You received this referral because a copyright agent detected that your computer was either file-sharing, or set to share files and there was the presence of copyrighted materials. Most often students assume that simply possessing or downloading copyrighted material is the sole reason for the violation, and typically assume that removing this material will resolve the issue. Most likely the violation was due to the use of the peer to peer client, Bit Torrent or use of peer to peer programs like Gnutella/Limewire, BearShare, eMule, Kazaa, etc.

As your internet service provider, Virginia Tech is obligated to follow-up on all alleged and suspected violations of state and federal law, as well as code of conduct violations. Failure to do so could result in Virginia Tech being non-compliant with federal (see Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and state law. Access to computer systems and networks owned or operated by Virginia Tech impose certain responsibilities and obligations on its students, faculty, staff, and guest. University network users are subject to university policies, as well as local, state, and federal laws. Acceptable use is ethical, reflects academic honesty, and shows restraint in the consumption of shared resources. It demonstrates respect for intellectual property, ownership of data, system security mechanisms, and individuals’ rights to privacy and to freedom from intimidation and harassment. Thus, university constituents are responsible for following university policies that guide acceptable use for the computing network.

The most common complaints concern unauthorized distribution of copyrighted music and movies, although sharing copyrighted software and audio books are also frequently a basis for receipt of a complaint. Unauthorized use of copyrighted materials violates both federal and state laws, is potentially subject to civil and criminal legal action and, is a violation of university policy. This includes downloading, file sharing, and uploading or sharing copyrighted material. Typically acceptable use policy (AUP) violations in these judicial referrals are a result of file sharing or uploading.

Virginia Tech does NOT monitor the content of network traffic-only the volume. Typically, the copyright owner or the owner’s officially designated agent sends an email to a Virginia Tech email address such as with the details of what material is being compromised, by which internet protocol (IP) address, and the dates the activity was observed. In compliance with Federal laws a university staff member researches the information to identify probable offenders, advises them to immediately cease the illegal activity and refers that information to Student Conduct. The student is given a chance to resolve the problem before we resort to deactivating connections.

  • Residents in the room originating the violating IP address or the wireless user is contacted via email by a university staff member. In the case of residence hall incidents, IP addresses in the halls are variable. Email messages are sent to all roommates, because it would otherwise require a visit to the room to ascertain which machine is connected to which portal and which machine is owned by which students. As such, the roommates are called on to clarify with Student Conduct whose machine and which individual needs the remedial activity. Students alleged to have been involved in illegal file-sharing will be sent an email from the DMCA stating the following:
    "It has come to our attention that copyrighted material is available for public access from a computer in your room. Specifically, (a) copyrighted video recording(s) of..."
  • When you receive the email, you must follow the instructions in the email to log in and fill out a response form stating what steps you have taken to stop sharing the copyrighted file(s) listed in within 24 hours (one business day) of the time the email was sent to you. If your reply is not provided within the specified time period, then your network portal or wireless abilities will be deactivated. They will not be reactivated until you provide clear evidence to Student Conduct that the problem with your computer has been resolved. Failure to do so will result in further discipline action and lead to your network connection being shut off. Residents who have not engaged in a university policy violation must also following the steps outlined here and state their version of the situation.
  • Once the residents complete the response form their network connection speed will return to normal within 24-48 hours. If you require technical assistance with removing the file-sharing client, it is strongly recommendedthat you contact the Virginia Tech Computing Consultants at 4HELP (1-4357 or
  • Finally, Student Conduct will issue a sanction to students who affirm or are suspected to have participated in repeated and/or serious Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) violations of file sharing/ uploading.

Each resident is expected to reply to the email and respond by explaining the situation. If you are not responsible for the violation you must state so in your email. Additionally, you need to talk to your roommate as soon as possible to ensure that they assume responsibility for the policy violation. If both residents implicated by the email complaint deny responsibility for the policy violation, then a conduct hearing will be scheduled to determine who is responsible for the policy violation.

Copyright violations contravene Virginia Tech’s Acceptable Use Policy. Depending on the nature of the violation and whether or not a student has prior conduct referrals sanctions can range from a "Formal Warning" to "Denial of Network Access." The outcome of your case will depend on the nature of the incident and if there has been past disciplinary conduct at the university.

If you obtain free copies of music, movies, or software that is typically available for a fee in a store or over the Internet, it is very likely a violation of copyright laws. Also, if you subscribe to/installed a file-sharing or peer-to-peer (p2p) service (e.g., Gnutella, Bearshare, Kazaa, LimeWire, BitTorrent, Morpheus, etc.) by default the user agrees (whether knowingly or not) to offer up music or movie files stored on their computer. P2p software is designed to share files of music, movies, etc., on the host (your) computer, regardless of your other system file-sharing settings. Having p2p software can cause your computer to share or upload files, without your participation, once that software is installed. Be sure you are using reliable software that doesn't violate any copyrights. Be educated about the software you are using.

File sharing software or peer-to-peer (P2P) services are designed to share files. By default the user agrees (whether knowingly or not) to offer up music or movie files stored on their computer. If you have this software on your computer you need to either set it to not share (upload of) files or uninstall it all together. Again, you need to either deactivate file sharing (which may not be possible) or uninstall the software altogether to preclude receipt of additional complaints. Be sure that you are using reliable software that doesn’t violate any copyright infringement. Be educated about the software you are using and be aware of the potential outcomes of installing such programs.

Unauthorized use of copyrighted materials violates both federal and state laws, is subject to civil and criminal legal action, and is a violation of Virginia Tech's Acceptable Use Policy. To date, the vast majority of copyright complaints have been handled exclusively by campus authorities. Regardless, copyright owners may also pursue legal remedies, if they so choose. Finally, avoid downloading copyrighted material for "free." Just because it easy to obtain without paying for it doesn’t mean it is legal. A good rule of thumb for determining whether a work is copyrighted or not: If you visited your favorite local department store to obtain a copy of the same work, could find that artistic creation there, and would have to pay for it to take it home-it is almost certainly copyrighted. When in doubt, assume it is copyrighted.

If you have a peer-to-peer (P2P) service on your computer, you need to either set it to not allow sharing (uploading of) files (which can be difficult or impossible to do, even after clicking the "do not share files" feature), or uninstall it all together. There are a lot of music and some files on the Internet that are not copyrighted. These web sites should clearly indicate the works are not copyrighted or that they may be freely downloaded if copyrighted. If not, steer clear of them. Read the Copyright Primer for more information.