UNC-Chapel Hill is devoted to creating, discovering,
and sharing knowledge and information. UNC is also committed to complying
with United States law by upholding the rights of copyright holders.
To this end, here are some frequently asked questions about acceptable
use, copyright, and the campus network.
What is fair use?
You may have heard of fair use. It is discussed in the U.S.
Copyright Act. Fair use must be judged on
a case-by-case basis. It does not mean that if you think
it's fair that you should be able to use a work, it's okay. There
are four criteria to evaluate when considering if a use is fair:
- purpose and character of the use (why do you
want to use it?)
- nature of the copyrighted work (what kind
of work is it?)
- amount and substantiality used (how much do
you want to copy?)
- effect on the potential market for or value
of the work (will your copying contribute to decreasing the value
or demand for the work?)
For example, it's fine to quote from a book when
writing about it, but it's not okay to reproduce the entire book.
Fair use can be tricky to define, so here are some links that do a
pretty good job of explaining it.
What kinds of activities are probable
violations of copyright law?
- Copying and sharing most MP3s, images,
movies, or other copyrighted material.
- Posting or plagiarizing copyrighted material on your personal webspace.
- Unauthorized downloading anything of which
you don't already own a copy (software, MP3s, movies, etc.)
law applies to a wide variety of works, and covers much more than
is listed above. If you're in doubt about a particular work, assume
that it is copyrighted!
What is considered unacceptable use at
The following activities are forbidden by the UNC-Chapel
Hill Data Network Acceptable Use Policy (please see this policy
for additional unacceptable activities):
- Commercial for-profit activities. You can't run a business or even
engage in for-profit activities over the campus network.
- Generating excessive network traffic or consuming excessive network
resources apart from educational use. This often occurs when file-sharing
programs (Limewire, Ares, KaZaA, BitTorrent, etc.) are used to share a
large number of files.
- Mass emailing.
- Distributing any kind of obscene
materials, particularly child pornography.
- Threatening harm by harassing, stalking, transmitting obscenities,
or other criminal offenses.
- Attempting to gain access to an individual's account or to nonpublic
parts of the campus network.
- Attempting to intercept data transmissions on the campus network.
- Engaging in any electronic activities that violate any local, state, national, or international law.
Are MP3s illegal?
Some MP3s can be legally obtained through online
subscription services or from sites officially permitted by the copyright
holders to offer certain MP3 downloads. Some are copyright free. Most
MP3s don't fall into either category.
- MP3 files are completely legal, but it's illegal
to have MP3s of music recordings that you don't already own, or to
which you haven't obtained the rights.
- In almost all cases, sharing MP3s over the campus network is also
- United States copyright
law allows you to create MP3s only for your personal use
and only of songs to which you already have rights. You can
make MP3s only of songs for which you already own the CD or tape.
And personal use means for you alone - you can't make copies and give
or sell them to other people.
How could I get
caught if I violate copyright law or the Acceptable Use Policy?
- UNC system administrators do not routinely police our network for
illegal activity, but they must respond to formal legal complaints
they receive. Also, if your computer begins to consume excessive network
resources, ITS will investigate your network activities in order to
keep the network operating smoothly.
- Organizations like the Recording Industry Association of America
(RIAA) frequently police file-sharing programs for copyrighted material
belonging to the artists they represent.
- Other agencies like the FBI are vigilant in monitoring some
areas, such as the traffic in child pornography.
- If you establish a business online, it's a likely bet that your
competitors will be the first to notify UNC of your illegal activity.
- Some students are under the impression that their activity on the
Internet is largely anonymous or untraceable, but this is untrue.
In fact, almost all your activity on the Internet is logged on many
of the computer systems you use, and while these logs usually are
not inspected, they certainly can be used to confirm or implicate
you in illegal activity.
How often do students get caught or prosecuted?
- Many students are under the impression that they would never be
prosecuted or sent to the Honor
Court simply for sharing MP3s on the network. This is not the
- Because federal privacy laws prevent details of Honor
Court proceedings from being released, most students have not
read about or heard of students being prosecuted for sharing MP3s.
This may mislead you into a false sense of security; in fact, students
are regularly accused of copyright infringement and held accountable
for their actions.
- As an example, in a one-month period at the end of the fall 2001
semester, approximately ten students were investigated
for copyright infringement. While the number of students may seem
very low, the sanctions for these violations are serious.
What will happen if I get caught?
- If, after an ITS investigation, the allegations against you appear
to be true, your access to the network will be immediately suspended,
which means that you may not be able to use your computer on the campus
network, and may not be able to send or receive email.
- You will be notified through several means of communication of the
apparent appropriate use violations, and be asked to set up a time
to meet with ITS administrators.
- In this meeting, ITS administrators will present the allegations
made against you and the evidence collected to support them. If it
is a copyright violation, you will have an opportunity to make a legal
response if you believe you did not break any copyright laws.
- In order to restore your network connectivity, you will have to
sign an agreement with UNC under which you will agree to cease the
activity that violates the appropriate use policy. Another infraction
may result in the permanent loss of your access to the network.
- In addition, after your meeting with ITS, a summary of the case
will be forwarded to the student
judicial system (Honor Court) if applicable. Do not assume that
just because you're not the only student sharing
MP3s, the Honor
Court will not find you responsible for a violation.
- If found responsible by the Honor
Court, you could face probation, community service time, an official
letter of sanction in your academic record, suspension, or even expulsion.
The University maintains a copy of all judicial records for ten years,
so these outcomes might prove devastating to your future job prospects
or academic pursuits.
For full details of the procedure for handling copyright complaints,
see the University Policy on Dealing
with Possible Infringement of Intellectual Property Rights.
Here's the full text of the
of Student Conduct.
But if everyone breaks the rules, how
can you punish just one person?
- Just because the Honor Court or the government cannot administer
punishments equally does not mean that they cannot administer them
at all. As with speeding tickets, "everyone else was doing it"
will not satisfy an enforcement officer or provide an excuse for illegal
behavior. ITS is tasked with maintaining and protecting UNC's network
and will take whatever steps necessary to ensure the network's integrity.
- Pleading ignorance of these rules or the applicable laws is also
equally useless in an enforcement situation, so educate yourself before
you decide to break the law.
- You should recognize that violating our copyright
infringement policy or the acceptable
use policy is a significant risk that you may regret.
If you still have questions about copyright
and acceptable use at UNC, you can send them
to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can
also visit the U.S. Copyright office at http://www.loc.gov/copyright/
and see the official Copyright
Policy of UNC-Chapel Hill.