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.
WCU Acceptable Use Policy states in III.B.3.g: "Never store or attempt to download or otherwise transmit data which would constitute a violation of state or federal law or the policies of the University, the State System of Higher Education or the Commonwealth of PA."
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 about copyright infringement, please see the U.S. Copyright Office website.
The Student Code of Conduct states that sanctions can range from Disciplinary Reprimand to Probation to fines. More information about sanctions can be found specifically on the Conduct Page.
How to Use Copyright Material Legally
For details on allowed exceptions to copyright for instructional purposes, please see the section on Fair Use in the guide on Intellectual Property.
Additional related copyright information:
- Copyright and Intellectual Property at WCU
- Model Guidelines for the Use of Copyright Protected Materials
- Plagiarism: Sharing or Stealing Information
Updates on issues related to copyright can be found on the Campus Copyright blog.
Last Updated: 6/23/2010 FJP