campus wide alert

What You Need to Know about Sharing

Sharing Music, Movies, and More

There can be serious consequences for those who engage in illegal sharing of copyrighted material. Thes FAQs are meant to help you understand what is legal and what is not so that you can make informed choices and act in accordance with the law and Catawba College policy.



  1. :What is Digital Rights Management and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act?
    The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) passed by Congress in 1998, makes it illegal to copy or share intellectual property — music, videos, games, software and other materials — without permission. 

    Digital Rights Management (DRM) refers to the technologies used by publishers and copyright owners to control access to and usage of digital data.  The DMCA makes it illegal to produce and distribute technology that circumvents these copy-protection methods.

  2. Is it really illegal to share music and movies from my computer?
    Yes, in most cases. More specifically, it is illegal unless you own the copyright on the work or have permission from the owner to distribute it. For the vast majority of material (e.g., anything that is for sale in stores or online) it is illegal to download or upload copies. There are a few exceptions:
    • You can legally distribute material that you have the rights to, e.g. material that you create and publish yourself.
    • If the owner (typically the creator) gives you permission to give away the material, e.g. CDs of your friend's band.
    • Streaming via iTunes is legal for music purchased from the iTunes music store.

    Unauthorized downloading or uploading of copyrighted material can result in legal action against you, including lawsuits by the copyright holder or their agent (such as the RIAA). It is also a violation of Catawba College's Acceptable Usage Policy for Computing and Network Resources.

  3. Is it legal to just download material from peer-to-peer services, as long as I don't share it with others?
    Peer-to-peer sharing of copyrighted material without the copyright holder's permission is illegal, whether you are sharing it or downloading it. Downloading copyrighted materials illegally is analogous to taking possession of stolen property. Sharing copyrighted material illegally is analagous to distributing stolen property. In most cases, the software you use to download files automatically makes your machine into a server, so you may be sharing files without even realizing it.

  4. Isn't sharing music protected as "fair use" under copyright law?    
    The doctrine of fair use is an important one, especially in an academic setting. But the vast majority of online music sharing is done in ways that do not constitute fair use.

  5. What risks result from illegally obtaining or sharing copyrighted materials?       
    Copyright holders can file lawsuits against you, a tactic that they are currently pursuing aggressively, especially on college campuses. They can notify Catawba College of infringements that are taking place on campus, and require us to intervene to stop them. Catawba College is committed to responding to lawful requests for information and will not protect or defend a campus community member against criminal investigations or lawsuits resulting from copyright infringement.

    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 and 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 visit the United States Copyright Office website, especially their FAQs.

    Copyright infringement and unauthorized access to digital materials is subject to disciplinary action by Catawba College as detailed in the Faculty, Staff, and Student Handbooks.

  6. Where can I learn more?        
    The Consortium of College and University Media Centers and the Music Library Association both have sites that address copyright issues, including fair use, in college and library settings.

    For some insight into how some copyright holders view these issues, visit the sites of the Recording Industry Association of America or the Motion Picture Association of America.

    There are many ideas on how current law or business practices could be changed to reduce the incentive to steal music and still reward the creators. Here's just one, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation

  7. Are there legal online sources for copyrighted music and movies?     
    Yes; we've compiled a list of online legal sources  for you.