File Sharing and Copyright Infringement

File Sharing and Copyright Infringement

Bellarmine University, in compliance with the Higher Education Act of 2008 and in keeping with established academic integrity expectations of the Academy, prohibits anyone from using Bellarmine-owned or provided computing resources for the purpose of violating copyright law. These activities include what is commonly referred to as illegal file sharing – attempting to obtain and/or share copyrighted materials such as songs, movies, and/or computer software without the permission of the copyright owner. See 106 of the Copyright Act (Title 17 of the United States Code) for more details. Illegal File Sharing Policy at Bellarmine

As stated in the Student Handbook, found in the Student Affairs section of the website, students are required to respect the intellectual property rights of others. The sharing of copyrighted materials such as music and movies either through P2P (peer-to-peer) file sharing or other means, without the permission of the copyright owner is illegal and can have very serious legal repercussions. Those found guilty of violating copyrights in this way have been fined enormous sums of money. Accordingly, the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials is prohibited and will be considered a violation of the University's Acceptable Use Policy. Students are encouraged to visit this page for a list of legal alternatives to obtain music, movies, and television shows.

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, especially their FAQs.

University Penalties

Alleged infractions of the file sharing policy will be investigated by Information Technology staff and referred to the Dean of Students, who oversees all disciplinary actions. Infractions will be addressed on a case-by-case basis, with penalties ranging from a warning to expulsion, as detailed in The Student Handbook.

To read more about the BU plan and policy addressing unauthorized distribution of copyright files, click here (pdf). 

For sample correspondence to students regarding illegal file sharing, see linked document (pdf).