Digital Copyright and DMCA

Stevens Institute of Technology takes copyright violation seriously. Besides raising awareness about copyright law, Stevens takes appropriate action in support of enforcement as required by policy and law.  Copyright infringement is a violation of the DMCA , Stevens Student Code of Conduct, and the Stevens Information Technology Acceptable Use Policy. United States copyright law "protects the original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device". The Student Code of Conduct specifically prohibits "violation of copyright or proprietary material restrictions connected with the university’s computer systems, programs or material."
 
This page has been created to educate our users on DMCA and Copyright policy at Stevens, and assist those who have received DMCA Takedown Notices, Subpoenas, or Early Settlement Letters.

Contents:

The Higher Education Oppourtunity Act (HEOA)

DMCA Takedown Notices

How Stevens Processes a DMCA Takedown Notice

Potential Legal Action Against Alleged Infringers

Penalties

Avoiding Copyright Infringement 

 

The Higher Education Oppourtunity Act (HEOA)

The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-315) Section 488, requires institutions of higher education to annually inform students that "unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject the students to civil and criminal liabilities".  The law goes requires institutions "to provide a summary of penalties for violation of Federal copyright laws, including disciplinary actions that are taken against students who engage in unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials using the institution's information system."  
 
Universities must have a three-pronged approach to address this act: 
  1. Educate students on copyright and DMCA issues, 
  2. Prevent inappropriate use of peer-to-peer (P2P) programs and software through utilizations of a variety of technologies to deter the behavior, and 
  3. Suggest alternatives for downloading programs (Pandora, iTunes, etc.). 
 

DMCA Takedown Notices

A DMCA Takedown notice is a letter or email that the University receives from the copyright holder or a representative of the copyright holder, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, requesting that the University remove, disable access to, or disable distribution of material allegedly involved in copyright infringement.  The notice will include the IP address of the machine allegedly involved in the infringement, a description of the allegedly infringing material, and a timestamp with the time, time zone, and date.  Once the notice is received, Stevens is obligated to ensure that the infringing material does not remain accessible from the system listed in the takedown notice. 
 
Upon receiving a valid DMCA takedown notice, Information technology will send out  an email with an enclosed DMCA Notice to the owner of the IP Address in reference to reports of the illegal distribution of copyrighted material. The university does not actively monitor for illegal copyright activities on its network.  Institutions that protect the rights of the copyright owners, such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) among others monitor:
  • Illegal downloading, or sharing of copyright material, similar to CDs, DVDs, software programs, music, movies, plays, eBooks, databases, Label designs, photographs, and computer games on the university network, either by publishing such materials on websites, or by any other means

  • Misuse of P2P programs for illegal distribution of copyright material. Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file sharing is the use of a P2P application that shares files with other users across the internet e.g. BitTorrent, Kazaa, Bearshare, Morphus, Gnutella, Limewire. The process of file sharing to download files, as well as to make them available for others to upload can be a source of illegal distribution of copyright protected material, which may result in civil and criminal penalties.

  • Misuse of Cyberlocker services for illegal distribution of copyright material. Cyberlockers similar to RapidShare, Hotfile, Mediafire, Megaupload, and Google and Yahoo storage are online services that allow users to store and share files through a web link (URL) with others. The act of providing a link to others to access copyrighted material from a cyberlocker account is considered illegal distribution of copyright protected material, which may result in civil and criminal penalties.

 

How Stevens Processes a DMCA Takedown Notice

When a copyright violation is discovered, copyright holders or their agents will report the alleged infringement to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) where the IP address of the computer serving the material is registered.  As an ISP, Stevens is required to respond to complaints from copyright holders, and organizations representing copyright holders, regarding computers on the campus network that are illegally distributing copyrighted materials. Copyright holders or their agents will request that the University identify the owner of the computer associated with the reported IP address and relay the Takedown or DMCA Notice to the alleged copyright infringer and/or coordinate the removal of access to the infringing content.
 
Upon receipt of a notice, Information Technology will take the following actions:

1. Using network logging utilities, Information Technology will identify the user who was allocated the listed IP address at the time specified in the DMCA notice and will then send an email to the identified user, with the notice appended.

2. The recipient of the email (alleged infringer), will have 72 hours to respond, in writing, to Information Technology, confirming that they have taken the following actions

  • Immediately remove the copyrighted material indicated in this message
  • Uninstall and permanently cease  use of any software used to obtain this material
  • Respond to the message in writing confirming receipt of this message and confirm that the above steps have been followed

If, as a legal matter, you believe you have permission or a license to use the copyrighted material in question, or qualify for another exception under Federal Law which would enable you to distribute or use this material (such a reliance on a “fair use” defense to an allegation of infringement), please provide detailed supporting information to Stevens’ Office of Information Technology who will evaluate the information and consider sending a legal counter-notice to the copyright owner under the DMCA.

3. If the incident is not resolved after 72 hours, the following actions will occur:

  • An additional email is sent to the student, with a copy to the Dean of Student Life
  • Immediate suspension of access to the campus network
  • Formal referral to the Dean of Student Life

     Access will not be restored until the Dean of Student Life notifies Information Technology that the issue has been resolved and access should be restored.

Repeat complaints against an individual user/IP Address will result in automatic suspension of access to the campus network, and referral to the Dean of Student Life.

Potential Legal Action Against Alleged Infringers

Stevens may receive a number of notices related to the copyright infringement or be served with subpoenas from an agency representing the copyright holder.  Other than DMCA Takedown notices, the following are the most common copyright infringement notices sent from organizations representing copyright holders:
  • Preservation Request
  • Early Settlement Letter
  • Subpoena
These notices do not have to be sent in any particular order, and are not all required.   For example, a representing agency could choose to send an Early Settlement Letter as the first notice to be communicated to the alleged infringer, which could then be followed by a subpoena. A Takedown notice could also be sent separately.  

Preservation Request

A preservation request is initiated by organizations representing copyright holders.  These requests are usually sent to the ISP, such as Stevens, demanding that the alleged infringer's contact information be preserved in response to a future subpoena. The notice will typically request that the alleged infringer preserve any evidence that might reside on the computer identified in the preservation request. The preservation request, similar to the Takedown notice, contains the IP address that was reported in the violation and the timestamp, including time, date, and time zone.  Information Technology uses this information to determine what individual is responsible for the system.

Early Settlement Letter

The agency representing the copyright holder may give the alleged infringer an opportunity to settle the matter outside of a courtroom.  The representing agency sends ISPs, such as Stevens, an "Early Settlement Letter" with a request that it be forwarded to the user associated with the IP address involved in the alleged copyright infringement. The letter informs the alleged infringer of a possible lawsuit, and presents them with the opportunity to settle the claim in order to avoid having to resolve the claim in court.  This letter may include a link to a settlement website where a reduced fine can be paid with a credit card.  In addition, the letter may inform the alleged infringer that they are prohibited from deleting information or programs related to the copyright infringement, as they are considered evidence and must be preserved.  In the interest of providing students with notice of potential legal claims and an opportunity to settle such claims, it is the practice of Stevens to forward Early Settlement Letters to the alleged infringer.  Stevens Institute of Technology does not disclose names, contact information or any other personally identifiable information to the copyright holder in response to Early Settlement Letters.  An individual may choose to respond to the Early Settlement Letter or they may seek the advice of a private attorney.

Subpoenas

Subpoenas received by Stevens from copyright holders or their representatives generally request the identity of the user of a particular IP address which allegedly used the University's network to unlawfully distribute copyrighted material.  A subpoena could be served without sending a DMCA notice, or a preservation request, to the alleged infringer.  Subpoenas generally allow for a reasonable period of time within which the recipient is required to respond.  Stevens will inform the alleged infringer of any receipt of a subpoena for copyright violations prior to providing any information to the party that served the subpoena.  In order to afford the alleged infringer(s) the opportunity to challenge the subpoena through the court system, the University will withhold its response until the expiration of the reasonable time specified in the subpoena.  Unless the subpoena is successfully challenged, Stevens will be compelled to provide the information requested in the subpoena.
 
If, as a legal matter, you believe you have permission or a license to use the copyrighted material in question, or qualify for another exception under Federal Law which would enable you to distribute or use this material (such a reliance on a “fair use” defense to an allegation of infringement), please provide detailed supporting information to Stevens’ Office of Information Technology who will evaluate the information and consider sending a legal counter-notice to the copyright owner under the DMCA.
 

Penalties

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.
 
A user in violation of copyright law may face the following penalties:
  • Suspension from the university network as described under Processing of a DMCA Notice.
  • Disciplinary action taken by the Dean of Student Life. For students, with multiple alleged violations network access may be suspended for a minimum of 15 days, and will require the alleged infringer to meet with a Student Life representative and complete an educational sanction.  Network access will only be restored when the Dean of Student Life notifies Information Technology that the issue is resolved.
  • 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.
 

Avoiding Copyright Infringement

For a comprehensive list of legal alternatives for obtaining digital content, please visit Educause