UMass Lowell recognizes that there are legitimate uses for file sharing and does not want to block or limit those who need to collaborate with others. However, due to legislation outlined in the re-authorization of the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) that was signed into law in 2008 with an implementation date of July 1, 2010, UMass Lowell is obligated to comply with the various aspects the HEOA. The peer-to-peer, file-sharing, and copyright stipulations are outlined below followed by UMass Lowell's proposed actions in response to comply:

Annual Disclosure

Each institution must provide notification to each student that contains the following:

  1. A statement that explicitly informs its students that unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject the students to civil and criminal liabilities;
  2. A summary of the penalties for violation of Federal copyright laws; and
  3. A description of the institution's policies with respect to unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, including disciplinary actions that are taken against students who engage in illegal downloading or unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials using the institution's information technology system.

UMass Lowell's Response: UMass Lowell IT Security will send out via e-mail a notice at the beginning of both the fall and spring semesters informing students of the liabilities and other issues associated with illegal file sharing on the campus infrastructure. This e-mail notification will contain the following verbiage:

UMass Lowell IT Security and Residence Life would like to remind students that the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, is a violation of Federal Law and University Policy.

Criminal penalties may include prison sentences of up to five years and fines up $250,000 or both. Civil penalties can result in awards of up to $150,000 per violation in addition to legal fees.

University Policy prohibits illegally copying, distributing, sharing, downloading or uploading copyrighted music, movies, software and games. Upon receipt of a copyright infringement notice, the alleged offender's network access will be limited and all web requests will be referred to UMass Lowell's Network Policy Enforcement page. Internet access will be restored once the form is complete and the student agrees to abide by the terms of the policy. Repeat offenders are referred to the Director of Student Development and Campus Conduct for further disciplinary action.

A plan to effectively combat unauthorized distribution using technology-based deterrents.

There are four categories of "technology-based deterrents" that institutions can use to meet this requirement. Only one category has to be used, and each category is weighted equally valid in meeting this requirement.

  1. Bandwidth shaping
  2. Traffic monitoring to identify the largest bandwidth users
  3. A vigorous program of accepting and responding to Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notices
  4. A variety of commercial products designed to reduce or block illegal file sharing

UMass Lowell's Response: UMass Lowell has chosen to deploy technology based deterrents found in categories 3 and 4.

UMass Lowell's Response: Legal Alternatives both for pay and other free services can be found on the EDUCAUSE website.

In addition to the above requirements, the HEOA requires an annual review of the institution's plan of combating illegal and unauthorized file sharing. Our response procedures are continually reviewed for effectiveness and relevance. We use insights from personal conversations with students, frequency of recidivism, and external factors (e.g., developments in P2P software, increased use of unsecured personal wireless routers, etc.).

For more information, please visit the U.S. Copyright Office website, especially the Copyright Office's Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Find legal alternatives both for pay and other free services on the EDUCAUSE website.