File Sharing and Copyright

Copyright Information

File Sharing



File Sharing and Copyright

UC Santa Cruz takes copyright protection very seriously. Many scholars and artists rely on copyright to protect their intellectual property.

"Peer-to-peer" (P2P) file sharing applications, such as BitTorrent, Kazaa, and eDonkey have made it easy for internet users to share files with one another. There are many legitimate uses of P2P file sharing, such as updates and software purchases. However, P2P file sharing applications are also used to share copyrighted material such as songs, movies, software applications, and games without permission. If you upload or distribute copies you make of copyrighted works, or download or acquire unlicensed copies of copyrighted works, you may be infringing on someone else’s rights.

Although using P2P file sharing technology is not in itself illegal, if you share copyrighted material without permission  — even unwittingly — you are breaking both the law and UC policy and could be subject to University, civil, and/or criminal sanctions (see below). To avoid such sanctions, we strongly encourage you to:

  • Use legal file sharing services for obtaining music, movies, TV, games, books, and other files or programs on the internet.
  • See UC's Copyright site for additional information about acceptable and unacceptable uses of copyrighted materials.
  • Watch 12 Myths in Two Minutes, a short video on file-sharing myths from UCLA.

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, at 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 website of the U.S. Copyright Office, especially their FAQ's.

Use technology wisely. You are responsible for the choices you make, including the choice to use P2P technology.

Institutional Policies and Sanctions

When you use university resources you must not only obey the law, you must comply with universitywide and UC Santa Cruz policies. The UC Electronic Communications Policy provides for sanctions for people who repeatedly violate copyright law. Student infringers also are subject to sanctions under the Universitywide Policy on Student Conduct and Discipline.

Information about university policies addressing copyright infringement, and related sanctions, is available on UC's Copyright Policies and Guidance web page. Also see UC's Copyright Education site.

Related UC Santa Cruz policies and materials include:

Please review these UCSC polices and be aware of our enforcement procedures.

DMCA Notice Response

UCSC implements an active program for responding to copyright infringement notices. The institution follows systemwide guidelines for complying with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). In accordance with established procedures, UCSC has a DMCA agent and designated DMCA email account, which are on file with the US Copyright Office (see Digital Millennium Copyright Act at UCSC).

UCSC handles claims of online infringement under the DMCA through established processes. When UCSC receives DMCA notices of alleged copyright violation, it ensures that the offending material is expeditiously removed from the network and the individual involved is appropriately addressed, as per the specifics of the case. Appropriate sanctions are imposed according to university guidelines. The type of sanction imposed depends on the facts of the case and may range from education to probation to loss of privileges to suspension, and, potentially, to dismissal from the university. Repeat residential network offenders are blocked from using the network for a period of time.

Copyright holders are solely responsible for deciding whom they wish to pursue for alleged infringement of their copyright, by what means, and when. They can choose to send early settlement letters, or to sue individuals without sending a prior claim of infringement that would initiate the UCSC procedure giving a student a “warning.” We do not know upon what basis the copyright holder makes these decisions. The university cannot provide legal advice on early settlement letters or being sued; if this happens to you, you are advised to seek legal counsel at your own cost.