Copyright laws protect original works of authorship. The owner of a copyright has the exclusive right to the original work, including the right to copy the work, distribute the work, display or perform the work publicly, and create derivative works. A copyright interest attaches to an original work that is “fixed in any tangible medium of expression,” including traditional works like books, photographs, architectural drawings, music, drama and sculpture, as well as works affected by new technologies, like movies, electronic media, web pages, software, multimedia works and databases.
The use of file-sharing networks to download and share copyrighted works without permission from the copyright owner, like software, music, movies, TV shows, games and images, violates copyright laws. In most instances, a student must obtain permission form the copyright owner to copy, distribute, display or perform a copyrighted work in any medium for any purpose.
Any copyright infringement, including, without limitation, distribution of copyrighted material through unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, in connection with a student’s enrollment in a program of study at the school or conducted by a student through the use of the school’s equipment or information systems is prohibited and violates both the Conduct section of the school catalog and the law.
Any student who engages in copyright infringement will be subject to discipline by the school, which may include, without limitation, the suspension or termination from one or more courses the student is taking or the student’s entire program of study at the school and the referral to the proper authorities.
Copyright infringement may also subject the student to civil and criminal liabilities. A summary of the penalties for violating federal copyright laws include:
- Unlimited actual damages proven for each act of copyright infringement.
- Up to $30,000 for each act of copyright infringement that is determined not to be willful.
- Up to $150,000 for each act of copyright infringement that is determined to be willful.
- Criminal penalties.