Copyright and peer-to-peer file sharing (P2P)

The University of Montana does not block P2P network traffic, since there are many legitimate and legal uses of this technology.  Many distributors of Linux, for example, use P2P networks to distribute the latest versions of the open-source operating system. Similarly, OpenOffice can be downloaded through any of several P2P networks, corrections and updates for computer games popular with students are frequently distributed through P2P, and scientists at NASA use the technology to distribute satellite imagery*.

However, P2P software can also be misused to violate copyright for media including music, TV shows, and movies.  It is the responsibility of each user of the UM Network, whether a student, staff, or patron, to insure they do not violate copyright when choosing to use P2P software.

Violating copyright law is a direct violation of University Acceptable Use policy (BOR 1303.11304.1, and 1305.1), and will result in University levied penalties, in addition to possible civil and criminal penalties as listed below.

*From: EDUCAUSE 7 Things You Should Know About P2P


Copyright infringement is the act of exercising, without permission or legal authority, one or more of the exclusive rights granted to the copyright owner under section 106 of the Copyright Act (Title 17 of the United States Code). These rights include the right to reproduce or distribute a copyrighted work. In the file-sharing context, downloading or uploading substantial parts of a copyrighted work without authority constitutes an infringement.

Penalties for copyright infringement include civil and criminal penalties. In general, anyone found liable for civil copyright infringement may be ordered to pay either actual damages or “statutory” damages affixed at not less than $750 and not more than $30,000 per work infringed. For “willful” infringement, a court may award up to $150,000 per work infringed. A court can, in its discretion, also assess costs and attorneys' fees.

Willful copyright infringement can also result in criminal penalties, including imprisonment of up to five years and fines of up to $250,000 per offense.

For more information, please see the Web site of the U.S. Copyright Office at, especially their FAQ's at

University penalties

In addition to civil and criminal penalties, copyright violators will face additional University sanctions under the BOR Acceptable Use policies.

  • For students, infractions are reported to the Dean of Students for action as Student Conduct Code violations
  • For employees, infractions are reported to the appropriate Dean or Vice President, and HR, and are handled as any other policy violation
  • For patrons, network access is immediately terminated until the patron meets with the Information Security Officer

In all cases, temporary and/or permanent loss of network privileges may occur.

Annual disclosure

The University of Montana uses the following methods to inform the university community about the law and responses to copyright infringement claims:

  • In order to use university computing resources, all members of the University community must endorse the Acceptable Use Policies
  • New and current students and staff receive notification of copyright issues at the Unviersity's annual Tech Fair
  • Posters, flyers, and table tents are periodically placed in high traffic areas
  • Information on copyright law is provided on the Information Technology web site

Technology deterrents

  • UM operates and maintains bandwidth packet shapers which can limit the throughput of popular file sharing programs.
  • The University has a registered DMCA agent that receives and actively responds to all DMCA complaints.
  • The University deploys and maintains systems to identify individual users/computers of any potential DMCA violations reported to the University by copyright holders.
  • UM blocks all inbound ports to client computers on campus via an Internet firewall. This prevents computers from acting as servers or super nodes in peer to peer networks.
  • UM monitors for excessive bandwidth utilization and may disable network access for computers consuming disproportional quantities of bandwidth.

Legal alternatives to illegal downloading

A comprehensive list of legal downloading alternatives may be found at Educause – legal downloading sites

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Article ID: 137287
Thu 8/26/21 2:16 PM
Fri 2/10/23 12:01 PM