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Digital Copyright Compliance

The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) was signed into law by the President George W. Bush on August 14, 2008. Although this law primarily addresses problems that students encounter in seeking a college education, several sections deal with unauthorized file-sharing using campus networks. More particularly, a college or university is required to take three steps to deter unauthorized file-sharing on its network:

  1. Make an annual disclosure to students that:
    1. informs students that unauthorized distribution, including file-sharing, of copyright-protected materials may subject them to civil and criminal liabilities;
    2. describes Federal copyright law;
    3. includes a summary of penalties for violating it;
    4. and describes the institution’s policies regarding unauthorized file-sharing, including disciplinary actions that may be taken against students who engage in unauthorized distribution or illegal downloading using the institution’s information technology systems.
  2. Follow a plan to effectively combat unauthorized distribution using "a variety of technology-based deterrents."
  3. Provide access to and offer alternatives to illegal file-sharing and downloading.

Annual Disclosure

SUNY Cobleskill uses the following methods to inform members of the College community, including students, about the HEOA and Federal copyright law: 

In order to use college computing resources, all members of the SUNY Cobleskill Community are subject to a Computer Resources Policy that includes a section on copyright compliance. 

At the beginning of each semester SUNY Cobleskill requires each student to make an online affirmation after reading the Disclosure to Students that he or she is aware of and familiar with the College’s policy and procedures regarding illegal distribution of copyrighted materials; the relevant policy and procedures are presented to each student for his or her review as a part of the affirmation process.

The College’s information technology services support staff, including student employees, are made aware of legalities associated with peer to peer file sharing during annual orientation.

Student residence hall personnel are made aware of illegal peer-to-peer policies during annual orientation activities. 

SUNY Cobleskill’s policies concerning the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and our response to infringement claims are included in the Computer Resources Policy published on the Information Technology section of the College’s web site.

Description of Federal Copyright Law and Penalties for Violating It

The campus Disclosure to Students contains the following text provided by the U.S. Department of Education describing Federal copyright law and the penalties for violating it:

“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."

As the above text makes clear, there are very severe penalties for infringement violations of U.S. copyright law: all who use SUNY Cobleskill’s computer and network resources are advised to remain mindful of this fact. 

Alternatives to Illegal File-sharing and Downloading

There are numerous free and commercial services available that provide legal ways to copy and/or use various types of digital content, including such things as popular music and video titles. EDUCAUSE, the foremost information technology consortium in higher education, maintains a website of links to legal sources of online content:


SUNY Cobleskill strongly recommends that students and other members of the campus community employ these or other such services as ways to insure that uses of electronic media are in compliance with Federal copyright law.

Plan to Combat Unauthorized Distribution Using Technology-based Deterrents

SUNY Cobleskill uses a variety of capabilities within products from two commercial vendors in order to: perform bandwidth shaping, to conduct traffic monitoring to identify the largest bandwidth users, and to reduce or block illegal file-sharing.

In addition, the College accepts, investigates and responds to all Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notices according to the procedures listed in the College’s Computer Resources Policy.