The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) was signed into law on August 14, 2008. Several sections of the HEOA deal with unauthorized file sharing on campus networks, imposing three general requirements on all U.S. colleges and universities:
- An annual disclosure to students describing copyright law and campus policies related to violating copyright law.
- A plan to “effectively combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials” by users of its network, including “the use of one or more technology-based deterrents”.
- A plan to “offer alternatives to illegal downloading”.
Each campus must distribute three pieces of information related to copyright policy and law:
i) A statement that explicitly informs its students that unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject the students to civil and criminal liabilities;
ii) A summary of the penalties for violation of Federal copyright laws;
Summary of Civil and Criminal Penalties for Violation of Federal Copyright Laws
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.
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.
iii) A description of the institution’s policies with respect to unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, including disciplinary actions that are taken against students who engage in illegal downloading or unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials using the institution’s information technology system.
A plan to effectively combat unauthorized distribution using technology-based deterrents
The Department of Education regulations specify that the plan must be implemented and in writing. It must also be ” periodically reviewed ” using “relevant assessment criteria” as determined by each campus. Campuses have a great deal of latitude in crafting the plan and choosing the assessment criteria: “Each institution retains the authority to determine what its particular plans for compliance…will be.”
There are four categories of “technology-based deterrents”:
- Bandwidth shaping
- Traffic monitoring to identify the largest bandwidth users
- A vigorous program of accepting and responding to Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notices
- A variety of commercial products designed to reduce or block illegal file sharing
These categories are equally valid in meeting the requirement to use one or more technology-based deterrents.
Final HEOA Regulations Issued October 29, 2009
§ 668.14 Program participation agreement.
(b) By entering into a program participation agreement, an institution agrees that—
(30) The institution—
(i) Has developed and implemented written plans to effectively combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material by users of the institution’s network, without unduly interfering with educational and research use of the network, that include—
(A) The use of one or more technology-based deterrents;
(B) Mechanisms for educating and informing its community about appropriate versus inappropriate use of copyrighted material, including that described in §668.43(a)(10);
(C) Procedures for handling unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including disciplinary procedures; and
(D) Procedures for periodically reviewing the effectiveness of the plans to combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials by users of the institution’s network using relevant assessment criteria. No particular technology measures are favored or required for inclusion in an institution’s plans, and each institution retains the authority to determine what its particular plans for compliance with paragraph (b)(30) of this section will be, including those that prohibit content monitoring; and
(ii) Will, in consultation with the chief technology officer or other designated officer of the institution—
(A) Periodically review the legal alternatives for downloading or otherwise acquiring copyrighted material;
(B) Make available the results of the review in paragraph (b)(30)(ii)(A) of this section to its students through a Web site or other means; and
(C) To the extent practicable, offer legal alternatives for downloading or otherwise acquiring copyrighted material, as determined by the institution
§ 668.43 Institutional information.
(a) Institutional information that the institution must make readily available upon request to enrolled and prospective students under this subpart includes, but is not limited to—
(10) Institutional policies and sanctions related to copyright infringement, including—
(i) A statement that explicitly informs its students that unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject the students to civil and criminal liabilities;
(ii) A summary of the penalties for violation of Federal copyright laws; and
(iii) A description of the institution’s policies with respect to unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, including disciplinary actions that are taken against students who engage in illegal downloading or unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials using the institution’s information technology system
Updated May 2012