Think Before You Download
BY BLAKE STANTON, Guest Writer
The University of Michigan-Dearborn is required by federal law to annually inform students of the legal risks involved with the infringement of copyrights, according to an e-mail sent by the ITS department to every UM-Dearborn student at the end of last month.
The e-mail alerted students of the legal risks related to infringement of digital copyrights. The Higher Education Opportunity Act, which was signed into law on August 14, 2008, requires universities to inform students of copyright law and the university’s policies regarding copyright infringement every year. The act also calls for universities to implement ways to curtail students from illegally downloading copyrighted material and offer legal alternatives. If a university fails to comply with these requirements, federal financial aid may be taken away from students.
Daniel T. Madzelan, a Department of Education employee, said students can face criminal penalties of up to five years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 per offense for willingly violating copyright laws.
Students who illegally download copyrighted material also violate several University policies.
“In addition to the legal consequences, violation of University policies can result in disciplinary action, including termination of access, disciplinary review, expulsion or termination of employment, legal action, or other action deemed appropriate,” the e-mail stated.
Companies regularly notify UM-D of copyright infringement on University networks, according to the ITS department. When offenders are identified, they are no longer allowed to use the network. The ITS department will reinstate offenders’ internet access privileges when the copyrighted material is deleted.
On March 9, 2007, the University of Michigan was told by the Recording Industry Association of America that dozens of members of the UM community were being sued due to illegal file sharing. A year later, Jack Bernard, the assistant general counsel for the University of Michigan, had stated the RIAA had sent him 15 notices in the matter of two weeks which requested him to keep the internet logs for suspected copyright infringers.
The RIAA changed their policy in 2009 to typically alert ISP companies of illegal downloading by their customers instead of filing lawsuits against individual students. The RIAA said the change was due to the lawsuits not effectively helping to stop illegal downloading.