Illegal File Sharing | Information Technology | University of Pittsburgh

Illegal File Sharing

What is Illegal File Sharing?

File sharing, or peer-to-peer software programs (such as Limewire, BitTorrent, and others), can allow sharing of copyrighted music, movies, games, software, and other files often without the knowledge or consent of the user. Sharing this copyrighted material is illegal and has led to a significant increase in anti-piracy efforts and legislation. Organizations such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and others monitor file sharing on the internet and notify the University when a computer on its network is illegally sharing copyrighted files.

The RIAA has published an informative video concerning the downloading of files (requires Apple Quicktime to view):


The University's Policy on Illegal File Sharing

It is the policy of the University of Pittsburgh to respect the copyright protections given to authors, owners, and publishers under federal law including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It is against policy for any student, faculty, or staff member to copy, reproduce, or distribute any software, music, games, or movies on University computing equipment except as expressly permitted by a software license or with the written consent of the copyright holder or as otherwise permitted under federal law. Willful infringement may subject a student or employee to University discipline and can impact the privilege to use information technology resources at the University. Uploading or downloading works protected by copyright without the authority of the copyright owner is an infringement of the copyright owner's exclusive rights of reproduction and/or distribution. Anyone found to have infringed a copyrighted work may be liable for statutory damages up to $30,000 for each work infringed and, if willful infringement is proven by the copyright owner, that amount may be increased up to $150,000 for each work infringed. In addition, an infringer of a work may also be liable for the attorney's fees incurred by the copyright owner to enforce his or her rights. In addition, it is a criminal offense to violate section 1201 or 1202 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act willfully and for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain. Penalties range up to a $500,000 fine or up to five years imprisonment for a first offense, and up to a $1,000,000 fine or up to 10 years imprisonment for subsequent offenses.

What Can I do to Prevent Illegal File Sharing?

Use Apple iTunes

Apple iTunes is available for download at at no cost. Apple iTunes is a simple and legal way to listen to your favorite music, podcasts, and more.

Avoid file-sharing programs

The University strongly discourages the use of file-sharing programs due to the risk that the shared files may be copyrighted. Also, many of these programs automatically place downloaded files in a shared folder on your computer, meaning you could be sharing copyrighted material without even knowing it. You may be held responsible for illegal file sharing, whether you are aware that copyrighted files are being shared or not.

Review the University's computing policies

For more information, please refer to:

If you are concerned that you may be sharing copyrighted files, please contact the 24/7 Help Desk at 412-624-HELP (4357) for assistance.


Procedure for Handling File Sharing Complaints

Recent legislation permits the University to undertake very specific action when formal notifications of copyright infringement by University network computer users have been received from copyright holders or their representatives. The University must certify that positive contact with the individual has taken place and that the individual has either ceased the infringing activity or that the University has taken action on its own with the result of ceasing the infringing activity when the activity originates from within the University's network.

In response to this legislation, Pitt Information Technology (Pitt IT) has developed the following procedures. Compliance with applicable law is the ultimate goal. Much of the activity occurring in violation of copyright laws is the result of peer-to-peer file sharing.

A database is maintained reflecting infringement notices received and responses thereto. The following are the procedural steps to be taken in response to formal notifications of copyright infringement:

  1. The University receives notice through its designated agent in the Office of University Counsel (OUC) that a user may be violating copyright laws.
  2. Pitt IT receives notice of the complaint from the OUC.
  3. PItt ITresearches the infringement notice using the IP address to determine the location of the infringement. The following steps are taken based upon the location:
    • Pittsburgh residence halls: the student is notified of the infringement by email and campus mail and instructed to remove the copyrighted material, disable file sharing, and notify the 24/7 Help Desk when this has been completed. Residential Networking access is disabled and the Student Judicial Board is notified. After the first offense, Pitt IT recommends to the Student Judicial Board that the student's Residential Networking access remain disabled for the remainder of the semester.
    • University buildings on Pittsburgh campus: the network port is disabled and the University unit associated with that port is identified. A memo is sent to the dean, director, or department chair responsible for that unit with a copy sent to the OUC and the departmental technical contact. The department must remove the copyrighted material, disable file sharing and notify Pitt IT when complete.
    • Regional campuses: the campus technical contact is notified by email and sent a copy of the infringement notice. The technical contact must report the offender's information to Pitt IT, remove the copyrighted material, disable file sharing, disable the network port, and then notify Pitt IT when complete. Pitt IT disables the ports on the Greensburg campus.
    • PittNet Guest Wi-Fi accounts: the guest account is disabled and the host of the guest account is notified of the infringement.
  1. Once Pitt IT has been notified that the copyrighted material has been removed and file sharing has been disabled, network access is re-enabled.
  2. The 24/7 Help Desk is available to assist with identifying the location of copyrighted material, removing it, and disabling file sharing. Individuals who wish to file a counter-notice may request the necessary form from the 24/7 Help Desk.