Photo by Leanna Walsh

Recently, some UW students have received notices via email saying they’ve infringed on someone’s copyright. These emails can be confusing to parse and can cause unnecessary stress if misunderstood. Fear not, UW and the IST Service Desk are more than willing to help explain to students why they may have been sent a notice, what to do about it, and how to protect themselves in the future.

The email warnings themselves were issued as an effort to “discourage online copyright infringement,” according UW’s Information Systems and Technology site. The notices are issued if the owner of a copyrighted piece is alerted to alleged infringement.

An example provided by the IST Service Desk web page explained: “For example, a copyright owner observes an Internet user with a University of Waterloo Internet protocol (IP) address using BitTorrent to share pirated movies. Not knowing who the person is, the copyright owner can send a notice of alleged infringement to the university. We must then forward the notice to the Internet user who was using that IP address at the time of the alleged infringement.”

The last clause of the example is important because this means if your friend uses your computer to download or share something illegally, you can be blamed.

So does that mean the prisons are soon to be stuffed with Warriors? No, don’t worry!

These copyright infringement warnings are designed to get people to smarten up about illegal downloading and sharing. The notices are an intimidating way of saying to people, “Hey, you’re in a grey area here. Do better now.” You are under no obligation to contact anyone and you are not being sued.

The expectations for when you receive a notice are that you secure your IP so that no one can use it without your knowledge. Or, if you are currently letting people use your computer for random things, for you to stop doing that. Calm down, and just do better with your Internet use.

If you’re still concerned, there are a plethora of resources you can check out to get more information, and learn how to prevent any more notices from filling your inbox. The IST Desk is located in DC library and their employees can personally help you go through your notice and understand the situation. IST employee Ivy Liu said, “We’ve already had at least 30 students come to us, asking for clarification. If students don’t know what to do, they should absolutely visit us first.”

You can also visit the university’s copyright guidelines site at https://uwaterloo.ca/copyright-guidelines or to learn about the copyright infringment issue on a national scale, you can check out Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs.

These notices can be intimidating — they’re meant to be — but don’t worry yourself over criminal charges, fines, or any other actions against you. It’s just a warning for students using UW’s network to be more alert about what is being downloaded on their devices.

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