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Digital Millennium Copyright Act

Legal use of Copyrighted Material and File Sharing at PennWest Clarion

Copyright Infringement and University Policies

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.  

The PennWest Clarion Use of Copyrighted Material Policy states:

PennWest Clarion does not permit unauthorized or illegal copying or duplication in any form unless covered by fair use provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976 or proper permission from the owner of copyrighted material, including both written and illustrated matter, must be obtained before copies are made or material included in publications. Employees and students making or requesting unauthorized copies in violation of this policy assume liability for their actions.

Further, the PennWest Clarion Acceptable Use Technology Resources Policy (Section C) states:

Copying and copyright infringement: PennWest Clarion respects and upholds the rights of holders of copyrights, their agents and representatives. It is the responsibility of employees and students to be aware of the rights of copyright owners. Legal use of copyrighted material can include, but is not limited to, ownership, license or permission, and fair use under the US Copyright Act. Illegal use includes:

1. Reproducing or allowing others to reproduce copyrighted software material in any form without proper authorization, or not in keeping with the University's copyright regulations or federal and state laws,

2. The use of software applications that allow for the direct sharing of music, movies, games, and software over the Internet when such peer-to-peer file sharing contains copyrighted works without the permission of the copyright holder.


Summary of Civil and Criminal Penalties for Violation of Federal Copyright Laws

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 Web site of the U.S. Copyright Office at, especially their FAQ's at


PennWest Clarion Provisions for Compliance with Higher Ed  Opportunities Act (HEOA) Requirements with Unauthorized File Sharing

PennWest Clarion has implemented the following steps in support of the HEOA requirements:

  • Annual Disclosure:

    A annual notice is distributed via e-mail to all students and employees to summarize information regarding the legal use of copyrighted material and file sharing.

  • Technology-based Deterrents:

    Computing Services utilizes network management tools for packet shaping; network segmentation, and firewalls.

  • Procedures to Respond to Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Notices:

    In accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), PennWest Clarion investigates and takes action on copyright infringement notices upon proper notice of infringement from a copyright owner.  When the offending device is identified for a confirmed infringement, network access is removed and the user is contacted via standard university procedures for policy violations.  For students, notification is completed through standard Student Judicial procedures and the review and removal of the offending content must be confirmed before network access is re-established.

  • Identification of Alternative, Legal Sources of Online Content

    The following web site offers a variety of sources that provide legal alternatives to online music, videos, and other media:

  • Periodic Review

    The procedures outlined above will be reviewed annually (each summer) by the Center for Computing Services and revised as required for HEOA compliance.


Additional Information About Peer-To-Peer (P2P) File Sharing

While there are many legal uses of Peer-to-Peer file sharing (aka P2P), P2P is also a common source of copyright issues across the internet. P2P software enables users to easily exchange files between computers, essentially exposing portions of your hard drive to users of similar P2P software across the internet. Examples of P2P software include KaZaA, BitTorrent, Morpheus, BearShare, Grokster, Limewire, Gnutella, eMule, and related programs. By default, these programs are typically set to share your files. If you have P2P software installed on your computer, you may be illegally sharing copyrighted works (music, movies, software, etc.). Your use of P2P software is not anonymous. Copyright holders actively scan P2P networks to identify specific copyright violations, and copyright violations are subject the Policy and Civil/Criminal Penalty implications as detailed above.


P2P software can also expose your computer to to virus, spyware, and malware risks. It is recommended that you avoid P2P applications. If you use P2P applications, use extreme caution - understand the terms and conditions of the P2P network, disable file sharing, actively maintain the security of your system, and review the recommendations at the National Cyber Alert System Security Tip - Risks of File-Sharing Technology and the FTC Consumer Alert - P2P File Sharing Evaluate the Risks web sites.

Last Updated 8/25/22