Illegal Downloading


During the 2008-2009 academic year, Eastern Illinois University received over 2,000 copyright infringement complaints for illegal file sharing. Everyone needs to remember that the Eastern Illinois University network is not to be used to illegally download music, movies, computer programs or any other copyrighted work. During the summer of 2009, new legislation went into affect that forces colleges and universities to implement controls against illegal file sharing or risk losing Federal financial aid funding for students.

To help protect our students against network disconnects, University sanctions and fines ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars, Eastern has implemented a few changes in supporting file sharing applications. As of May 2009, Eastern will only support BitTorrent for legal peer-to-peer (p2p) file sharing. All other p2p file sharing applications are not supported for use on the Eastern network.

Even though steps have been taken to only support BitTorrent, students are still liable for their online activities and need to make sure that they do no break the law while online. When it comes to illegal downloading, a simple rule to remember is:

"If you are downloading something for free that you would normally pay for, there is a good chance that it is illegal."

To help address a common questions, the Information Security Office has created the following FAQ:

Why allow BitTorrent?
The decision to allow BitTorrent was made based on the fact that many companies have adopted BitTorrent to distribute their software legally. In fact many open source software companies use BitTorrent to distribute their software as do game companies for updates and new media companies for videos. Most other p2p file sharing networks contain very little, if any, legal content and are mainly used to illegally share copyrighted material.

However, students, faculty and staff need to be aware that not every file on BitTorrent is legal and it is the responsibility of the individual to make sure that they do not violate copyright or other laws.

What is this new legislation?
The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) of 2008 was signed into law by President Bush in August 2008 and went into affect during the summer of 2009. This new law contains three general requirements on controlling unauthorized file sharing at colleges and universities. These requirements are:

  • An annual disclosure to students describing copyright law and campus policies related to violating copyright law.
  • A plan to "effectively combat" copyright abuse on the campus network using a "variety of technology-based deterrents"
  • Agreement to "offer alternatives to illegal downloading"


Why don't off campus students have to deal with this?
While it is true that the off campus Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are not subject to HEOA, these companies are subject to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and strongly enforce copyright infringement notices. There have been numerous cases where off campus ISPs have shut off Internet service once they receive a copyright infringement notice. Students that live off campus are as liable as on campus students to make sure that they do not violation copyright laws. Remember, illegal downloading is against the law no matter where you reside.

What is a copyright?
Copyright is a form of legal protection provided by United States law (Title 17 U.S. Code) that protects an owner's right to control the reproduction, distribution, performance, display and transmission of a copyrighted work.

Any activity that violates these protections, such as downloading and/or sharing copyrighted works without the owner's explicit permission, is in violation of United State law and is not an acceptable use of the Eastern Illinois University network (IGP 129).

What are copyrighted works?

  • Copyrights protect "original works of authorship" and include:
  • Books, articles and other writings
  • Songs and other musical works
  • Movies and Television productions
  • Pictures, graphics and drawings
  • Computer software
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Sculptural and architectural works


What happens if you are caught breaking copyright law?
It is the policy of Eastern Illinois University to respect the intellectual property rights of others (IGP 48.4). If it comes to the attention of the University that an individual is using Eastern computer equipment and/or network access to violate copyright law, the University will take action to stop such activities.

Any copyright violations traced to students will be referred to the Office of Student Standards for adjudication as a violation of the Student Code of Conduct. Copyright violation penalties include the loss of network connectivity, community service and monetary fines.

Any copyright violations traced to faculty or staff will be referred to the University's Legal Counsel. Copyright violations for faculty and staff are treated as a breach of ethical and professional conduct and will be handled following established disciplinary procedures including verbal and written warnings, suspension and possible termination.

In addition, violations of copyright law can lead to criminal charges and civil penalties. Under current copyright law, criminal cases of copyright violation carry a penalty of up to five (5) years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Civil penalties for copyright infringement include a minimum fine of $750 for each work. While criminal prosecution for illegal downloading is rare, civil law suits are quite common for some institutions.

Common copyright violations at Eastern
The single most common source of copyright violation notices is peer-to-peer (P2P) programs such as Limewire, Ares, Frostwire, etc. It is important to understand that the vast majority of files shared using these programs are done so in violation of copyright law.

While P2P programs are not illegal, these programs can be used in illegal ways. It is everyone's responsibility to use P2P programs legally and responsibly.

Here is a good rule to follow: "If you are downloading something for free that you would normally pay for, there is a good chance that it is illegal."

Legal alternatives to P2P
Unfortunately, the service that Eastern was using to provide legal access to music and movies, Ruckus, has gone out of business. While Eastern is working to assess the viability of alternative services, none have been identified as of yet. However, both the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) have web sites that list legal alternatives to illegal P2P. Some of the more popular alternatives include:


  • iTunes
  • SpiralFrog
  • Pandora
  • amazonMP3


Movies and Television

  • iTunes
  • Hulu
  • Netflix Watch Instantly
  • Major Television Network Web Sites


For more information on legal alternatives, please visit: