Penalties for Copyright Infringement

In the context of file-sharing

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.

Summary of Willamette University's penalties

Although the University does not routinely monitor internet activity, if you are downloading or sharing copyrighted works over the internet, your activity can be seen by the copyright owners.  If Willamette receives notification of claimed infringement (usually in the form of what are called DMCA notices) from a copyright owner or agent, Federal law requires that the University take action.  You are responsible for the activity associated with your IP address(es).  Whether you are aware of the violation or not, Willamette University takes the following actions regarding these notices.

  • 1st offense - the copyright violation notices with infringement specifics will be sent to your University email account, with instructions that the offending material is to be removed from the computer
  • 2nd offense -network access wil be disabled for all your computers and devices; you must schedule an appointment with the director of WITS who will determine when your network access will be restored
  • 3rd offense - in addition to the sanctions above, further incidents of alleged copyright infringement will be referred to the campus Judicial Board

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 www.copyright.gov, especially their FAQ's at www.copyright.gov/help/faq.