings will usually be initiated for a second violation. The ITS Information Security Office considers a second offense to be a violation of the campus honor code and informs the Dean of Students accordingly. The Office of the Dean of Students then pursues matters as they deem appropriate. The more severe consequences for second offenses are based on the reasoning that the student was informed about proper use of computers at UNC and was educated about copyright law when they committed their first violation. See Honor System Procedures for further details on the procedure itself and possible sanctions, if the student is found guilty of an honor code violation.
    2. a staff member is involved in copyright infringement, the Information Security Office notifies the supervisor or department chair of the incident.
    3. order to have network access restored, meetings with ITS administrative staff must take place in person and through scheduling an appointment at a set date and time. The Information Security Office maintains a calendar of possible appointment times and dates. In general, only one meeting a day is scheduled and users that miss an appointment for a meeting must reschedule a meeting for another day.

Latest methods used to enforce copyright (pre-litigation settlement letters)

Recently, UNC-Chapel Hill has received so called pre-litigation settlement letters. These letters are part of a new effort by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to enforce copyright protection. The RIAA sends letters to universities indicating an alleged infringement. Similar to the standard notices, these letters contain date and time of an alleged infringement as well as an IP address.

However, unlike the usual notice of copyright infringement, these letters go further and request that the letter be forwarded to the alleged infringer. Attached to the pre-litigation settlement letter is usually a letter from a law firm representing the RIAA, in which the law firm indicates that the RIAA is contemplating a lawsuit and is using the pre-litigation settlement letter to provide the alleged infringer with the opportunity to settle rather than let the incident go to trial. No public information is available about the specifics of the settlement offer, but students are given an address as well as a date by which to respond to the settlement offer.

UNC-Chapel Hill responds to these letters by identifying the user of the computer listed in the “settlement letter.” If the incident reported in the “settlement letter” constitutes a novel incident, network access for the computer will be disabled and the student will receive the standard email notification outlined above. If the incident listed in the “settlement letter” has already been dealt with, the student will receive an email about the new notice, but no network access will be disabled nor will another meeting with UNC-Chapel Hill staff be required.

In contrast to the standard copyright infringement notices, the information contained in the “settlement letter” will be forwarded to Carolina Student Legal Services. Carolina Student Legal Services provides free legal assistance to enrolled students on a variety of issues, including copyright violations. Carolina Student Legal Services will contact the student and attempt to set up a meeting to discuss the possible approaches the student may take to respond to the “settlement letter.” More information about Carolina Student Legal Services can be found at their website.