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Peer-to-Peer File Sharing and Copyright Infringement - Compliance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act
The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) is a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. It includes provisions that are designed to reduce the illegal uploading and downloading of copyrighted works through peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. These provisions include requirements that:
- Institutions make an annual disclosure that informs students that the illegal distribution of copyrighted materials may subject them to criminal and civil penalties and describes the steps that institutions will take to detect and punish illegal distribution of copyrighted materials.
- Institutions certify to the Secretary of Education that they have developed plans to effectively combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material.
- Institutions, to the extent practicable, offer alternatives to illegal file sharing.
- Institutions identify procedure for periodically reviewing the effectiveness of the plans to combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials.
This outlines Midwestern's plan to comply with these requirements.
Copyright law provides protections to creators of works against the unauthorized duplication and distribution of the works. In exchange for these protections, the public is provided with specific rights for "Fair Use" of copyrighted works. More specifics about on copyright law and fair use are available at the following sites:
The US Copyright Office: http://www.copyright.gov
The Electronic Frontier Foundation fair use FAQ: https://www.eff.org/pages/faq
Copyrighted works that are easily stored in digital form, such as software, music, videos, and photographs, can be easily acquired and distributed over computer networks, using freely available file sharing software. However, despite the ease of such transfers, it is illegal to download, and especially to distribute, such copyrighted works without authorization.
Since such activity is illegal, it is of course prohibited by Midwestern policy, and covered by the disciplinary procedures in our Student Handbook. In addition, using Midwestern's network or any other Midwestern technology resource to copy, store, and/or distribute copyright-infringing material is specifically prohibited by Midwestern's Acceptable Network Usage Agreement. All campus users acknowledge and agree to this policy when they register personal computer equipment on the network. Loss of campus network access and/or disciplinary actions as specified in the Student Handbook may result from continued illegal activity by members of the Midwestern community.
Every user is responsible for his or her own compliance with the law. Using the Midwestern network does not in any way shield you from potential law enforcement actions; users who download or distribute copyrighted works may face civil or criminal penalties in addition to sanctions based on Midwestern policy.
Penalties for Copyright Violation
If a copyright owner successfully prosecutes an infringer, the penalties are set at "not less than $750 or more than $30,000" per infringing work. However, if the copyright owner can establish that the violation was "willful" the penalty can be $150,000 per work.
Furthermore, the US No Electronic Theft Act establishes that penalties can be charged even if the infringer did not profit in any way from the violation, and that criminal penalties including jail time can be applied in cases of large scale violations.
Consistent with our educational principles, we view education as the most important element in combating illegal sharing of copyrighted materials at Midwestern. We use a wide variety of methods to inform our community about the law and response to copyright infringement claims:
- In order to use Midwestern's computing resources, all members of the Midwestern community must endorse an Acceptable Network Usage Agreement that includes a section on copyright compliance.
- Each year, during student orientation, a presentation is made regarding illegal distribution of copyrighted materials.
- Stories are placed in school publications and posters are mounted in student computer labs and elsewhere to discourage illegal file sharing.
- Each year, each faculty member receives a Technology Guide (Guide) that highlights copyright concerns and points to further information on our web site and other web sites. In addition, the faculty guide describes legal ways to use materials in teaching. Beginning summer of 2010, we will send an email to all students regarding illegal distribution of copyrighted materials.
- Computing support staff are trained on Midwestern's position with respect to copyright issues.
- The computing staff annually briefs the Deans of Student Services about copyright, illegal file sharing, and related issues.
- Midwestern's policies and procedures concerning copyright laws and our response to infringement claims are published on Midwestern's web site.
- Each Midwestern student signs the Student Handbook, which contains information on Midwestern's prohibitions on copyright infringement and illegal file sharing.
- Periodically, all Midwestern's employees receive email from the Director of Information Technology Services or other officers regarding copyright infringement and related issues.
Plans to "Effectively Combat" the Unauthorized Distribution of Copyrighted Material
We currently employ bandwidth-shaping technology to prioritize network traffic. We limit the amount of bandwidth available to P2P applications but we do not filter such applications since much of the traffic is legal.
Offering Alternatives to Illegal File Sharing
The Midwestern web site provides links to sites that provide numerous options for obtaining music, videos, and other digital content in a legal manner. Members of the Midwestern community are encouraged to take advantage of these legitimate sources of digital content. For more information on legal sources of online content please visit the Educause page at http://www.educause.edu/legalcontent.
Beginning in December of 2009 and periodically thereafter, we will survey community members to assess the extent to which our anti-piracy messages are reaching them, the extent to which community members are taking advantage of legal alternatives, the impact of our technical efforts to combat illegal file sharing, and other aspects of our plans to combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials.