Frequently Asked Questions

Nearly all creative material that someone else has developed/made/produced can be protected by copyright law. Materials include, but are not limited to:

  • Literature
  • Theatrical presentations (live and recorded)
  • Motion pictures/film
  • Artwork
  • Photography
  • Audio/sound recordings

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) of 1998 is legislation enacted by the U.S. Congress in order to meet challenges to traditional copyright law as they relate to digital materials. A full summary is available online from the U.S. Copyright Office.

If you don’t have permission from the people who own the copyright, then yes, you ARE stealing. Downloading movies, songs, software or any other material where people make their living from royalties or sales of the material is no different than shoplifting from a retail store.

You will receive a notice from the University that details what “unauthorized use of copyrighted material” has been alleged. This notice will include details such as the name of the file, when the file was discovered as being illegally shared, and the file size.

The University will disable your network connection pending an investigation into the allegations, but this does not mean you are being accused of committing a crime. The notice is designed to inform you of potentially illegal activity detected from your network location, details what needs to be done on your part to make sure the activity does not continue, and how to restore your network connection.

Uploading and downloading of digital material is NOT covered under “Fair Use.” Fair Use regulates the use of copyrighted materials in academic activities and is very specific about how material can be used and what amount of use is appropriate. Sharing and downloading materials for your own personal use does not count.

This type of sharing is also illegal. When you buy materials, you are paying for the right to USE the material, but you do not OWN the copyright. When you share copyrighted materials online—regardless of whether or not you paid for them—you are still violating copyright law.

Besides disciplinary action imposed on you from the University, the individuals who initiated the violation notice against you can prosecute to the full extent of the law. Below is a summary of the 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 regards to file-sharing, the action of downloading or uploading parts of a copyrighted work without authority constitutes a copyright 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. Actual damages refer to perceived lost profits incurred by the copyright violation. However, the copyright holder may attempt to recover statutory damages (from $750 to $30,000) for each claimed incident of infringement.
  • Willful copyright infringement can result in criminal penalties, including imprisonment of up to five years and fines of up to $250,000 for each violation.

The following video describes copyright law and DCMA more in depth:

Play Copyright Video