GRAPES: GRid-connected Advanced Power Electronic Systems

How Free is Free: Downloading on the Internet

In a continued effort to help educate the University of South Carolina about legal downloading, University Technology Services has created a special classroom presentation about copyright infringement. Although it was created specifically for University 101 sections, this discussion can be used in any class or instructor-led discussion. To request a UTS representative to speak about this in your classroom, please send an email to with your contact information.

This presentation is a unique hands-on discussion about the different ways copyright is handled by the University, media owners and regulatory agencies through a student’s perspective.

Discussion Materials:

The class is broken up into three different sections that represent the University, the media agency and the alleged infringed student. Each section has a packet of information they are asked to review. They then will begin debating and discussing how each group should respond to the allegation.

Case Assumptions:

  • USC’s "Agent to Receive Notification of Claimed Copyright Infringement" (AKA Copyright Agent) received multiple infringement notices:
    • Movie: "She’s out of My League"
    • TV Show: "Top Chef"
    • Music: "Our Song" by Taylor Swift
  • The same IP address is cited in each notice
  • Infringement notices in each packet were received by USC’s Copyright Agent
  • University technical staff researched the notices to identify alleged infringer
  • Infringement information was accurately matched to USC student John Doe
  • This is at least the second alleged infringement matched to student John Doe
  • John Doe has now been referred to USC Student Judicial
  • This is not a subpoena, but may eventually lead to one
  • Except for the specifics pertaining to this case (i.e., student name and infringement notices), all other information is publicly and freely available online

Possible Approaches:

  • Media owner wants/expects...
    • USC to stop illegal file sharing
    • USC to provide better education and awareness
  • Student (alleged infringer) wants/expects...
    • USC to stop sending him notices
    • USC to defend him
    • To apologize for his behavior and commits to stop illegally sharing files
    • Free/cheaper digital media (e.g., movies, music, books, etc.)
    • Anonymity on the Internet
  • University wants/expects...
    • Faculty, staff and students to obey applicable laws and policies
    • To maintain "safe harbor" status
    • To not lose federal funding as a result of copyright infringements
  • Student Judicial wants/expects...
    • Students to follow the rules and uphold the Carolina Creed


Material Details
Student packet

University packet

Media agency packet

  • Notices sent by the agency to USC’s Copyright Agent
  • Information available on the RIAA website for students writing reports about piracy and/or copyright infringement
  • Information available on the RIAA website explaining the RIAA position on copyright law
  • Information from another industry group, known as the Copyright Alliance, answering "frequently asked questions" relating to Fair Use

Student Judicial packet


  • Copyright: Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. (source: , accessed on 9/12/11) Examples of work protected by copyright include music, books, movies and television shows.
  • Copyright Infringement: Put simply, using a copyrighted work in an unauthorized manner. For example, making digital copies of Lady Gaga’s newest CD or the latest X-Men movie and sharing these with the world.
  • DMCA and "Safe Harbor": A provision in U.S. copyright law that removes liability from an Internet service provider (ISP), such as a university, for infringing activity by its users provided the ISP is responsive to infringement complaints.
  • Illegal file sharing: The unauthorized distribution of copyrighted content through networks or other sharing of digital files. This term is often used to describe how copyright infringements happen on the Internet.
  • P2P (peer to peer) file sharing: Generally used to describe sharing files between computers without the use of a central content storing server. For example, Napster users connected to central servers that stored all of the shared music (making it easy for enforcement agencies to target and shut-down such file sharing). In contrast, P2P file sharing generally relies on distributed storage of files throughout the participant population without a "central" server to shut-down, thus making this method of file-sharing much more resistant to "shut-down" efforts.
  • IP address: In general, every computer operating on our network with access to the Internet has an unique Internet Protocol (IP) addresses assigned. These addresses are how computers communicate with each other across the Internet and also how computer activity can be traced back to the individual computer assigned a particular address.
  • Infringement notice: An official complaint sent by the copyright holder (or authorized representatives) outlining details of alleged infringing activity.
  • Subpoena: A command issued by a court requiring that particular information/evidence be produced. Subpoenas can also require people to appear before a court.

 For more information about security, please visit .


Columbia, SC 29208 803-777-7000
© University of South Carolina Board of Trustees