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.
The unauthorized use of copyrighted materials is a violation of U.S. Copyright Law which protects the rights of authors and creators. In particular, the download or distribution of copyrighted materials over the Internet is a violation of the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and Mount Holyoke College policies on the acceptable use of computer resources (AUP).
It is important to be aware of and abide by the laws and policies concerning copyright protected material, and especially copyright protected digital content, such as video, music, books, articles, and software. The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA) mandates that colleges and universities take steps against copyright violations. A violation of Mount Holyoke’s AUP may result in disciplinary action following procedures outlined in the Student Handbook and/or civil or criminal legal action brought against you by the copyright holder.
Copyright protected content can be legally obtained from a wide variety of sources. EDUCAUSE maintains a list of resource options for legally downloading protected material and Library, Information, and Technology Services (LITS) can also help you to find sources that can be used legally with lists of suggested resources as well as through consultation.
DMCA complaints (also called “take down notices”) are responded to in a rigorous and systematic method as follows:
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 about copyright law and best practices:
For more information on the Higher Education Opportunity Act and compliance: