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.
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
For more information, please see the Web site of the U.S. Copyright Office
at www.copyright.gov, especially their FAQ's at