Project NEThics: Copyright Infringing File Sharing

In this article

Explanation of copyright infringement

It is illegal to make an electronic copy (including downloading) of any movie, song, video or image without the expressed permission of the owner even if you have purchased a tape or CD with the video or music on it. If you do make an electronic copy (including downloading one from another machine by file sharing) it is illegal to distribute that copy. Distribution means you let others download a copy of the file from your machine.

Since musicians, record companies and movie producers are all trying to sell their work, you are in effect stealing (not paying for) what they own and then giving it away to others for free.

The university's policies prohibit copyright infringement of any kind. When you participate in file sharing without securing permission, you put yourself at risk for legal action taken against you by the copyright owners. In addition, this behavior puts the university at risk because our computing resources are used for illegal activities.

How copyright complaints are received and processed

Running peer-to-peer file sharing software allows anyone in the world to look at the files on your machine that are marked as shared. The owners of these files have the time, money and means to search for their property on those programs.

In accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the university, in its role as your Internet Service Provider, handles complaints from copyright holders. Project NEThics provides notification to users when it receives a formal written complaint from a copyright holder. We ask you to remove the infringing material from your machine and notify us that you have complied with our request.

The complaints we receive provide the Internet Protocol address used to transmit the material. Your identity is not provided to the complainant. If the copyright holder decides to file a lawsuit against you, a subpoena must be issued to obtain your name and address from the university.

Since the distribution of a copyrighted file without permission from the copyright owner is a violation of the university's Policy on the Acceptable Use of Information Technology Resources, Project NEThics keeps a record of the incident.

How repeat offenses are handled

If we receive a subsequent copyright complaint involving your IP address, you are required to come in to our office to speak with a member of our staff about your use of university resources.

At that time, students will be referred to the Department of Resident Life Office of Rights and Responsibilities or to the Office of Student Conduct for the case to be adjudicated. Faculty and staff members' respective supervisors will be notified.

Violations may result in revocation of computing resource privileges, or other sanctions according to university policies and procedures.

Limit your liability

We urge you to limit your risk by removing unauthorized copies of material from your system or disabling the file sharing functionality of your file sharing program or both.

Summary of civil and criminal penalties for violation of federal copyright laws

Copyright infringement is the act of exercising, without permission or legal authority, one or more of the exclusive rights granted to the copyright owner under section 106 of the Copyright Act (Title 17 of the United States Code). These rights include the right to reproduce or distribute a copyrighted work. In the file-sharing context, downloading or uploading substantial parts of a copyrighted work without authority constitutes an infringement.

Penalties for copyright infringement include civil and criminal penalties. In general, anyone found liable for civil copyright infringement may be ordered to pay either actual damages or "statutory damages affixed at not less than $750 and not more than $30,000 per work infringed. For willful infringement, a court may award up to $150,000 per work infringed. A court can, in its discretion, also assess costs and attorneys' fees. For details, see Title 17, United States Code, Sections 504, 505. Willful copyright infringement can also result in criminal penalties, including imprisonment of up to five years and fines of up to $250,000 per offense.

For more information, please see the website of the U.S. Copyright Office, especially their FAQ section.

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