Responsible Use of Computing and Network Services and Facilities

Information technology is vital to the mission and function of Middlebury College; the College's computer networks and central computing facilities are common resources upon which the whole community depends. Responsible citizenship in the Middlebury community obliges users of these facilities to maintain responsible and ethical use of computing and communications resources, awareness of the impacts of one's actions, and respect for the rights of others. While technology makes available new educational, social, and recreational possibilities, we must recognize that the ethical and legal issues relating to technology are similar to those in our daily lives.

ITS actively monitors computers and networks to identify and block malicious activities. We expect all members of our community to behave in a proper and responsible manner. However, if malicious, illegal, or inappropriate activities are identified, we are obligated to investigate and act, including cooperating with legal authorities, if necessary. (See Network Monitoring & Technology Incident Response policies for further details.)

Middlebury College has implemented network security devices to protect the College’s data, systems, and reputation. While not intended to disallow legitimate traffic to and from the Internet, there may be situations where a specific application fails due to security controls. If you have legitimate need for specific network activities, contact ITS so that your request may be considered.

1. Responsible use of our computing resources and network infrastructure comprises three main themes: (a) ethical and law-abiding behavior, (b) conservation of our common resources, and, (c) respect for others.

1a. Ethical and Law-Abiding Behavior: Inappropriate actions using computers can involve violation of the law, with resulting prosecution and criminal penalties. Theft, plagiarism, "breaking and entering," fraud, invasions of privacy, harassment, or distribution of illegal material are just as serious when committed with a computer as by any other means.

Theft includes the unauthorized copying of copyrighted software, reproduction or distribution of copyrighted music or video recordings without the purchase of legal copies or the explicit permission of the artist or publisher (including downloading and sharing music via popular peer-to-peer systems), and other forms of copyright violation. Unauthorized use and/or distribution of others' intellectual property (including, but not limited to, copyrighted text, images, sound, and software) violates federal or state laws or regulations and can result in civil or criminal penalties, even if the material is distributed for free, with no monetary gain to the distributor (the student, faculty, or staff member). Middlebury College intends to comply fully with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 [DMCA].

"Break and enter" includes unauthorized attempts to gain access or circumvent security features of computer systems or networks. Access to our systems/servers, networks, and any information contained on them or transported by them is for authorized users only.

Fraud includes misrepresenting yourself or falsifying your identity to gain use of computers, sending electronic messages under a false address, and using others' accounts without permission.

Violations of privacy include accessing other people's data or electronic mail, or spying on their communications. Abusive or threatening messages to others can be prosecuted as harassment. Offering illegal material by electronic means can be prosecuted in the same manner as offering illegal material on the street or a conventional market.

Should ITS receive a formal complaint of illegal activity involving a personal computer on our network (for example, a violation of copyright by unauthorized file-sharing under the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act), ITS staff will make every effort to identify and inform the owner of the machine of the problem. The offending machine may be blocked from Internet access until the situation is rectified, in order to stop the alleged illegal activity and/or to try to protect the owner from further liability.

1b. Conservation of Our Common Resources: As members of the Middlebury College community, we must be aware of the impact that our actions have on others and avoid activities that undermine or damage the integrity and efficient functioning of the network and computing infrastructure. Deliberate interference with the functioning of any computing or communications equipment will be regarded as vandalism and result in quick and decisive action.

In addition, we must avoid other actions that impair the performance of the network and computer systems for others. The communications infrastructure is finite, as are all resources. Those who use network bandwidth, CPU utilization, or memory allocation for personal activities, such as games and chain-mail lists, or use programs that digitally distribute music and/or video for personal recreation, etc., hamper the activities of others engaged in educational and scholarly activities that are the priorities of the College. Improperly or inappropriately configured or malfunctioning personal computers or communications electronic gear may similarly degrade performance.  Many "home networking" appliances, such as wireless devices or hubs, can cause serious problems if attached to our campus network; their use is prohibited without prior approval from ITS.

Individuals should maintain their computers with up-to-date operating system patches and virus protection to avoid contracting and spreading computer viruses or other malicious software. Malfunctioning, misconfigured, or infected machines whose behavior or traffic is significantly degrading performance of the network may be blocked from network access until the problem can be rectified. ITS also may prioritize traffic to ensure optimum performance of mission-critical applications.

1c. Respect for Others: As citizens in our community, we must respect the rights and privacy of one another. We are obliged to avoid actions that create a public nuisance, such as inappropriate postings to social media sites, mailing lists, or unwarranted mass mailings. The same standards of civilized discourse and etiquette that govern our face-to-face interactions should apply in cyberspace. All users of our computing and networking facilities bear the responsibility to avoid libel, obscenity, undocumented allegations, attacks on personal integrity, and harassment.

2. In turn, our community is entitled to, and can expect, responsible behavior from those charged with managing and maintaining the computing and communications systems.

2a. Information Technology Services (ITS) will respect the privacy and confidentiality of users' files and messages. ITS will not look at private information, unless authorized by an individual to perform work on his or her behalf or in the event of extraordinary circumstances. (See Privacy and Security of Files, Data and Communications policy statement for further details.)

2b. ITS will endeavor to protect users from the unauthorized activities of others and will educate users about how they can protect themselves from breaches of their privacy or the security of their computers.

2c. ITS will strive to maintain the systems and networks in optimal performance for the good of the community and will address and correct situations that impair their efficient functioning or hamper users' appropriate activities.

We all must recognize that our actions as network-linked computer users have consequences. Users whose activities or malfunctioning equipment undermine the performance of common resources may be disconnected from the network or denied access to central systems until the problem is corrected. Irresponsible or unethical activities may result in penalties or the loss of privileges. Additionally, deliberate abuse or activities in violation of the rules and regulations of the College may result in penalties consistent with the judicial procedures and policies of the College. Users should be aware that activities that may seem benign to them (like sharing pirated music recordings) or harmless pranks (like gaining unauthorized access to remote computers) are increasingly being aggressively prosecuted and litigated by the wronged parties.

The laws and policies governing acceptable use of computer networks and the Internet are rapidly evolving; pending legislation and court cases may have major impacts. Users who have specific questions about responsible and acceptable use are encouraged to seek guidance from ITS.