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Ilegally Downloading Copyrighted Materials

Illegally Downloading Copyrighted Materials / Digital Millennium Copyright Act

In October 1998, Congress and the President signed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The intent of the DMCA is to restrain and eliminate illegal downloads and file sharing – piracy of proprietary content.

The most significant provisions of the DMCA:

  • It is a criminal offense to circumvent anti-piracy measures built into software.
  • Provided they comply with the statutory requirements, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), including universities providing bandwidth, internet, and other electronic services to their faculty, students, and staff, are not susceptible to vicarious infringement exposure due to the activity of their users simply by providing the network transmitting the illegal files.
  • ISPs are liable if they have knowledge of infringing downloads and they fail to remove or have the infringing material removed from users’ sites.

P2P file sharing and illegal downloading occur in the university environment since the institutions are generally providing users significant bandwidth distribution for research and scholarship. Because the DMCA requires copyright holders to notify UNCP if a student user has illegally downloaded content, students who utilize their computing privileges to misuse the bandwidth for illegal downloads and file sharing can face numerous penalties, including loss of network privileges and even prosecution under copyright law.  

Sharing and/or downloading copyrighted music, videos, and film is illegal. It is critical that students understand the implications of illegal file sharing and downloading are severe, and that they refrain from such activity. The recording and motion picture industries have adopted an increasingly aggressive position in finding and prosecuting individual infringers, particularly in the university setting, for the sole purpose of making an example of impermissible uses and deterring other infringing activities.

Summary of Civil and Criminal Penalties for Violation of Federal Copyright Law

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.

 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.

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