Filesharing and Copyright

Copyright Education



DMCA Agent


Filesharing and Copyright

The University takes copyright protection very seriously. Many scholars and music artists rely on copyright to protect their intellectual property.

"Peer-to-peer" (P2P) filesharing 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 filesharing, such as updates and software purchases. However, P2P filesharing 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 someone else’s rights.

Although using P2P filesharing 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).

We strongly encourage you to use legal filesharing services for obtaining music, movies, TV, games, books, etc. on the Internet.

See UC's Using Copyrighted Works site for additional information about acceptable and unacceptable uses of copyrighted materials.

12 file sharing myths in two minutes: a short video from UCLA

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 filesharing 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, 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 Related to Copyright Infringement

When you use University resources you must not only obey the law, you must comply with Universitywide and UCSC 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 the information on this web page, plus:

Please review these UCSC’s polices and be aware of our enforcement procedures (below).

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 e-mail 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.

Enforcement Procedures for Copyright Infringement

When someone is caught sharing copyrighted material on UCSC's campus or residential network, UCSC receives a “takedown” notice from the agency representing the copyright holder (RIAA, MPAA, etc. -- see DMCA Notice Response, above). If this happens to you, you will be required to discontinue unauthorized sharing of copyrighted materials associated with the notice. Depending on the circumstances, your access to the campus and/or residential network may be blocked and you may be subject to disciplinary action or other sanctions under existing University policies and procedures.

UCSC may use sanctions as a means to further educate students about responsibilities. Once notified of possible copyright infringement, most students do not repeat the activity, and most cases do not result in a University judicial process. When it is necessary to initiate a judicial review, however, UCSC utilizes established local procedures for adjudicating violations of University policy, including copyright violations.

Specific procedures for the residential network, including Family Student Housing, and UTC:

If UCSC receives a takedown notice for you:

  • A Letter of Admonishment (Student Handbook, Section 104.80) will be sent to you notifying you of the complaint.  A copy of this letter will also be sent to the ACAO at your College. 
  • Your network connection will be limited to the campus email system and a few other campus servers for a period of 10 days.

If you have a second violation;

  • A Judicial Record will be created and a Summons Letter will be sent to you notifying you of the complaint.  A copy of this letter will also be sent to the ACAO at your College as well as the Student Conduct Officer. 
  • Your network connection will be limited to the campus email system and a few other campus servers for a period of 30 days.
  • You will be required to meet with the Student Conduct Officer.

Sanctions increase for those who are repeat infringers and may include termination of account or access.