What do I need to know about legal and illegal downloads?

Don't share content illegally


The United States Copyright law (1967), the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (1998) and the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) (2009) state that distributing copyrighted material to which you do not own the copyright or have permission to use and share is illegal. Wayne State University takes these laws seriously and is required by the HEOA to have a program in place to discourage the illegal sharing of copyrighted music, video, texts and other content. This website summarizes the part of the program that affects you.


If you can find it, others can too


Copyright holders take the law seriously and do not take kindly to others stealing their content. They know how to use the same websites and search engines that you do -- and they love to target universities. Content providers frequently monitor popular file downloading and peer-to-peer downloading services for individuals downloading their content. When you download something, you will leave a digital signature that can be detected.


We can find you


Once a copyright holder believes someone on the WSU network has accessed their content illegally, they send us a legal notice that by law we must forward to you. If we receive one of these notices from a copyright owner (and we do receive lots of them every day), and the activity originated from your computer, we will identify you and take appropriate action such as turning off your network port, blocking your ability to use the wireless network or suspending your AccessID altogether. We keep network access logs precisely for this purpose.


You can get in trouble and it may cost you money


It is illegal to have copyrighted files on your computer that you make available to others. Doing so could make you liable to legal prosecution and fines. This legal action would be directly between you and the content providers; the University would not be involved and could not provide any protection for you.


Unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may be subject to civil and criminal liabilities. 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 no less than $750 and no 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 fees. For details, see Title 17, United States Code, Sections 504, 505 at copyright.gov/title17/92chap5.html.


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 website of the U.S. Copyright Office at copyright.gov, especially their FAQ's at copyright.gov/help/faq.


Furthermore, independently of any legal action, Wayne State can impose student and/or employee sanctions. Illegally sharing copyrighted files is a violation of WSU's Acceptable Use of Information Technology Resources Policy (AUITR). Note that it says that students who violate the AUITR may be subject to discipline pursuant to the Student Code of Conduct, represented employees may be subject to discipline within the applicable collective bargaining agreement and non-represented employees may be subject to discipline in accordance with the Handbook for Non-represented Employees.


There are legal alternatives


Save yourself the trouble and hassle -- use a legal alternative for downloading music and movies. Many of these alternatives are free. Find a sampling of sources at educause.edu/legalcontent.