[unisog] bogus (and real) DMCA notices

Rita Seplowitz Saltz rita at Princeton.EDU
Fri Nov 10 13:09:19 GMT 2006


I am not an attorney, but have had excellent advice and support from  
our university Office of General Counsel, and encourage those with  
DMCA concerns to contact their schools' counsel..

Having said that, I'll note that Princeton's registering under the  
Digital Millennium Copyright Act seems to me to have achieved two  
important things.

First,  it gives the University certain protections from liability  
for infringement by its network customers (our faculty, students,  
staff, contractors, etc.).

Second, it tells the University that we need not monitor for  
infringement.  This seems advantageous in avoiding liability.  In  
the  more general IT context, the University states it is a carrier  
of information and, except for official University publications, not  
a publisher of the information.  A carrier normally is not held  
responsible for content.

This does not excuse the University from taking appropriate action if  
an alleged infringement (or any other violation of law) is brought to  
our attention.

Our practice here, if a DMCA notice alleges that a valid  
Princeton.EDU domain IP address is infringing, is to notify the  
person or people responsible for the implicated host regarding the  
alleged infringement, copying an appropriate disciplinary authority.   
Our e-mail appends the actual DMCA notice sent by the rights-holder  
or agent, and asks the recipient to explain if s/he believes the  
allegation to be in error.

The notice also indicates the action expected of the recipient if the  
infringement allegation is not in error.

This is pretty simple and straightforward,  allows the "accused" to  
respond to the allegation if s/he finds it false, or to take the  
necessary action if the allegation has substance.  It also permits  
the University to comply with the DMCA without having to monitor for  
illegality or try to prove or disprove illegal distribution of  
copyrighted material.

It may be that a disciplinarian copied on such a notice will ask an  
"accused" to prove that s/he has a legal copy of the material s/he  
allegedly is redistributing illegally,  once the material has been  
protected against unauthorized access.  So I can't say the University  
never looks for evidence.  But IT folks are not expected to prove, or  
disprove, the allegation.

Further,  the University (our office, our Office of General Counsel,   
the disciplinary deans at both the undergraduate and graduate levels)  
considers the report of an actual infringement to be a timely  
opportunity to educate the responsible party regarding copyright and  
the University's expectations.  All communications and any  
disciplinary counseling sessions are geared accordingly.

Rita Saltz
Senior Policy Advisor
Office of Information Technology (OIT)
Princeton University
and DMCA Agent for Princeton University
rita at princeton.edu

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