Mount Holyoke College
Campus Map
About | Admission | Academics | Student life | Athletics | Offices | Giving | News & Events
Clapp tower from Miles Smith

Information and Policies >

File sharing and copyright infringement


College policies include prohibitions on copyright infringement. Unfortunately, copyright infringement relating to movies, videos, TV shows, and music is often not understood. The risks of copyright infringement are also often not understood.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA) mandates that colleges and universities take steps against copyright violations. For more information on this act, see the HEOA requirements from Educause.

Our procedures

  • Informing students
    Students are required to register their computers to obtain unfettered Internet access. The registration system includes informing students about
    • copyright law regarding infringement related to file sharing,
    • the potential legal ramifications, and
    • what alternatives there are to illegal file sharing.

    After the Fall semester has begun, informational messages are sent to each student with a registered computer repeating the information described above.

  • Technologically combatting copyright infringement
    • Outgoing Internet traffic is bandwidth shaped to prevent excessive use of that resource.
    • DMCA complaints are responded to in a rigorous and systematic method. There are several steps:
      • The complaint is forwarded to the student
      • The computer(s) registered by the student is(are) quarantined to on-campus operation and further registrations are rejected.
      • To have the quarantine lifted, the student must certify that
        • the computer is secured from providing copyrighted materials to others,
        • the computer is free of infringing material,
        • the student understands from reading specified web links that both obtaining copyrighted materials and distributing them without proper payment is not legal under current copyright law and copyright infringement puts the student at risk of expensive penalties, including civil and criminal liabilities.
      • Email records are kept of these interactions making it possible to discover if an individual has received multiple complaints.

  • Consequences of copyright infringement
    Copyright infringement is contrary to the law and as such falls into the general disciplinary policies. Students who are found to have violated the law, including copyright law, are dealt with by the Dean of the College office.

  • Review of procedures annually

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 Web site of the U.S. Copyright Office at, especially their FAQ's at

Copyright © 1969 Mount Holyoke College • 50 College Street • South Hadley, Massachusetts 01075.
To contact the College, call 413-538-2000.
This page maintained by the Department of Networking. Last modified on January 30, 2011.