What is considered acceptable computer use?

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Computer Use Policy

Policy

Responsible and acceptable use of the Appalachian School of Law's information systems does not extend to the limits of what an individual is capable of doing. Instead, certain principles should guide users regarding responsible and acceptable usage, and users are responsible for knowing and understanding them. These principles and guidelines include, but are not limited to:

Purpose of use

The ASL information systems were funded and developed for the sole purpose of promoting and supporting the mission of ASL. Use of these systems should similarly promote and support ASL’s mission.

Limited access license

Users of the ASL information systems include students, faculty, and staff who have been granted a username and password, and members of the general public, all of whom use or access ASL information systems either on or off campus. Access to certain ASL information resources by members of the general public is limited; however, use of any ASL information resources by members of the general public is subject to at least the same restrictions imposed upon ASL students, faculty, and staff who have been granted a username and password. The username and password combination provided to students, faculty, and staff represents a license to access and use the components of the ASL information technology environment for which each individual user is specifically authorized.

Use subject to existing policies and law

All users must abide by all applicable institutional policies and local, state, and federal laws and regulations.

No excessive or commercial use

ASL information systems are finite and shared. Appropriate and responsible use of these resources must be consistent with the common good. The information systems may NOT be used for commercial or profit-making purposes other than ASL-sponsored or approved grant requests, research, publications or projects.

Content

ASL does not monitor or generally restrict the content of material stored on or transferred through the components of its information systems and takes no responsibility for the content of information, except for information that ASL itself and those acting on its behalf create. Any persons accessing information through the ASL information systems must determine for themselves and their charges whether a source is appropriate for viewing. However, because use of the information systems is a privilege and the systems are not a public forum, ASL reserves the right to restrict or deny usage of the information systems when such usage does not promote or support the mission of ASL.

Intellectual property protection

Users must adhere to applicable legal and appropriate ethical standards governing copyright, software licensing, and intellectual property. Specifically, most software available for use on computers at ASL is protected by federal copyright laws, and much of the content of information resources accessible on the Internet or through other ASL information systems is also protected by federal copyright laws. Educational institutions and their students, faculty, and staff are not exempt from copyright law. It ASL's policy to respect the copyright protections software owners are afforded under federal law. In addition, software is normally protected by a license agreement between the purchaser and the software seller. The software provided through ASL for use by faculty, staff, and students may be used only on computing equipment as specified in the various software licenses. It is against ASL policy for faculty, staff, or students to copy or reproduce any licensed software on ASL computing equipment, except as expressly permitted by the software license. Also, faculty, staff, and students may not use unauthorized copies of software on ASL-owned computers or personal computers housed in ASL facilities. Unauthorized use of software is a serious matter and any such use is without the consent of ASL and subject to possible disciplinary and legal action. For purposes of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the designated agent for notifications of claimed infringement is Dean Lucy McGough, Appalachian School of Law, 1169 Edgewater Drive, Grundy, VA 24614, 276-935-4349, lmcgough@asl.edu.

Unauthorized use of name or logo

Web pages other than those included in the official ASL web site may NOT contain any official ASL logo or otherwise indicate that they are sanctioned by ASL.

Limited expectation of privacy

The maintenance, operation, and security of computing resources require ASL to monitor and access its computer systems. Subject to applicable law and to the extent possible in the electronic environment and in a public setting, institutional monitoring and access will be done in a way that preserves a user’s privacy. However, in the event of suspected abuse of computing resources or suspected violations of this or other policies of ASL or suspected violations of law, ASL (acting through the Computer Administrator “Sysadmin,” under the direction of the Dean) may:

  • Access all user information and files necessary to investigate the suspected abuse or violation;
  • Make this information and these files available to any resulting or related grievance or disciplinary proceeding, to law enforcement agencies, or to courts or other governmental bodies; and
  • Suspend the user's access to computer resources pending the outcome of the investigation or any resulting proceeding.

Academic freedom and limitations on dissemination

It is ASL's policy that the same standards and principles of intellectual and academic freedom and personal responsibility used in ASL’s classrooms and library and other aspects of life at ASL be applied to access for the ASL community to resources available through computer networks. While the resources and discussions on such networks are not truly analogous to classrooms or libraries, the standards of academic freedom and personal responsibility used in those settings should be applied. ASL’s overall principle is that, subject to applicable laws, information shall not be censored. There may be some instances, however, in which resources on ASL’s computer network will be made available on a limited basis. The potential reasons for limited dissemination include illegality of content, privacy rights of individuals, licensing agreements that define the audience of a given resource, cost factors, and technological constraints.

Examples of violations

Examples of possible violations of this policy are listed below. These examples should not be interpreted as an exhaustive list, but are merely intended as an illustrative list of acts that could violate this policy. Questions regarding specific behaviors should be directed to the Sysadmin.

  • Furnishing false or misleading information or identification in order to access another user’s account
  • Using another person’s username/password or letting someone else use your username/password
  • Investigating, reading or attempting to access another user’s files without permission
  • Accessing or attempting to access another user’s computer without permission
  • Attempts to access or manipulate components of the information technology environment without authorization
  • Alteration of software, data, or other files without authorization
  • Disruption or destruction of equipment or resources
  • Using subterfuge to avoid being charged for computer resources (such as printing charges) or deliberate, unauthorized use of another user’s account to avoid being billed for services
  • Copying or attempting to copy data or software without authorization
  • Sending mail or a program that will replicate itself or do damage to another user’s account or computer equipment or files
  • Interfering with legitimate work of another user
  • Sending abusive, harassing, threatening, defamatory or obscene messages
  • Viewing or listening to objectionable, obscene, pornographic, or harassing material in public areas
  • Excessive recreational use of resources
  • Sending chain letters or unauthorized mass mailings or transmitting a crippling number of files across a network
  • Sending hoax messages or forged messages, including messages sent under someone else’s username
  • Modifying system or security settings on any ASL computer without authorization
  • Adding system passwords (as opposed to user passwords) to any ASL computer, or changing system passwords on any ASL computer without authorization
  • Threatening or harassing staff over computer issues
  • Any activity or action that violates ASL’s Honor Code, faculty/staff policies, other policies, or federal, state, or local laws

Application

This policy applies to all users of computer information systems and networks at ASL who use or access ASL computer systems either on or off campus, including students, faculty, staff, and members of the general public.

Enforcement

Violation of these guidelines constitutes unacceptable use of information resources, and may violate other ASL policies and/or state and federal law. Suspected or known violations should be reported to the Sysadmin, or to the Dean or President. The appropriate ASL authorities and/or law enforcement agencies will process violations. Violations may result in revocation of computing resource privileges; grievance proceedings for honor code or other violations; faculty, staff, or student disciplinary action; or civil or criminal legal action. Violations are subject to the appropriate grievance, disciplinary, or appeal process, depending on the status of the alleged violator.


Commentary to the Acceptable Computer Use Policy

Introduction

The information systems discussed above involve not only the superficial wires, equipment, and devices of the data information networks on and beyond the ASL campus, but also the more subtle milieu created by the integration of these technologies into our everyday life. In this respect, the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts, and thus the effect of inappropriate use of these resources can be much greater than might be imagined. This should not be a cause for hesitation about their use but merely a call for thoughtful consideration of action.

In describing the responsibilities and acceptable behaviors related to the information systems, certain analogies can be drawn. Social norms, behaviors, and responsibilities associated with the use of electronic communication, publication, media, and access authorization are little different than the conventional mediums with which we are all familiar, although additional conventions and social norms are developing for the use of electronic communication and media. For example:

  • E-mail is just another form of mail or communications. Users should remember, though, that e-mail can be easily forwarded and reproduced and published on a wide scale, making the potential impact of the communication much greater than intended by the original author. E-mail is also subject to legal discovery.
  • Posting to a news group or a class discussion list is the same as posting a notice or comment on a bulletin board, newsletter, letter to the editor, call to a talk show, etc. The possibility of re-publication that is present with e-mail becomes a certainty in this context; users should assume that all such remarks are public remarks.
  • Participating in a chat group is the same as participating in discussions anywhere a group might congregate face to face, e.g., in a class, student center, recreation room, lounge, church group, etc. Again, users should assume that all remarks made in this context are public remarks.
  • Creating a World Wide Web presence is the same as publishing (i.e., making public) your own magazine, memoirs, diary, biography, press release, newsletter, etc. Consequently, you are not only, typically, the author but also, perhaps more importantly, the editor and publisher and are responsible for your publication from a legal standpoint. By definition, posting material to the Internet will in most cases involve "publication” of the material in a legal sense. With respect to such materials published using ASL information systems, even though ASL is not the publisher, editor, or author, it is the provider of the publication resource and, as such, is associated with your publication. Therefore, ASL maintains the right to restrict or deny use of this resource when usage does not promote or support the mission of ASL.
  • User ID and password combinations are your identity and license to use and access limited portions of the information systems. In this sense they are like a driver’s license. Impersonating another individual, or allowing another to impersonate yourself, is not acceptable behavior.
  • The computing systems used for e-mail, Internet access, and other technologically augmented services are similar to an assigned work or office space. The space (and some of the content) belongs to ASL, but in some instances, other personal items in the room may belong to you. In this sense, ASL will endeavor to provide a reasonable amount of security to protect your personal property but cannot assume full responsibility for it nor guarantee full privacy. (If you are concerned about the inadvertent disclosure of information, you should protect these items in another way.)

Existing legal context

All existing laws (federal and state) and ASL regulations and policies apply to use of ASL information systems, including not only those laws and regulations that are specific to computers and networks,[2] but also those that may apply generally to personal conduct.[3]

Users do not own accounts on ASL computers, but are granted the privilege of use. Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (18 U.S.C. § 2510 et. seq.), users are entitled to privacy regarding information contained on these accounts. This act, however, allows the Sysadmin or other ASL employees to access user files in the normal course of their employment when necessary to protect the integrity of computer systems or the rights or property of ASL. For example, the Sysadmin may examine or make copies of files that are suspected of misuse or that have been corrupted or damaged. User files may be subject to search by law enforcement agencies under court order if such files contain information that may be used as evidence in a court of law. In addition, student files on ASL computer facilities are considered “educational records” under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (20 U.S.C. section 1232g). Users may be held accountable for their conduct under any applicable ASL policies or procedures. Additionally, misuse of computing, networking, or information resources can be prosecuted under applicable state and federal statutes. Illegal reproduction of software and other intellectual property protected by U.S. copyright law is subject to civil damages and criminal punishment including fines and imprisonment. ASL supports the policy of EDUCOM on “Software and Intellectual Rights.”

Enforcement

The Sysadmin is authorized to investigate violations of this policy and apply certain sanctions to enforce this policy.

These sanctions include, but are not limited to, temporary or permanent reduction or elimination of access privileges to any or all of the components of the information systems. If, in the opinion of the Sysadmin, it is necessary to preserve the integrity of facilities, services, or data, the Sysadmin may suspend any access, whether or not the account owner is suspected of a violation. In such a case, the Sysadmin will attempt to notify the affected user of any such action after the potential threat to the facilities, services, or data is contained.

If an investigation is required, it will be done only under the direct authorization of the Dean and all effort will be made not to disclose any content of files to anyone other than those with a need to know during the investigation or adjudication of the alleged offense.

Consequences of the discovery and investigation process or normal maintenance might include the inspection of files contained in an individual’s storage space or monitoring selected traffic on the networks. Again, all effort will be made not to disclose any file content to anyone other than those with a need to know. However, where there are moral, ethical, or legal implications of the nondisclosure of such information, the Sysadmin is instructed to contact the Dean, who may authorize disclosure to appropriate authorities if deemed warranted.

Unless, in the opinion of the Sysadmin, such notification would likely result in damage to files or system resources, or imminent harm to an individual or the school, or possible destruction of evidence, an individual accused of a violation of this policy will be notified and have an opportunity to respond before a final determination of a sanction is made. Subject to any applicable ASL policies and applicable laws and regulations, the President or his designee, or other appropriate authorities (e.g., the Dean, ASL’s legal counsel, and/or the appropriate grievance process authority) will examine the available evidence and circumstances. If a sanction is levied through any grievance or disciplinary process, the decision may be appealed through the appropriate channels.

Academic Freedom

This policy is in keeping with ASL’s commitment to academic freedom. The commitment is expressed in the faculty governance policies of ASL that endorse the “Statement on Academic Freedom” in the 1940 Statement of Principles of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). ASL’s commitment parallels the national “Library Bill of Rights,” which affirms the importance of making information and ideas available in an environment free from censorship.

[1] Approved by the faculty December 6, 2000; approved by the Board of Trustees December 12, 2000. This policy is based in part on computer use policies from Marshall University, the University of California at Davis, the University of Virginia, and the University of Nebraska.

[2] For example, the Federal Electronic Communication and Privacy Act of 1986, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986, The Computer Virus Eradication Act of 1989, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Virginia Computer Crimes Act, and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Text of these and other applicable statutes can be found at the ASL library.

[3] For example, state and federal statutes regarding obscenity, such as Va. Code §§ 18.2-372 and 18.2-374, and 18 U.S.C. § 1465.

     
     

    Community Service

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    • Animal shelters
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    • Retirement homes