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File Sharing - Digital Media

Most digital media files in the form of music, images, and video found on the Internet are copyright protected. It is illegal to download those files or share copies with friends without permission from the copyright owner. Illegal sharing of digital media is a serious offense that can result in legal penalties. File sharing of copyrighted digital media also violates the VCU Computer and Network Resources Use Policy. Faculty, Staff and Students found to be in violation of this policy will be subject to VCU’s Honor System or Code of Conduct as well as civil and/or criminal penalties.

While it is possible that people have shared files at home with no repercussions, the record and movie industries specifically target university networks for enforcement. If someone is detected to be sharing or downloading copyrighted material without permission to do so, the RIAA or MPAA will notify VCU. The University will perform a thorough investigation of the possible violation. Those who are alleged to have illegally downloaded or distributed copyrighted material will be contacted regarding the next steps for assuring compliance with copyright laws. If the University is served with a subpoena asking for an alleged violator's name in a lawsuit,  the University will comply.

Here are a few tips on how to enjoy digital media while respecting rights of others in the digital world.  

  • It is okay to download digital media from sites authorized by the owners of the copyrighted material whether or not the site charges for the media. This includes iTunes,, Netflix, public libraries, or similar services.  
  • It is never okay to download unauthorized digital media from pirate sites or peer-to-peer systems.   
  • It is acceptable to copy music onto an analog cassette, special audio CD-Rs, minidisk and digital tapes (because royalties have been paid on these media formats) but not for commercial purposes.
  • Transferring a copy of your music CD onto your computer hard drive or your portable music player is okay as long as the copy is made from an authorized original CD that you own and the copy is just for your personal use. It is illegal to give away the copy or lend it to others for copying.

This article was updated: 11/15/2016