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Intellectual Property & Copyright - NDSU Copyright Compliance Notice
The information contained on this website is about the lawful use of copyrighted materials, peer-to-peer networks, and fair use on NDSU's computing networks and in NDSU facilities. Additional information is given about the consequences of illegally uploading, downloading, and sharing music and movies.
This information is not intended to be a comprehensive treatment of the copyright laws; it is intended to provide basic information to help with understanding the differences between legal and illegal file sharing. Over the past few years, many students from NDSU and other universities have ignored the information provided to them about the consequences of illegal file sharing and, as a result, have been sued and have paid thousands of dollars in financial settlements for infringing on the copyrights of music, movies, and electronic game companies.
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.
Understanding Copyright Infringement
NDSU has increased its efforts to make students aware of the policies that govern use of its computing facilities and systems and to encourage the responsible use of NDSU computing resources. These efforts include providing information about copyright laws, particularly with regard to illegal file sharing.
To protect students, faculty, and staff, and the University from legal actions, NDSU wants to provide a better understanding of the acts that constitute violations of federal copyright law, especially with regard to peer-to-peer networks (P2P). Those who use NDSU's network to access, download, upload, or otherwise share copyrighted materials without permission, without making a fair use statement, or without falling under another exception under copyright law, they are likely infringing copyright laws.
Copyright infringement occurs whenever someone makes a copy of any copyrighted work, such as songs, videos, software, cartoons, photographs, stories, or novels, without permission (i.e., a license) from the copyright owner and without falling within specific exceptions provided for under the copyright laws.
P2P File Sharing and Copyright Infringement
P2P computing is a powerful technology with many uses. P2P networks can be used to share and exchange music, movies, software, and other electronic materials. The use of P2P networks to upload, download, or share/distribute copyrighted material, such as movies, music, and software can violate the rights of the copyright owners.
In the P2P file-sharing context, infringement may occur, for example, when one person purchases an authorized copy and then uploads it a P2P network. Another example is when one person purchases a CD, creates an MP3 or other digital copy, and then uses a P2P network to share that digital copy with others, both the individual who makes the file available and those making copies may be found to have infringed the rights of the copyright owner(s) and may be violating federal copyright law.
All of the major recording labels consider sharing MP3 files of their music over P2P networks as copyright infringement. Some artists and smaller labels release music under "generous" licenses, such as the Creative Commons Licenses. A creative commons license allows for latitude in the use of the copyrighted material.
NDSU advises all network account holders to use caution when installing P2P software and carefully read all user agreements beforehand. Make sure to read all available documentation from the P2P software provider and understand how the software operates and is configured.
Some P2P programs have default settings that index the files on the computer and make music or film files that have been legitimately acquired available to other users of the P2P network without the owner's knowledge of such activity. In such cases, the owner may unwittingly participate in copyright infringement. In this context, not being aware that the computer is making files available to other users may not be a defense to copyright infringement. Most P2P applications by default share out those files.
The NDSU network account holder is responsible for all activity that transpires through the account and all electronic communication devices registered on the network by the holder.
Infringing conduct exposes the infringer to the risk of serious legal penalties, both civil and criminal. Civil penalties may include actual damages and profits, or statutory damages (ranging from $750 to $250,000 per work that is infringed). Moreover, the court can also award reasonable attorney's fees and costs and increase the amount of the damages in the case of willful infringement. Criminal penalties can include fines and imprisonment.
Organizations such as the RIAA and MPAA monitor P2P networks, obtaining "snapshots" of users' Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, the time the IP was used, and the files the users are downloading or uploading from the P2P directories, and the Internet service provider (ISP) through which the files travel.
Copyright owners have been known to target both those who upload and download music over the P2P networks. In addition to monitoring networks and obtaining IP address "snapshots," copyright owners have been known to use P2P networks, uploading copyrighted content while keeping a legal record of the downloading actions of other users.
Once an IP address and other information have been obtained, the RIAA, MPAA, and other copyright owners, and their representatives can file a "John Doe" lawsuit and issue a subpoena to the ISP demanding the identity of the user connected to that IP address.
Copyright Infringement Notifications
As an Internet service provider for its students, faculty, and staff, NDSU received notices from the RIAA and MPAA identifying the IP addresses of NDSU network account holders believed to be sharing copies of copyrighted music, videos, movies, and games without authorization. NDSU reserves the right to demand the infringing conduct cease immediately and remove the infringed copyrighted work(s); where necessary, NDSU will suspend the identified individual's network access and services. For students, faculty, and staff this is considered a violation of NDSU Policy 158, Acceptable Use for Electronic Communication Devices, and the NDSU Code of Student Behavior.
The RIAA and MPAA have often presented an option for the alleged illegal file sharer to settle the lawsuit out of court for some amount of money. If the user is determined to have infringed copyright, whether through P2P networks or other means, and has not settled, he or she may be subject to sanctions such as monetary damages and required destruction of all unauthorized copies. In certain circumstances, federal authorities can criminally prosecute copyright infringement. By participating in illegal file sharing, you may be subject to a lawsuit even after you have destroyed any illegal copy or copies of copyrighted material that were in your possession.
Copyright law provides no blanket exception from liability for university students based solely upon their status as students. There are limited circumstances where use of copyrighted materials without permission is allowable. One of these circumstances is under the legal doctrine of "fair use," such as for purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Whether use of copyrighted materials without permission is "fair use" depends on a detailed case-by-case analysis of various factors. For a better understanding of these factors, visit the U.S. Library of Congress, https://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html.
Alternatives for P2P: Legal Downloading
- What permissions come with the product? These range from broad creative commons permissions, that allow for redistribution under certain conditions, to restrictive requirements that allow the material to be only played on one machine, or allow only streaming, etc. It is the responsibility of the purchaser to understand the permissions.
- What digital restrictions, if any, are used with the product? Many services use digital rights management (DRM) technology to control the use of the music or digital works they sell. DRM usually reflects the permissions and can range from allowing unlimited copies of the CD/DVD to preventing any copying at all. DRM with a subscription-based model may render the music unplayable if the subscription is not maintained. Some services do not use DRM.
It is important to be aware that sharing music, movies, videos, software, games, and other copyrighted material may be a violation of law and can expose one who downloads and shares materials to civil and criminal penalties. Be responsible for the use of copyrighted materials.
Types of Copyright Infringement Notifications
Copyright holders and organizations that represent copyright holders, such as the RIAA and MPAA, typically send out three different types of communications related to copyright infringement:
- Cease and desist, or copyright infringement notices (Take Down notices) - the purpose of these notices is to stop the illegal possession and distribution of copyrighted material. When the NDSU Chief IT Security Officer (CITSO) receives these notices from the ND University System Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) agent, the network account holder whose IP address has been identified in the notice is notified. The network account holder is given information on what steps must be taken to achieve compliance with NDSU policy and the copyright act. In addition the network access and services of the identified account holder are suspended until the issue is resolved.
- Pre-litigation notices - These letters are used by copyright holders and their representatives prior to filing a lawsuit to recover, by way of a settlement, financial damages caused by the illegal distribution of copyrighted material. If a network account holder has been identified as participating in the illegal downloading or uploading of copyrighted materials, that individual may receive one of these notices, even if they have already destroyed their copy (or copies) of the material in question.
- Subpoenas - These notices indicate the copyright holder has filed a lawsuit to recover damages for the illegal distribution of copyrighted material Those found liable will be subject to fines and penalties.
NDSU Statement on Acceptable Use of Network Resources
NDSU prohibits the use of its network resources to conduct inappropriate and/or illegal activity. The University complies with applicable federal and state laws and requires that network account holders do the same. In receiving an NDSU network account, customers agree to obey the University's acceptable use policies for electronic devices and the laws referenced by these policies. Network account holders are responsible for all activity that transpires through their electronic communication devices connected to the NDSU network.
NDSU enforces its policies and procedures pertaining to the electronic communication environment. NDSU reserves the right to block access to the NDSU network and its systems for any member of the NDSU community who repeatedly participates in behavior that is prohibited by the University's policies.