Copyright Infringement

General guidelines for copyright infringement:

When you register to use the the wired or wireless network at Wash U, you agree to abide by the University’s Appropriate Computer Use Policy.  We encourage you to review this policy from time to time to ensure your online activities are appropriate in line with the University’s code of conduct.

Copyright and file-sharing have become big issues on college campuses everywhere. This mainly (but not exclusively) concerns use of peer-to-peer software to download and upload copyrighted music, movies and software.

Here is a simple way of thinking about copyright:
Copyright law applies to all intellectual works (including articles, books, sound recording, movies, web pages, art work, software, html code, computer graphics, etc…). If you are the author/creator, you are the copyright owner unless you agree in writing to transfer your rights to someone else. Only the copyright owner has the right to reproduce, distribute, perform or display their work. This means that if you can see it, hear it, and/or touch it, it may be copyright protected. So if you weren’t the author/creator, you don’t have the right to share it, modify it or download it to your computer.  If you copy or offer sound recordings to download, you are violating federal copyright law and may be subject to civil fines and criminal penalties.  If you didn’t write it, you don’t own it. If you don’t own it, you can’t share it, upload it or download it.

Guidelines for appropriate use of copyright-protected academic materials:

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17. United States Code) governs the reproduction and distribution of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to reproduce materials. One of these conditions is that the reproduction not be “used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.” Any person who copies or re-distributes this material in any way inconsistent with Title 17 and its “fair use” provisions may be liable for copyright infringement.

If you are suspected of violating copyright law, the University mitigation process is as follows:

  • 1st offense – You will be contacted by STS to be informed of the infraction and asked to remove any P2P file sharing applications and any unlawfully obtained media.  You must also acknowledge receipt of the violation notice sent to you by STS.  If you fail to acknowledge receipt of the violation notice within 24 hours, your network access may be revoked.  If needed, you may come to STS for education and assistance with removal of any P2P applications and other offending materials.
  • 2nd offense – You will be contacted by STS to be informed of the 2nd infraction and your network access will be immediately revoked.  You must come to STS with your computer for a formal reprimand and removal of any offending materials by STS staff before your network access is restored.
  • 3rd offense – You will have your network access immediately revoked, and you will be referred to University Judicial Authorities.  If you are referred to Judicial Authorities, you may:
    • Receive a fine and/or official reprimand
    • Lose privileges to use the University’s network
    • Be suspended or expelled from the University

Copyright infringement also carries severe 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. 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 on the laws that outline copyright infringement penalties, please see the web site of the U.S. Copyright Office here.

Additional Information:

Educause and the American Council on Education (ACE) encourage the viewing of a video called,’Campus Downloading’ from the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA). Feel free to watch this short video by clicking here.

Additional information can be found on the Washington University Resources on Copyright Law website here.