Copyright Infringement, Computer Use, & File Sharing

Copyright Infringement and Peer-to-Peer File Sharing Policies and Sanctions

The unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject students to civil and criminal liabilities.

Information regarding Alaska Christian College’s Technology Usage Agreement is available from the Director of Information Technology. Information regarding Computer & Internet Acceptable Use Policy/Guidelines, including penalties for violations, is available in the Student Handbook.

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 attorney’s’ 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.

Further Resources

For the nature of copyright, general questions about copyright, and information about registering copyrights:

For general information about copyright and detailed information about fair use:

For information geared to librarians and educators:

Crew, Kenneth D. Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators: Creative Strategies and Practical Solutions, 2nd ed. Chicago, American Library Association, 2006.

For an excellent tutorial on patents, trademarks and copyrights: