Federal Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA)

The Federal Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA) imposes various requirements on higher education with respect to illegal sharing of copyrighted material by network users. Among these requirements, the University is to provide information to its community regarding legal and policy implications of illegal file sharing, as well as provide legal alternatives for acquiring copyrighted material.


General Statement

The unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material by any electronic method, including peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject you to disciplinary action as well as civil and criminal liabilities.


University Policies Regarding Copyright Violations

The use of University networks to acquire or share material in violation of copyright is considered non-academic misconduct under the Code of Student Conduct. For complete details regarding the Student Conduct and potential penalties, review The Lowdown (A Student Handbook) at https://www.southalabama.edu/studentconduct/ 

These policies are also enumerated in the University's Student Computer Use Policy, which may be found at http://departments/csc/resources/studentpcpolicy.pdf

The official student handbook, the Lowdown also includes policy statements regarding copyright law. The Lowdown is available online at https://www.southalabama.edu/lowdown/ and in printed form at the SGA office.


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 https://www.copyright.gov.


Legal Alternatives to Illegal Downloading

There are many legal sources of copyrighted media already used by members of the University community. Educause has compiled a summary of such resources at http://www.educause.edu/legalcontent