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Understand the Risks of Sharing Copyrighted Materials - On & Off Campus

October 20, 2023

At UC Merced, we have recently seen a surge in Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) violations related to the inappropriate sharing of copyrighted content such as downloading and sharing copyrighted movies, games, TV shows, books, and music. While file sharing itself is not inherently illegal, sharing or downloading copyrighted material without proper authorization, even unknowingly, constitutes both a violation of the law and UC policy. If you download or share copyrighted content that you haven’t legitimately purchased, it can result in potential university, criminal, and civil sanctions.

Security Implications of File Sharing

Besides the legal concerns associated with downloading copyrighted material, file sharing can also expose your computer to various security risks. Here are some of the key risks associated with file sharing:

  • Improper Configuration: Inadequately configured file-sharing software can grant others access to your entire computer, not just the specific files you intend to share.
  • Malware and Viruses: File-sharing software can transmit viruses and malware, putting your computer and data at risk.
  • Misrepresented Files: Files offered by others may not always be what they claim to be, potentially leading to issues with content accuracy and safety.

Penalties for DMCA Violations

UC Merced follows a series of escalating penalties as a response to DMCA violations:

  • 1st Notification: The student receives a notification and is required to sign a response letter, agreeing not to engage in activities that violate the DMCA in the future.
  • 2nd Notification: The student’s network access is temporarily suspended for one week.
  • 3rd Notification: The student’s network access is temporarily suspended for two weeks.
  • 4th Notification: The student’s network access is permanently suspended.

Reduce Your File-Sharing Risks

To minimize the risks associated with file sharing, consider taking the following steps:

  • Ensure that you have current anti-malware software installed (this is actually mandatory for all computers on campus! OIT provides free anti-virus and malware software at
  • Configure your file-sharing software to:
    • share only the files you intend to avoid granting access to your entire system.
    • turn off file-sharing when you’re not actively sharing files to prevent the unintentional sharing of personal or copyrighted files.
  • Refrain from sharing videos and games that violate the DMCA. Instead, opt for legal file-sharing services when obtaining music, movies, TV shows, games, books, and more on the internet.

If you have any questions or need assistance regarding compliance, please reach out to the Information Security Office via email ( Remember, understanding the implications of file sharing and following legal and university policies is crucial to maintain a safe and responsible online presence!