Office of Information Technology

This Web site addresses the lawful use of copyrighted materials, peer-to-peer networks, and fair use on Muskegon Community College's information technology systems, networks, and infrastructure. Additional information is given about some of the consequences of illegally uploading, downloading, and otherwise illegally sharing music, video, software, and other copyrighted intellectual property.

This information is not intended to be a comprehensive treatment of the copyright laws; it is intended to provide basic information to help with understanding the differences between legal and illegal file sharing.

Historically, students have either been unaware of or have ignored the consequences of illegal file sharing. Many individuals world-wide have been sued and have paid thousands of dollars in financial settlements for infringing on the copyright owners rights to music, movies, and electronic games.

Risks of Illegal File Sharing

U.S. federal law and numerous international agreements treat the unauthorized uploading, downloading, sharing and other distribution of copyrighted material as a serious offense that carries significant consequences. Any Muskegon Community College information systems user who infringes copyright laws is subject to civil and criminal liability, loss of access to the Muskegon Community College network and network services, and disciplinary action.

Summary of Civil and Criminal Penalties for Violation of Federal Copyright Laws
(from the U.S. Dept. of Education)

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 www.copyright.gov, especially their FAQ's at www.copyright.gov/help/faq.

Links to relevant Muskegon Community College Web pages: