How UCLA deals with File Sharing - FAQ

UCLA Campus

The information below answers many of the questions we receive from students about our role with respect to the discovery and reporting of illegal file sharing activity.

What can happen if I am identified by a copyright holder as illegally sharing files?

Copyright holders have a variety of options open to them when they believe they have found an individual violating their copyright through illegal file sharing.

They can send a claim of copyright infringement to the alleged infringer’s Internet Service Provider. For UCLA students living on campus, they will send the claim to UCLA’s DMCA Designated Agent, and we follow the following procedure documented at UCLA's Residential Life network.

They can sue the alleged infringer. In this situation, a subpoena would be issued to UCLA to identify the network user in question in order to file the lawsuit.

Claims and subpoenas are sent to UCLA rather than directly to an individual because the technology used by copyright holders to identify alleged infringers can only identify IP addresses – unique Internet addresses for computers – and only UCLA can take a UCLA IP address and map it to the corresponding computer and individual. This is true for any Internet Service Provider and their respective IP addresses. However, only copyright holders are monitoring for alleged infringement; UCLA is not doing the monitoring.

The copyright holders are solely responsible for deciding whom they wish to pursue for alleged infringement of their copyright, by what means and when. They can choose to sue individuals without sending a prior claim of infringement that would initiate the UCLA administrative procedure giving a student a “warning”. They could send both, thus subjecting a student to both UCLA’s “take down” procedure and a lawsuit. We do not know upon what basis the copyright holder makes these decisions.

Does UCLA automatically turn over information when it receives a subpoena?

UCLA complies with its legal obligations and this includes providing information subject to validly issued subpoenas. Our attorneys review each subpoena to verify that it is proper.

UCLA would typically receive a subpoena from a copyright holder seeking the identity of a network user it intends to sue. When such a subpoena is received – say from the RIAA (the Recording Industry Association of America) – the UCLA DMCA Designated Agent determines the identity of the user. When the user is a student, we will first notify the student that a subpoena has been received that seeks the student’s personal information (in compliance with UCLA Policy 220, ‘Disclosure of Information from Student Records’). If the student decides to object to the release of the information or files a motion to quash the subpoena, he or she must let us know within approximately a two-week period; otherwise we will release the information at the end of two weeks. No information will be released without a proper subpoena being received.

Responsibility for computer use

If your computer has ever had peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing software installed on it, it can be difficult to remove or disengage. Given the speed of networks today (including UCLA’s networks), files can be shared within seconds of P2P software starting up. File sharing can occur even without the user’s knowledge as many P2P programs share files on the Internet as a background task – or such software can be installed by friends or family without the computer owner’s knowledge. But if your computer is caught by copyright holders illegally sharing their materials, you are still likely responsible for what the computer was doing .

Fundamentally, this speaks to the need to keep your computer clean, whether with security tools like antivirus software or ensuring software you don’t want on your computer is removed. Safe computing takes more time than ever these days, what with so much spam and malware and security flaws in software, but as all students agree to, when living on campus, by signing the Housing contract, you are responsible for your computer and how it’s used. If you live on campus, the Student Technology Center can help keep your computer safe.

What does UCLA do to help students avoid being sued for illegal file sharing?

UCLA employs multiple strategies to reduce illegal file sharing primarily by educating the community and encouraging a permanent shift in behavior. The program includes education (e.g., annual letters, orientation talks, programs within the residential halls, workshops facilitated by the Office of the Dean of Students, and dining hall table tents); policies and student conduct process to fully comply with the law while ensuring due process and privacy within that framework; offering legal alternatives through our Get Legal initiative; and advocacy work, often behind the scenes, both with legislators and with the entertainment industry. You may be interested to read the testimony of Jim Davis, then UCLA’s Chief Information Officer, at a House Judiciary hearing on piracy on university networks held in March 2007; it provides a good description of the campus’s approach.

How long does UCLA retain network use records (used to verify network activity date and time with a specific user)?

Server logs are kept primarily so that systems and network administrators are able to address problems in order to maintain the security, reliability and integrity of the network. The length of time these logs are kept is determined by such business need. There is no desire to keep logs longer than needed.

Some Observations

UCLA respects that students are adults. Our program intends to create awareness so that the UCLA community can make intelligent decisions and avoid illegal behavior and to help guide them when something does goes wrong – like the “teachable moment” when a claim of copyright infringement is received. However, if an individual is sued, there is not much the University can do. That is something between the student and the initiator of the lawsuit. (Note that UCLA does have a Student Legal Services unit that can assist as personal attorneys in representing students during the academic year.)

The University must balance many values and principles. Respect for copyright and intellectual property is a fundamental value for an institution that is all about such things. Respect for academic freedom, privacy, and due process are also paramount, all of which are factors in the illegal file sharing issue.

Need help?

The University cannot provide legal advice on early settlement letters or being sued. However, you can seek such advice through Student Legal Services from September – June; and if you have further questions about UCLA’s policies or procedures, you can contact Jacques Zalma, Assistant Dean of Students, at jzalma@saonet.ucla.edu or 310-825-3871.