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File Sharing, the DMCA, and finding legal, free music

Logos of free online music distributors and radio stations.

Welcome to our new and returning students! As everyone settles in and the new school year begins, we'd like to offer a reminder about file sharing on campus and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Notices of alleged DMCA violations dramatically increased in past years and the university wants to educate the campus community about the consequences of file sharing and how to prevent violations. We also want to let everyone know of the many ways to get legal and, yes, free music online.

DMCA Defined
The DMCA is a US copyright law that criminalizes production and distribution of technology, devices, or services intended to bypass measures that control access to copyrighted works. It also criminalizes the act of bypassing an access control, whether or not there is actual infringement of copyright itself. In addition, the DMCA heightens the penalties for copyright infringement on the Internet (Source: Wikipedia). In addition, many files have digital rights management (DRM) technology built into them to prevent a user from sharing them.

File Sharing at SCU
The sharing of copyrighted materials (music, videos, programs, and other copyrighted materials) is illegal according to the DMCA and it is a violation of SCU policy. File sharing at SCU may even lead to a lawsuit from copyright holders or their agents.

Violating the DMCA may lead to sanctions from SCU including, but not limited to, loss of network access for extended periods, and may involve fees to have network access restored.


Is it legal to copying files from a CD/DVD I own? It's legal to do this for personal use such as loading music on a music player. You can't share files with other people, even if you own the CD/DVD because you don't own the copyright.

Can I share music or video that I buy from iTunes/Amazon/etc? Sharing music or video you’ve paid for and downloaded from a service such as iTunes or Amazon may be allowed, but usually for a limited number of users. See the rules of the vendor you bought the media from.

I’ve been paying for this peer-to-peer (P2P) service that lets me download and share media. Since I’m paying for it, isn’t it legal? Paying for a peer-to-peer file-sharing program doesn't necessarily make it legal to acquire or share music or video files using that program.

I’m not sharing/downloading entire albums worth of music, just a few of my favorites. Can I still get in trouble? Having only a few songs or videos or programs you downloaded or share doesn't decrease your chances for having a notice filed against you. All it takes is one violation, which may lead to University sanctions or even a lawsuit.

One of my friends gave me music/video that was made by someone s/he knows. Can I share their stuff? Some music or video files can be made available for download by the copyright holder (e.g., from a band’s web site) but that doesn't necessarily make it legal to share them. Check with the copyright holder about any restrictions that may have been imposed.

Even with these limitations, there are many legal ways to listen to and get free music online. Many independent artists provide some of their songs or entire albums online for free to get their name out. Pandora, Live365,, SHOUTcast Radio, and Jango offer free streaming music. Every week iTunes offers free music, TV episodes, and sneak peeks of upcoming films. And for a limited time, Amazon is giving away 500 free songs.

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Tags: video and other multimedia

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