Letter to students concerning Digital Millennium Copyright Act

To Members of the Harvard College Community:

An increasing number of reports of possible copyright infringement by users of Harvard's computer network prompts me to remind members of the College community that federal copyright law prohibits unauthorized downloading, reproduction, distribution, or public display of copyrighted materials such as music, movies, or television programs.

Harvard is able to make its network resources and Internet access available to students partly because of the legal protections provided to Internet service providers by the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 ("DMCA"). If Harvard complies with certain terms of the DMCA, it will not be held responsible when a user downloads, distributes or displays movies, music or other copyrighted material in violation of the copyright laws, though the user may be held legally responsible for his or her actions. To obtain protection under the DMCA, Harvard must, in appropriate circumstances, terminate the network access of any user who repeatedly infringes the copyrights of others.

The College, therefore, will terminate the network access of any student who is a repeat offender, that is, a student who has been warned about a first incident of copyright infringement and who is again found to have been downloading, reproducing, or distributing copyrighted material in violation of the copyright laws. The length of termination will be one year. Termination of network access includes all devices owned or registered by the student. We call this severe consequence to your attention because the educational consequences of such a deprivation of access would be so very serious, given the way students typically use the Harvard network on a daily basis for educational purposes.

Students who download or distribute movies or music in violation of the copyright laws may face significant legal consequences. The Harvard Crimson and other news media last week reported on lawsuits filed by the Recording Industry Association of America against students at several universities.

In some cases, students are unaware that they are allowing others access to files on their computers. Students should therefore be as vigilant as possible in monitoring access to their files, should take reasonable precautions to secure their personal computers, and should respond immediately to any report of possible copyright infringement they receive from the University's network administrators. Students may be held responsible for misconduct that occurs from others' use or misuse of their systems. We urge anyone with questions about the DMCA and its consequences to consult the information provided on the University web page www.dmca.harvard.edu.

Finally, we note that the University does not itself monitor the network for possible violations of the DMCA, but is required to respond to any complaints it receives from copyright holders.

Sincerely yours,

Harry R. Lewis
Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science
Dean of Harvard College