Copyright and File Sharing

Northern Illinois University (NIU) respects copyrights and it is the policy of NIU to comply with copyright law. Using NIU's network to download or share copyrighted music, movies, television shows, games or any other copyrighted works without the permission of the copyright owner is a violation of NIU policies and may result in legal sanctions, judicial office penalties, and/or network termination, among other results.

NIU network or device users shall not store, distribute, or make unauthorized copies of copyrighted material on or using NIU computer systems, networks or storage media, including but not limited to copyrighted music, movies, games, software, literary works, artistic works or any other copyrighted materials.

You are responsible for file-sharing on your computer.

File sharing programs can transmit files on your computer to others in violation of copyright laws, with or without your knowledge. If these programs are on your computer, you will be responsible for any copyright violations that may result. It is safe computing practice to disable file sharing when you install these products.


  • My sibling/friend/roommate/spouse used my computer! You are responsible for devices you own, devices within your control, and devices that you attach to or login to the NIU network which violate copyright law. Any device connecting to the NIU network is subject to NIU policy and must comply with all state and federal laws. Also, please note that allowing your user credentials to be used by others is a violation of University Policy, see the Information Security Policy.
  • But, I bought the songs legally! Even if you have legally purchased a copyright protected work, it is a violation of copyright law to distribute or make it available to others without the content owner’s permission.
  • Someone must have broken into my computer! File sharing may open your computer to hackers and identity thieves. If you choose to take these risks, you will be held accountable for the consequences.

Your personal information may be shared.

File sharing may open your computer to hackers and identity thieves. If you do not check the proper settings when you install certain file sharing software you could open access, not just to the files you intend to share, but also to other information on your hard drive, like email messages, photos, instant message logs, passwords, and pay pal or banking information that you store on your computer.

If you violate copyright laws.

While NIU does not generally monitor the content of your online activities, we may find that you have violated NIU policies and/or state and federal law during the normal course of network monitoring. Please note that many entities and organizations (for example, see the Recording Industry Association of America or RIAA for more information) locate people who are downloading or distributing copyrighted materials. If NIU receives notification from a copyright holder or their agent indicating that alleged copyrighted materials are being illegally distributed / downloaded from or to your computer or if NIU determines from network monitoring that you have violated university policies, at the very least, the following occurs:

  • Per the DMCA requirements, the network connection for the device identified is disabled immediately.
  • An email from notifies you of the alleged violation.
    Any legitimate notice will be sent from The RIAA does not contact any student directly. 
  • You must disable the alleged violating software.
  • You must meet with the NIU Abuse Investigator and sign documentation acknowledging your understanding of NIU's Acceptable Use Policy and the Student Code of Conduct (students). Faculty and Staff will meet with a supervisory line of authority and the NIU Abuse Investigator.
  • Other consequences for sharing materials in violation of copyright may include civil and/or criminal prosecution.

If you fail to contact the IT Service Desk within 7 days of being e-mailed notification of a claim, or if the violation or notice is for a second or more offense, or if you do not comply with the e-mailed procedures.

  • Your login ID/login account may be disabled.
  • You may be referred to the Office of Community Standards & Student Conduct (students).
  • You may lose all access to the NIU network for an extended period of time.

A first violation or notice may warrant the above actions under certain circumstances.

Civil and Criminal Penalties

  • Penalties for copyright infringement include civil and criminal penalties. Anyone found liable for civil copyright infringement may be ordered to pay either actual damages or “statutory damages affixed at not less than $750 and not more than $30,000 per work infringed. For “willful” infringement, a court may award up to $150,000 per work infringed. A court can, in its discretion also assess costs and attorney’s fees. For details, see Title 17, United States Code, Sections 504, 505.
  • Willful copyright infringement can also result in criminal penalties, including imprisonment of up to five years and fines of up to $250,000.


  • I didn’t see the email you sent notifying me of a complaint. Official correspondence is sent to your NIU email account. You are responsible for maintaining your email account and for reviewing your NIU email regularly. 
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