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Cornell University

Legal Risks for Copyright Violations

As a matter of policy, you must comply with the procedures. It is important to understand that even if you comply fully with the University's takedown procedure, you are not shielded from potential liability from third parties (copyright holders) who retain the right to sue you for the underlying infringing activity.

Preservation Notices

The copyright holder sometimes sends preservation notices to Cornell requesting that Cornell preserve contact information of the persons associated with IP addresses alleged to have infringed their copyrighted works. Cornell will generally comply with such notices; however, Cornell will not release the contact information based on the preservation letter alone. Preservation notices are sometimes followed by early settlement letters.

Early Settlement Letters

The copyright holder may send campus ISPs such as Cornell "Early Settlement Letters" to be forwarded to the persons associated with IP addresses alleged to have infringed their copyrighted works. The early settlement letter advises the user that they may soon be subject to a lawsuit in connection with the allegedly infringing activity, and suggests that user consider settling the claim to avoid the copyright holder filing their claims in court. (The "Early Settlement Letter" includes a link to a settlement website where a credit card payment can be made.)

If at some point you receive an Early Settlement Letter, you may wish to seek the advice of an attorney. The University's Office of the General Counsel does not represent students, so you would need to seek independent legal representation.

Past letter recipients who did not want to settle with the copyright holder were frequently sued. As part of this process, the the copyright holder would issue a subpoena to Cornell requesting the disclosure of the person's name and identifying information.

How Cornell Responds to a Subpoena

  • If served with a valid subpoena, Cornell will comply by providing the requested information.
  • The University Counsel's Office will inform the student such a subpoena has been served.
  • Cornell does not report the name of the alleged offender to the copyright holder without a subpoena requiring such identification.


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