Most importantly, the college recognizes that the concept of file-sharing is entirely legal, as is file-sharing software. File sharing applications such as BitTorrent have many perfectly legitimate uses and the college has no desire to restrict or eliminate their use on campus. That said, these applications can be abused. Existing college policies address this abusive use in two ways.

First, the college certainly does not permit the unauthorized sharing of copyrighted material, the most common examples of which are music and movies. In fact, this is a violation of both Carleton’s Academic User Agreement (which everyone agrees to when registering on our network), and the Community Standards Policy. Quoting from the former:

Your use of the Carleton computer network must comply with all federal, Minnesota, and other applicable law; all applicable contracts and licenses; and College policies as articulated in the Student, Faculty and Staff Handbooks. These laws, contracts, licenses and policies include:

  • laws governing libel, privacy, copyright, trademark,…

Quoting Carleton’s Community Standards Policy, specifically the section detailing “Responsibilities to the College”:

We expect students to conduct themselves reasonably and appropriately, on and off-campus. This includes respectful responses to College officials, appropriate use of College facilities, and compliance with sanctions applied through established judicial procedures. The following conduct is prohibited:

  • Unauthorized use of college facilities, including but not limited to:
    • …; infringement of copyrights or license agreements;…

There are occasions where the limited distribution of certain copyrighted materials for educational purposes is permitted by law under the Fair Use clause. For more specifics on this, please refer to Understanding Fair Use.

What are Carleton’s Obligations?

Under the Higher Education Opportunity Act, Carleton has a number of obligations with respect to this issue. These requirements can be summarized as follows, courtesy of Educause:

  • An annual disclosure to students describing copyright law and campus policies related to violating copyright law.
  • A plan to “effectively combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials” by users of its network, including “the use of one or more technology-based deterrents”.
  • A plan to “offer alternatives to illegal downloading”.