/ Computing and Information Technology

Copyright Infringement Policies and Sanctions

Unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject those in violation to civil and criminal liabilities.

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. For more information, please see the website of the U.S. Copyright Office at copyright.gov.

Institutional Policies & Penalties

The Hope College Technology Usage Policy prohibits the use of institutional technology resources (as defined in the policy) for activities that violate copyright law, including but not limited to unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing. Nonobservance of this policy may result in the immediate and permanent revocation of College technology privileges, even those not directly relating to the activity in violation. Additional penalties up to and including termination (employees), dismissal from the College (students), and banishment from College property are also possible.

If preventative efforts are not effective and the College is notified of an infringement by a copyright holder, the notice will be referred to:

  • The Dean of Students for a potential violation by a student. The student judicial process as described in the student handbook will be utilized.
  • Human Resources, for a potential violation by an employee. The applicable employee handbook will be utilized.

Legal Alternatives

Legal alternatives for downloading or otherwise acquiring copyrighted material can be found at educause.edu/legalcontent.

Faculty and students are encouraged to take questions about copyright to Van Wylen Library faculty and staff. They may be able to assist in gaining authorized electronic access to entire books, chapters and articles. Another public resource available to students and faculty would be CreativeCommons.org.

Preventative Measures - Technical

The College utilizes technology-based deterrents to combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material by users of the institution's network. These include, but are not limited to, blocking peer-to-peer traffic for applications that can be identified as such by the College’s current technical capabilities. Tools utilized for this effort are routinely updated to ensure the currency of their identification abilities.

Preventative Measures - Educational

The College maintains the resources listed below for educating and informing its community about appropriate versus inappropriate use of copyrighted material. The information presented is neither comprehensive nor exhaustive and additional resources may be required to determine appropriateness.

Review of Policies and Procedures

Policies and procedures will be periodically reviewed to verify their effectiveness in combating the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials. The primary criteria in determining effectiveness will be the change (or lack thereof) in the number of infringements reported by copyright holders.