Electronic Use of Copyrighted Materials

In accordance with The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, Fitchburg State University has created this policy to guide users of its electronic resources with copyrighted materials. This policy compliments the Fitchburg State Acceptable Use of Technology Resources Policy, the Fitchburg State Residential Network Usage Policy and the Fitchburg State Student Code of Conduct. Usage of Fitchburg State resources assumes acceptance and compliance with these policies.

General Principles

Effective on August 2008, the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 requires Fitchburg State to take steps to combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials through illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution of intellectual property. These steps include:

  • The use of one or more technology-based deterrents. At Fitchburg State this includes:
    • The use of an internal and external Intrusion Prevention System.
    • Firewalling common ports.
    • Responding to DMCA notices.
  • Mechanisms for educating and informing its community about appropriate versus inappropriate use of copyrighted material.
    • References to this can be found in the Student Code of Conduct, the Acceptable Use of Technology Resource Policy and the Residential Network Usage Policy.
    • An email is sent to students once per year detailing this information as well.
  • Procedures for handling unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including disciplinary procedures.
    • This is spelled out in the Acceptable Use of Technology Resources Policy, V(c) and in section III, below.
  • Procedures for periodically reviewing the effectiveness of these plans.
    • Automated reports are sent by the IPS system that indicate what traffic is being allowed and/or blocked once per week and are reviewed by senior Technology managers.
    • DMCA notices also generate a review of current system traffic.
  • The HEOA also requires that an institution offers students legal alternatives for music. Fitchburg State recommends:
  • Listing 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 U.S. Copyright Office website, especially their FAQs.

Policy Administration

The University encourages all members of its community to use electronic resources in a manner that is respectful of others. While respecting users' privacy to the fullest extent possible, the University reserves the right to examine any computer files. The University reserves this right for bona fide purposes, including, but not limited to:

  • Enforcing polices against harassment and threats to the safety of individuals
  • Protecting against or limiting damage to University technology resources;
  • Complying with a court order, subpoena or other legally enforceable discovery request
  • Investigating and preventing the posting of proprietary software or electronic copies of texts, data, media or images in disregard of copyright, licenses, or other contractual or legal obligations or in violation of law
  • Safeguarding the integrity of computers, networks, software and data
  • Preserving information and data
  • Upgrading or maintaining technology resources
  • Protecting the University or its employees and representatives against liability or other potentially adverse consequences

The University may restrict the use of its computers and network systems when presented with evidence of violation of University policies, or federal or state laws, or when it is necessary to do so to protect the University against potential legal liability. The University reserves the right to limit access to its information technology resources, and to remove or limit access to material stored on University technology resources.

All users are expected to conduct themselves consistent with these responsibilities. Abuse of computing privileges may subject the user to disciplinary action as established by applicable University policies.

  • Students who violate this policy may be subject to discipline and will be referred to that Office of Student Conduct, Mediation and Education.
  • Represented employees may be subject to discipline in accordance with the applicable collective bargaining agreement.
  • All others may be subject to discipline determined by the President.

The University and users must recognize that all members of the University community are bound by federal and state laws pertaining to civil rights, harassment, copyright, security and other statutes governing use of electronic media. This policy does not preclude enforcement under such laws.

Copyright and Fair Use in Instruction

Faculty may use copyrighted materials in some areas of instruction under the fair use exemption. For more information and to contact the University's Copyright Liaison visit Copyright and Fair Use in Instruction at the Fitchburg State Library's website.