File Sharing FAQ’s

File Sharing situation at Bates College

Some Questions and Answers

There are some recurring questions regarding our efforts to inform users about the risks of illegal file sharing on campus, and the steps we take to reduce the impact of this kind of activity. While we are not giving legal advice, we can clarify how Bates handles these situations.

For all users: [for faculty]

  1. How will Bates protect my rights if I am accused by a copyright owner?

    When Bates receives complaints from copyright owners regarding alleged illegal activity on IP addresses, we identify the users involved, forward the complaints to them, and require them to take down the content and let us know when that process is complete. We take additional measures (such as terminating the network connection) if the user doesn’t respond or remove the file within a specified time frame, and we take additional disciplinary steps if we find repeat offenders. We protect the identity of our computer users, and will not release the name of the user to the copyright owner unless we are presented with a valid subpoena or court order. If we are presented with a valid subpoena, we will comply with its requirements. In any case, you are individually accountable to the RIAA or any copyright holder, and Bates cannot protect you from that.

  2. I pay a lot to come to Bates. Haven’t I paid for the right to do whatever I want on the network?

    You can expect to use your fair share of the computer resources on the campus and you can expect Bates to treat information on the network in a confidential way. However, you must obey the law, and your use of the network should not limit the use of others. Bates also must comply with the law or we put at risk our ability to provide a network for you. The Internet is not a private network. You should know that your communications could be monitored by anyone who knows how to do it, and files can be tracked. Complying with the law is not just the right thing to do, it is also a good way to avoid risk.

  3. What if I used a P2P file-sharing program before and the MP3’s are still on my hard drive?

    If you have illegally obtained files on your computer, you should remove them. Don’t figure that you are smarter than the large companies who are willing to spend a lot of money to protect their property and find such files.

  4. Will Bates inspect my computer?

    As a network service provider, we are responsible for making the network available to you. You are responsible for the contents of your files. ILS administrators cooperate with law enforcement authorities in investigation of crimes that involve the Bates network or Bates computers. We also cooperate with College officials investigating violations of College policy. We are authorized to inspect the contents of files if needed to carry out our responsibilities to maintain the network. If we uncover illegal activity in such an investigation or in routine network maintenance work we will take the appropriate steps. If we identify materials that appear to be illegal on Bates-owned computers, we will disable access to the materials until we can determine with the user if proper permissions have been secured. If we identify such materials on personal computers connected to the Bates network, we will inform the user and take additional steps as necessary. We take comparable steps if violations of College policy are discovered. The College may take additional disciplinary steps under student, faculty or staff policies.

  5. What if I’ve already purchased the material?

    Whatever rights you have to individual use of CDs, DVDs or other digital materials, they usually do not include the right to share copies of them with others, unless you have permission of the copyright owner. If you have files on systems that can be publicly accessible to others, you should remove them. Copyright owners are really interested in finding people who are illegally sharing their property.

  6. Can I setup an FTP account to share files?

    How you share the files is beside the point. Whether P2P or FTP, if you are sharing files illegally, you open yourself and others to enormous risk. In addition, most FTP connections are insecure; using them opens your network account and your files to any number of risk factors.

  7. What if I have full consent to share the copyrighted material, can I then share it?

    If you have permission to share the material, by all means go ahead. You should be aware of the steps we take to limit the impact of computers that are consuming an extraordinary amount of Internet resources. If you have a legitimate need to share files and find your access is limited, please contact Help Desk Services so we can discuss your needs.

  8. I own the software/music files already, but I do not have the proper software to back up the CDs on my computer, so I want to download the file(s) from a P2P application. Why are you stopping me? This is legit after all.

    You may have rights to back up your legally obtained copies. This usually does not give you the right to get another copy from someone who does not have the right to share it. If you want to download the material from the producer’s web site and can legally do it, go ahead. Typically, a P2P application will not be the tool to do this.

  9. OK. I’ll just share materials with my friends on the campus network and not on the Internet. What’s wrong with that?

    You should be aware that some of the copyright owners have specifically targeted on-campus distribution. If you are sharing something without permission of the owner you are putting yourself, and perhaps others, at risk.

Especially for Faculty Members: [for all users]

  1. What techniques does the College recommend to share materials with my class? Isn’t sharing this material the same as the illegal file sharing you are talking about?

    Information and Library Services has several methods that can be used to make materials available under “fair use.” These include library reserves and password protected web resources tied to enrollment (Lyceum). You should only place those materials essential to your course in such a location, and you should remove them at the end of the semester. In all cases, the College should have a legal copy of the material in order for you to make it available under fair use. Other ways of sharing things with students, such as putting them in a share file that is publicly available, publishing them on the World Wide Web, or sharing materials with students who are not in your course, may be subject to potential legal action by copyright holders. We provide a “streaming” service available to secure the access to MP3’s that are used for digital reserves and other educational purposes. Streaming does not transmit a copy of the material. It serves out the content in real time, so it provides an extra technological barrier to unauthorized copying.

  2. If I share music with my students in class, they may make copies for their friends. Am I responsible for this? What are you doing to stop this?

    Students who get materials as a result of course enrollment, whether they are course packs they purchase from the bookstore, library reserves they copy in the library, or materials on a course Website, have never had the right to make these materials available to others. Your students are responsible for their own compliance with the copyright law. We do, and you should, make them aware that the materials you make available to your class are for purposes of the class only. The same applies if the students have the sophistication to work around the technical obstacles we employ to create limitations on copying. They are responsible for their own compliance with the law.

  3. I find this all very confusing. Aren’t there clear rules that I can follow for sharing music or other files in class?

    Unfortunately there are no clear rules for fair use. Fair use is determined on a case-by-case basis, applying and balancing the so-called Four Factors. The University of Texas has published a Copyright Crash Course that provides some useful guidance. You can see the section on fair use at:

    Bates has had ‘guidelines’ for library reserves and course packs for some time. We provide guidance regarding best practices for online digital materials, but the law and best practices are changing rapidly. See:

    These guidelines define our best efforts to provide a good faith solution to promote the fair use of copyrighted materials. These guidelines are not a substitute for the law, but can guide practice on campus.

  4. I have several computers in my research labs that are assigned to me but that are open to students. Does the college expect me to take responsibility for my students’ computer use while they are using computers in my research lab?

    The basic principle at stake is that all persons, students included, are individually accountable for their behavior. If your lab machines were identified as hosting illegal file sharing we would expect you to help us investigate it and correct the problem. Depending on the nature of the activity, we might also ask for your help in identifying who was responsible. The College could conceivably be construed as being liable for a file sharing program installed on one of our computer lab machines. We want to take the steps we can take to keep the College’s risk to a minimum.

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