Copyright Law, the Illegal Use of File Sharing Programs, College Policies and Procedures for Handling Violations
This document is intended to explain the policies and procedures Western Oklahoma State College follows in responding to notifications of alleged copyright infringements on the College network.
What is copyright?
Copyright is legal protection of intellectual property, in whatever medium, that is provided for by the laws of the United States to the owners of copyright. Types of works that are covered by copyright law include, but are not limited, to literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, pictorial, graphic, film and multi-media works. Many people understand that printed works such as books and magazine articles are covered by copyright laws but they are not aware that the protection extends into software, digital works, and unpublished works and it covers all forms of a work, including its digital transmission and subsequent use.
What is the current law concerning digital copyright?
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), signed into law in 1998, recognizes that digital transmission of works adds complexity to the Copyright Law. The DMCA provides non-profit educational institutions with some protections if individual members of the community violate the law. However, for Western Oklahoma State College to maintain this protection we must expeditiously take down or otherwise block access to infringing material, whenever it is brought to our attention and whether or not the individual who is infringing has received notice.
It is important to note, that the DMCA contains serious implications with respect to infringing activities of faculty, graduate students, or staff who are performing a teaching or research functions if the College has received more than two notices of infringement against an individual within a three-year period.
Universities and individuals can be subject to the imposition of substantial damages for copyright infringement incidents relating to the use of College network services. In a civil action, the individual infringer may be liable for either actual damages or statutory damages of up to $30,000 (which may be increased to up to $150,000 if the court finds the infringement was willful). In addition, individual infringers may be subject to criminal prosecution. Criminal penalties include up to ten years imprisonment depending on the nature of the violation.
Why is it an important issue right now?
Copyright is an issue of particular seriousness because technology makes it easy to copy and transmit protected works over our networks. While Western Oklahoma State College encourages the free flow of ideas, and provides resources such as the network to support this activity, we do so in a manner consistent with all applicable state and federal laws. Western does not condone the illegal or inappropriate use of material that is subject to copyright protection and covered by state and federal laws.
What kinds of activities violate the federal law?
Following are some examples of copyright infringement that may be found in a College setting:
- Downloading and sharing MP3 files of music, videos, and games without permission of the copyright owner
- Using corporate logos without permission
- Placing an electronic copy of a standardized test on the department's web site without permission of the copyright owner
- Enhancing a departmental web site with music that is downloaded and artwork that is scanned from a book, all without attribution or permission of the copyright owners
- Scanning a photograph that has been published and using it without permission or attribution as the background of a web site
- Placing a number of full-text articles on a course web page that is not password protected, allowing the web page to be accessible to anyone who can access the Internet
- Downloading licensed software from non-authorized sites without the permission of the copyright or license holder
- Making a movie file or a large segment of a movie available on a web site without permission of the copyright owner
Specifically, is sharing and downloading MP3 files and videos illegal?
It is true that some copyright holders give official permission to download MP3 files and you might be able to find a limited number of videos that are not copyright protected. It is also true that some MP3 files are copyright free and some MP3 files can be legally obtained through subscription services. However, most MP3 and video files that are shared do not fall into any of these categories.
US Copyright Law allows you to create MP3s only for the songs to which you already have rights; that usually means you purchased the CD or tape. And US Copyright Law allows you to make a copy of a purchased file only for your personal use. Personal use does not mean that you can give a copy to other people, or sell a copy of it.
How do you get caught violating copyright law?
Copyright holders represented by organizations such as the Recording Industry Association of America, the Business Software Association, and the Motion Picture Association of America are applying serious efforts to stop the infringing downloads of copyrighted music, movies, and software. The companies or their agents locate possible copyright infringements by using automated systems, or "bots" that search the networks looking to see if any of the common music, movie or software sharing programs are active on a port (e.g. KaZaA, Gnutella). The bot then asks the sharing program if it has a music title by a particular artist. If the sharing program answers positively, the bot reports the particular IP address and title to an authority, who then sends out the violation notices to the owners of the IP address.
Western's network has a range of IP addresses and all computers connected to the Western network have an IP address. When we get a violation notice, Western locates the IP address and whenever possible, the user of that address. At that point, Western is required to act on the notification.
If the IP address leads to my computer, what happens next?
These notices come to the Chief Technology Officer and assigned WOSC staff from organizations that represent the artists and copyright holders. When Western receives such a notice, staff in LSS (Learning Support Systems) look up the network IP address and stop network services to the port that is connected to the computer where the infringing material resides. At this point, the computer cannot use any Western resources or Internet resources. Once the identity of the individual is known, they are notified that they must remove the infringing material from their computer and inform LSS of its removal before network access will be reinstated.
First-time Notifications: If this is the first notification that the College has received on an individual, LSS will verify that the infringing material has been removed from the computer. Once this is done and confirmed by the LSS staff, the network connection will be reinstated and the computer can return to the network. A report about the violation of copyright will be sent by LSS to the Office of Vice President for Academic Affairs & appropriate administrative staff if you are a student; to your Dean and or Vice President if you are faculty or staff. We will also notify our internet service provider Onenet about the steps taken to remedy the situation.
Second Notification Process for Students: If students are notified of copyright infringement a second time, their privileges to access the network from their personal computers, either through a wired port or through wireless, will be denied for four weeks after action is taken by the LSS to determine whether the violations occurred. The LSS will be notified when second infringements have occurred and may take appropriate action within the College's disciplinary process. If the student tries to connect his/her computer to the Internet from a College port that is assigned to someone else, through an open port in a classroom or through the wireless service, further disciplinary action may take place. During this four week period, students will be allowed to access the Internet only from College computers.
Subsequent Notification Process for Students: If students are notified of copyright infringement a third time, their privileges to access the network from their personal computers will be denied for a semester after action is taken by LSS to determine whether the violations occurred. These subsequent infringements also will be reported to LSS and may result in action taken within the College's disciplinary process. If the student tries to connect to the Internet from a College port that is assigned to someone else, through an open port in a classroom, or through the wireless service, further disciplinary action may take place. During the period when they cannot connect a personal computer to the network, students will be allowed to access the Internet only from College computers.
Second Notification Process for Faculty, Graduate Students and Staff: Faculty, graduate students, and staff who are engaged in teaching and research functions are expected to understand and act in accordance with applicable copyright laws. The College is obligated to exercise greater responsibility to address instances of repeated infringing activity by these individuals. There are potentially serious implications for both the individual and the College if the College receives more than two notices of infringement against an individual within a three-year period. For this reason, in an instance of a second notification of an individual's infringing activities the College's General Counsel is also notified of the infringement and a meeting with the relevant administrators will be held to determine the action(s) to be taken.
Action Taken in Response to Subpoenas: Upon receipt of a valid subpoena, Western Oklahoma State College is obligated to turn over any electronic information regarding specific instances of infringing material that has been allegedly transmitted over its networks, in accordance with the standard procedures of General Counsel.
How do you report a copyright infringement?
You can report copyright infringements on Western Oklahoma State College sites or direct other copyright questions to the information below, who are Western's agents designated under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, PL. 105-304. You can contact us at:
Steve Prater, Chief Technology Officer
Phone: (580) 477-7894
Brian Carpenter, Information Systems Specialist
Phone (580) 477-7919
Western Oklahoma State College
Learning Support Systems
2801 N Main
Altus OK 73521
Filesharing documents and Information:
» Duke University's guide to using peer to peer filesharing
» Standford University's FAQ on filesharing and copyright law
» Campus Downloading Alternatives