Copyright & File Sharing Policy

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. NESA students or employees found to have violated copyright law are subject to the full range of disciplinary action.

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

Peer to Peer File Sharing

The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-315) requires institutions to take steps to combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials through illegal downloading or peer-to-peer (P2P) distribution of intellectual property.

P2P applications allow users to share digital information, including music, movies, electronic books, software and games. Some examples of P2P file sharing applications include: Gnutella, LimeWire, Bittorrent, KaZaA and Morpheus. P2P file sharing applications are not illegal unless used to violate copyright laws in facilitating the exchange of copyrighted materials without authorization of the copyright owners.

NESA does not examine the information content that is being transmitted over the network, but we do limit and/or restrict the bandwidth certain applications can utilize on the network. Members of the NESA community must follow institutional policies for appropriate uses of technology resources, as well as comply with all federal, Massachusetts and other applicable copyright laws. NESA reserves the right to restrict network access to users or machines found to be in violation of NESA's policies.

NESA network users found to be in violation of copyright law are subject to the full range of disciplinary action. NESA will cooperate with any investigation of illegal activity using the school's network.

Legal Options for Downloading Files

There are many legal sources for downloading digital information without violating copyright law. For a comprehensive list of legal online content sources, please visit: http://www.educause.edu/legalcontent.