The University of Texas at Austin

Security Awareness

Keep It Legal:
Get Your Music and Movies the Right Way

What’s the Big Deal?

Downloading music or movies using peer-to-peer networks can be a temptation. It’s easy, it doesn’t cost anything, and it gets you exactly what you want. There are lots of reasons people think file sharing and downloading files is okay, but the bottom line is, mostly it’s not. The goals of this site are to help you understand what is and isn’t okay, know how to use information technology resources responsibly, identify legal sources of online music and other copyrighted intellectual property, and understand intellectual property laws and university policy.

Respect for intellectual property is a grounding principle of The University of Texas at Austin, and it is important that students, faculty and staff all understand and support this principle.

What Is Intellectual Property, Anyway?

According to the U.S. Department of State Glossary, intellectual property is defined as “Creative ideas and expressions of the human mind that possess commercial value and receive the legal protection of a property right. The major legal mechanisms for protecting intellectual property rights are copyrights, patents, and trademarks. Intellectual property rights enable owners to select who may access and use their property, and to protect it from unauthorized use.” Copyright holders provide licensing and purchasing options that authorize and enable use. Obtaining the intellectual property using those licensing and purchasing options is what makes it legal.

Intellectual property includes music, software, movies, books, art, photographs, and graphics, among other things. Today many copyright holders are licensing online distribution outlets to make their work available. These distribution outlets build technology and online communities to provide legal online music, movies and other content for a reasonable cost. Licensing terms range from highly restrictive to a nearly total release of all rights, depending on the artist and the distribution company or mechanism. You should always assume that a work is copyrighted unless the copyright holder specifically releases certain rights.

Why Should I Care?

There are two big reasons to care. First, file sharing affects everyone on the network. File sharing on peer-to-peer networks consumes huge amounts of bandwidth on the common network and exposes all users to malicious software. For Resnet users, that’s bandwidth that you are paying for and can’t access if someone is hogging it all. For everyone on UTnet, you can slow network traffic to a crawl. Malicious software can expose your personal information to identity theft and spread viruses to anyone on the network.

Second, if you decide to share your music collection with the world or download the latest movie without paying for it, you are violating the law and university policy on acceptable use of information resources. Section IV, paragraph 7 of the Acceptable Use Policy requires users to “Use resources appropriately. Do not interfere with the activities of others or use a disproportionate share of resources.” Paragraph 9 of the same section defines acceptable and unacceptable uses of information technology: “It is a violation to use your computer to copy, display or distribute copyrighted materials such as software, MP3 files, or MPEG files illegally.” Penalties for violating the policy are listed in Section V; they include revoking your access and even suspension from the university. The university is responsible for addressing incidents involving inordinate use of networking resources. In addition, there are legal penalties for breaking the law.

What Is Legally Allowed?

You can

You cannot

  • Let others have copies of music, movies, or software where you do not hold the copyright; or share files over the Internet if you do not hold the copyright.
  • Download or copy copyrighted music, movies, or other intellectual property without permission/license from the copyright holder.
  • Use university resources in a way that violates the law or university policy.

You should

  • Practice safe computing anytime you are using the university computers and network.
  • Read and understand service agreements and end-user license agreements (EULA) before signing up with a music service.
  • Understand the law and university policies regarding intellectual property.
  • Read copyright statements. Some copyright holders grant different permissions on their works, and some works are in the public domain.

Learn More