Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) considers the creation and protection of intellectual property integral to existence and growth of academia and the economy in which it exists. RIT honors and encourages students, faculty, staff and alumni in the process of creating works that are protected under US Copyright Law, trademark and associated legislation. These works have become, for some in the RIT community, their life work and the source of their income.
The fundamental belief in protecting intellectual property is reflected in RIT policy and procedures. The privilege of access to the RIT network resources and connection to the Internet requires individual users to act in an ethical manner and as a result imposes certain responsibilities and obligations. It is the responsibility of every user to respect the rights, privacy, and intellectual property of others, respect the integrity of the resources, and abide by all local, state, and federal laws and regulations.
RIT responds to copyright infringement allegations in accordance with the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the RIT Code of Conduct for Computer and Network Use. The DMCA outlines a process for a copyright owner or their legal representative to notify an Internet Service Provider (ISP) of an alleged copyright infringement. Notices are based solely on the observation of outbound traffic - the sharing of intellectual property that the person associated with the registered IP has no rights or permission to share.
Current file share systems are not designed with a function to turn off sharing. These systems automatically search and then share material from the computer on which they are installed. The user is held responsible for distributing, without permission, the copyrighted works even if those works were obtained legally.
RIT receives Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notices that state that an IP address at RIT is engaged in unauthorized copying and distribution (downloading, uploading, file serving, file swapping, etc.) of intellectual property. The claims are an indication that the rights of the persons involved in creating these works have been violated. The allegation is also an indication that the person associated with the machine cited in the notice is in violation of RIT's Code of Conduct for Computer and Network Use.
What does receiving a DMCA notice mean?
A DMCA notice is a request by a copyright owner to have a specific IP address stop engaging in copyright infringement. The notice contains the title of the copyrighted works, the date and time it was shared, the sharing protocol and the IP address observed in the sharing. RIT identifies the person whose device is registered to that specific IP address and contacts that individual. There are a number of ways a DMCA notice can impact an RIT recipient-ranging from a temporary disconnection from the RIT network to RIT sanctions. In addition, the copyright holder retains the rights to pursue the identity of the registered owner and both civil and criminal sanctions.
Copyright infringement is often compared to theft. Digital infringement is so easy to accomplish, some individuals do not believe it is theft. In reality, the penalties for infringement are much greater than they are for a physical theft of the same material. For example, the theft of a DVD is considered petty larceny and can result in as little as paying for the DVD. Copyright infringement carries the potential of both a civil and criminal sanction. That is, a person found responsible for copyright infringement can be subject to fines, damages, jail time and a criminal record. The costs can be great in terms of dollars, time and impact on reputation and career.
RIT's experience is similar to that of many universities. Students come to the university setting with extensive experience in accessing and acquiring media. Some portion of these students is well acquainted with copyright law and how it applies to the acquisition and use of music, movies, software and other digital media. Other students are well acquainted with acquisition of digital media and have little or no understanding of copyright law. A significant number of students have some misconceptions about what constitutes an infringement. Based on student feedback, there are also a significant number of students who have trivialized or misunderstood the impact of copyright infringement.
RIT response to DMCA notifications (modified March 2008) sent to students consists of:
- First notice - registered devices under the person's name are blocked from the network until recipient acknowledges the DMCA notice and takes appropriate action.
- Second notice - in addition to registered machines being blocked from the network and a need to acknowledge the DMCA notice, the recipient must attend a 90-minute session on copyright and intellectual property.
- Third or subsequent notice - in addition to registered machines being blocked from the RIT network, the registered user must meet with Public Safety and Student Conduct & Conflict Management staff.
Similar steps are in place should a faculty or staff receive a DMCA notice associated with a machine registered to them.