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Copyright and P2P

About Copyright Laws

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) [PDF] is a 1998 addition to the copyright laws of the United States. Copyright, which has its foundations in the Constitution of the United States, is designed to protect the creative process and ensure that creative works migrate to the public domain over time, enriching society.

In the 1990s, new technologies made it easier for individuals to easily, cheaply, and repeatedly transfer music, texts, and other works of art to others, without compensation to those who had created the works or help copyrights on them. Software pirates and counterfeiters in some other countries broke copyright laws in large scale yet weren't prosecuted because many copyright laws were not enforced across international borders.

To address these problems, the U.S. signed two treaties that offered more protections for international copyright holders and also addressed technology issues relevant to keeping copyrights safe. These treaties, the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT), and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT), were signed by the United States in December of 1996 and ratified by Congress. The U.S. also passed laws recognizing copyrights from other countries.

More recently, the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) required that universities provide their students with specific information about copyright, illegal file sharing, consequences, and alternatives.

Drexel and Copyright

As a leading research university, Drexel creates a great deal of "intellectual property" and seeks to protect it. Likewise, we respect the creations of others and their rights to control what is done with them. Accordingly, Drexel includes in its Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) a statement about copyrighted material.

Users may not engage in the unauthorized copying, distributing, altering or translating of copyrighted materials, software, music or other media without the express permissions of the copyright holder.

The AUP is binding on all Drexel students, faculty, staff, and other users of the University's network and computing equipment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Peer-to-Peer (P2P) networking?

A: P2P is a decentralized type of computer networking where files reside on individual client computers rather than on centralized servers.


Q: Is P2P illegal?

A: P2P is not inherently illegal. However, using P2P technologies for the purpose of downloading and sharing copyrighted files is illegal under the terms of the DMCA.


Q: What are some common P2P applications?

A: Common P2P applications include ArezWarez, Azureus, Bearshare, Bitcomet, BitTornado, Bittorrent, Gnutella, Direct Connect, eMule, eDonkey, iMesh, Kazaa, Limewire, Shareaza, rTorrent, uTorrent, Thunder, Transmission, and WarezP2P.

Please see Wikipedia for a comprehensive list of P2P protocols and client applications.


Q: Am I at risk if I never share files when I run P2P programs?

A: Yes! Many P2P programs, such as Bittorrent, share downloaded files by default. You might be sharing files even though you never explicitly configured specific files or directories to be shared!


Q: May I share music or videos which I have purchased?

A: No!


Q: What is the DMCA?

A: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United States copyright law. You can find the U.S. Copyright Office's summary of the DMCA here.


Q: What are the legal consequences of violating the DMCA?

A: DMCA violators can expect to face harsh civil and criminal penalties including fines of up to $250,000 per file and 5 years in prison.


Q: What are the consequences of violating the DMCA at Drexel?

A: DMCA violators may be subject to immediate revocation of network access privileges and monetary fines commensurate with primary, secondary and tertiary offenses. Drexel students receiving notification of a second DMCA violation are subject to action by Residential Living and Student Conduct (RLSC).

Violation Consequence
First Disconnection, IT Notification, & RLSC Warning
Second Disconnection & RLSC Referral
Third Disconnection & RLSC Referral


Q: How does Drexel respond to DMCA Violation notices?

A: Drexel University, as an Internet Service Provider, is legally required to comply with the provisions of the DMCA.

  • The copyright holder sends Drexel's "Designated DMCA Agent" a notice of infringement. The notice identifies the IP Address, Date, Time, Filename(s) and P2P protocol. [SAMPLE]
  • An automated system uses this information to identify the specific computer and person using it at the time of the alleged infringement.
  • An email containing the original DMCA notification is sent to the user and a copy is sent to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards.
  • The user has 3 days to respond to the notification to assure Drexel that there is no violation. This is done simply by clicking a hyperlink.
  • If the email is ignored and no response is received within 3 days, network access is disabled and re-connection fees may apply.
  • Users associated with subsequent offenses are forwarded to Residential Living and Student Conduct for potential disciplinary action.


Q: Am I at risk of being prosecuted under the DMCA if I only download a single song?

A: Yes. The recording and motion picture industries will take action against users responsible for downloading a single copyrighted file.


Q: To whom at Drexel University can I direct my questions and concerns about file-sharing and the DMCA?

A: The IT Security Group can answer questions related to the DMCA and file-sharing.


Q: To whom at Drexel University should copyright holders direct DMCA Violation notifications?

A: The agent designated to receive and act on copyright violations under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is

Timothy Raynor
Drexel University
Office of the General Counsel
3201 Arch Street, Suite 310
Philadelphia, PA 19104