Patriot Act, Peer-to-Peer File Sharing, and Weapons Policies

Patriot Act

The USA Patriot Act, signed into law in October 2001, has given the federal government new authority to access education records that previously were protected by FERPA, campus privacy policies, and other laws. In order to minimize any legal liability for Bethel, we must be prepared to respond to any request for access to student or employee records.

The Patriot Act does contain liability minimizing language (e.g., a college or university shall not be liable to any person for good-faith disclosure of education records in response to a federal law enforcement request).

Since the probability of Bethel receiving a request for information under the Patriot Act is likely very small, Bethel requires a response approach for which the cost is commensurate with the risk.

Therefore, Bethel University adopts the following policy regarding its responsibility under the Patriot Act:

  1. Any Patriot Act request (originating internally or externally) must be submitted to the Office of the President.
  2. The request will be submitted for counsel to the institution’s legal counsel.
  3. The institution, under the direction of the president’s designee, will respond to the request after review of the legal counsel.

Peer-to-Peer File Sharing

The Higher Education Opportunity Act (2008) requires Bethel University inform its students each year that the illegal distribution of copyrighted materials may subject them to criminal and civil penalties and what steps the university will take to detect and hold students accountable for illegal distribution of copyrighted materials.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and other organizations continue their initiatives to stop peer-to-peer file sharing of copyrighted music, movies, and games by students on college campuses. Please be aware violations of copyright law can lead to criminal charges and civil penalties. Under current law, criminal cases of copyright violation carry a penalty of up to five (5) years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Civil penalties for copyright infringement include a minimum fine of $750 for each item. While criminal prosecution for illegal downloading is rare, civil lawsuits are quite common for some institutions. Bethel students have been the target of these lawsuits in the past, and may be in the future.

Students should be aware that file sharing is automatically turned on when peer-to-peer applications such as Limewire, BitTorrent, FastTrack, Gnutella, AresWarez, KaZaA, and eDonkey are downloaded. It is illegal to share copyright-protected materials through these programs, whether or not a student owns the CD or DVD from which the file was taken. It is permissible for students to have music files on their computer, if they own the appropriate copyright (CD or DVD), but these files cannot be shared with others.

Furthermore, the student who owns the computer may be legally liable for the peer-to-peer file sharing violation regardless of who installed the program on the computer and regardless of who is using it at the time of a peer-to-peer sharing violation. In addition, students who allow other people to use their personal wireless networks may be held responsible for peer-to-peer file sharing violations if those who connect through this private network violate the law.

Students should also be aware and take measures to eliminate these file sharing programs from their computers. If a student does not know how to check for peer-to-peer file sharing programs or do not know how to turn them off, it is suggested they contact a friend who is familiar with these kinds of programs. The configuration for each installation is different depending on the program that is installed on a computer. Bethel’s ITS department can be of further assistance as well and can be reached at, 651.638.6500.

If the university is notified of an alleged student violation of copyright laws through peer-to-peer file sharing, the following steps will be taken:

  • The student’s computer will be blackholed (i.e., the computer will be unable to connect to Bethel’s network).
  • The student will be required to set up an appointment with a dean in the Office of Student Life to discuss the alleged violation.
  • Upon satisfactory removal of the violating materials from the computer, students will be required to pay a $100 fee for reconnection to the Bethel network. This fee is used to defray the costs associated with handling the violation claim and reconnecting the student’s computer.


The possession, use, or distribution of any explosives, guns or other deadly or dangerous materials or weapons reasonably calculated to produce bodily injury is prohibited on Bethel property unless specifically authorized by the director of security or authorized representative.

Weapons of any kind that may reasonably be calculated to produce bodily injury include but are not limited to, handguns, rifles, shotguns, other firearms, knives, stun guns/tasers, potato cannons, paintball guns, pellet/BB guns, martial arts weaponry, bows, slingshots, and any other devices used in game or sporting activities, including ammunition, arrows, or other types of projectiles associated with such items, are prohibited on Bethel property except by authorized personnel within the Office of Safety and Security. This prohibition is to be interpreted in the broadest sense to include any such weaponry and further extends to “toy” or facsimiles (including airsoft guns) thereof, which can cause bodily harm or threat to other persons.

An exception to the above prohibition is, persons who reside in campus housing may possess game hunting or trapshooting firearms as long as they are both (a) registered with Bethel Security and (b) stored by security personnel immediately after being brought on campus, while on campus, and taken from campus immediately after being returned to the owner from security storage.

The weapons prohibition set forth above further extends to all Bethel sponsored or related off-campus activities, including business, academic, sporting or leisure activities, related travel, or any other events involving Bethel. This prohibition against possession of weaponry explicitly includes vehicles owned or operated by Bethel or Bethel personnel.

Bethel Safety and Security personnel and Student Life staff members are authorized to make reasonable inquiries and searches as necessary to enforce this policy. Anyone in violation of this policy will be subject to confiscation and forfeiture of the weapons and dismissal from the university.

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