Copyright and Acceptable Use Policy in the CG Labs

The Computer Graphics and Interactive Media Department is devoted to creating, discovering, and sharing ideas, knowledge and information in the CG Labs. The Department is also committed to complying with United States law by upholding the rights of copyright holders. To this end, here are some frequently asked questions about acceptable use, copyright, and the use of CG Lab equipment and network storage.


What is fair use?

You may have heard of fair use. It is discussed in the U.S. Copyright Act. Fair use must be judged on a case-by-case basis. It does not mean that if you think it's fair that you should be able to use a work, it's okay. There are four criteria to evaluate when considering if a use is fair:

  1. purpose and character of the use (why do you want to use it?)
  2. nature of the copyrighted work (what kind of work is it?)
  3. amount and substantiality used (how much do you want to copy?)
  4. effect on the potential market for or value of the work (will your copying contribute to decreasing the value or demand for the work?)

For example, it's fine to quote from a book when writing about it, but it's not okay to reproduce the entire book.

Fair use can be tricky to define, so here are some links that do a pretty good job of explaining it.

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What kinds of activities are probable violations of copyright law?

  • Copying and sharing most MP3s, images, movies, or other copyrighted material.
  • Posting or plagiarizing copyrighted material on your personal webspace.
  • Unauthorized downloading of anything that you don't already own a copy (software, MP3s, movies, etc.)

Copyright law applies to a wide variety of works, and covers much more than is listed above. If you're in doubt about a particular work, assume that it is copyrighted!

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What is considered unacceptable use in the CG Labs?

The following activities are forbidden by Office of Technology and the CGIM Department. (You signed this in order to be on the network. Please see the policy if you need to review details.)

  • Commercial for-profit activities. You can't run a business or even engage in for-profit activities over the campus network.
  • Generating excessive network traffic or consuming excessive network resources apart from educational use. This often occurs when file-sharing programs (Audiogalaxy, Bearshare, KaZaA, etc.) are used to share a large number of files.
  • Mass emailing.
  • Distributing any kind of obscene materials.
  • Threatening harm by harassing, stalking, transmitting obscenities, or other criminal offenses.
  • Attempting to gain access to an individual's account or to nonpublic parts of the UD network.
  • Attempting to intercept data transmissions on the UD network.
  • Engaging in any electronic activities that violate any local, state, national, or international law.

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Are MP3s illegal?

Some MP3s can be legally obtained through online subscription services or from sites officially permitted by the copyright holders to offer certain MP3 downloads. Some are copyright free. Most MP3s don't fall into either category.

  • MP3 files are completely legal, but it's illegal to have MP3s of music recordings that you don't already own, or to which you haven't obtained the rights.
  • In almost all cases, sharing MP3s over the UD network is also illegal.
  • United States copyright law allows you to create MP3s only for your personal use and only of songs to which you already have rights. You can make MP3s only of songs for which you already own the CD or tape. And personal use means for you alone - you can't make copies and give or sell them to other people.

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How could I get caught if I violate the Copyright or Acceptable Use Policy?

  • CGIM faculty do not routinely police the CGIM drives for illegal activity, but they must respond to formal complaints they receive.
  • Organizations like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) frequently police file-sharing programs for copyrighted material belonging to the artists they represent.
  • Other agencies like the FBI are vigilant in monitoring some areas, such as the traffic in child pornography.
  • If you establish a business online, it's a likely bet that your competitors will be the first to notify us of your activity.
  • Some students are under the impression that their activity on the Internet is largely anonymous or untraceable, but this is untrue. In fact, almost all your activity on the Internet is logged on many of the computer systems you use, and while these logs usually are not inspected, they certainly can be used to confirm or implicate you in illegal activity. Simple. Do things the right way from the start.

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How often do students get caught or prosecuted?

  • Many students are under the impression that they would never be prosecuted or punished for simply sharing MP3s on the network. This is not the case.
  • Because federal privacy laws prevent details of University proceedings from being released, most students have not read about nor heard of students being prosecuted for sharing MP3s. This may mislead you into a false sense of security; in fact, students are regularly accused of copyright infringement and held accountable for their actions.
  • As an example, in a one-month period at the end of the Fall 2002 semester, four students were investigated for copyright infringement. While the number of students may seem very low, the sanctions for these violations are serious.

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What will happen if I get caught?

  1. If, after a CGIM investigation, the allegations against you appear to be true, your access to the CG Labs will be immediately suspended, which means that you will not be able to use CG Lab facilities for a specified amount of time. Depending on the seriousness of the allegation, the Office of Technology may also take punitive measures including, but not limited to, cessation of all UD computer services including email.
  2. You will be notified through several means of communication of the apparent appropriate use violations, and be asked to set up a time to meet with CGIM faculty.
  3. In this meeting, CGIM faculty will present the allegations made against you and the evidence collected to support them. If it is a copyright violation, you will have an opportunity to make a legal response if you believe you did not break any copyright laws.
  4. If the University terminates your login priviliges, in order to restore your network connectivity, you will have to re-sign an agreement with UD under which you will agree to cease the activity that violates the appropriate use policy. Another infraction may result in the permanent loss of your access to the UD network.
  5. In addition, after your meeting with CGIM faculty, a summary of the discussion will be forwarded to the Office of Student Life and the Office of the VPAA. Please do not assume that just because you're not the only student sharing MP3s, the CGIM Department willl not find you responsible for a violation.
  6. If found responsible by the University for serious and repeated unacceptable actions, you could face probation, community service time, an official letter of sanction in your academic record, suspension, or even expulsion. The University maintains a copy of all judicial records for ten years, so these outcomes might prove devastating to your future job prospects or academic pursuits.

For full details of the procedure for handling copyright complaints, see

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But if everyone breaks the rules, how can you punish just one person?

  • Just because the CGIM Department cannot administer punishments equally does not mean that they cannot administer them at all. As with speeding tickets, "everyone else was doing it" will not satisfy an enforcement officer or provide an excuse for illegal behavior. The faculty of the Department is tasked with maintaining and protecting the CGIM network and will take whatever steps necessary to ensure the its integrity.
  • Pleading ignorance of these rules or the applicable laws is also equally useless in an enforcement situation, so educate yourself before you decide to break the law.
  • You should recognize that violating the copyright or acceptable use policy stated here is a significant risk that you may regret.

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If you still have questions about fair use and copyright issues within the CG Labs, you can send them to Alan Garfield, Chair, CGIM Department, at agarfield@dbq.edu. Also, you can visit the U.S. Copyright office at http://www.loc.gov/copyright/ .