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What happens if I receive a copyright infringement notice, and how can I avoid it?

Downloading or distributing whole copies of copyrighted material for personal use or entertainment without explicit permission from the copyright owner is against the law. Copyright law applies to materials such as music, movies, games, and other software in digital and analog format. File sharing applications such as KaZaA, BitTorrent, eDonkey, and LimeWire are not illegal, though many people using such applications share illegal materials, and don't have permission to distribute them. When you download a copy of one of these illegally distributed files to your own computer, even if you download only one song, you are committing an illegal action. In addition, purchasing a music CD generally does not give you the right to distribute or share the songs on it.

While the law may permit the fair use of a copyrighted work for such purposes as teaching, scholarship, research, criticism, comment, news reporting, etc., don't assume that all such uses are "fair." Fair use depends on a balance of four factors: the purpose of your use, the nature of the work, the amount of the work used, and the effect of your use on the potential market of the work. For more, see Indiana University's Copyright Resource Guide.

While Indiana University does not actively search for instances of copyright violation, investigations into degradation of service and network problems, as well as routine security administration, can expose violations. In such cases, the university is obligated to investigate, just as it is for complaints of illegal activities or inappropriate use taking place on the IU network. Copyright owners do actively search for copyright infringements of their works using the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). When IU receives such a complaint or discovers a violation via other means, the university is legally required to remove the offending material from the IU network. For more about the procedure regarding copyright violations that involve the IU network, see Copyright Infringement Incident Resolution.

Note: Students implicated for a first offense in a DMCA copyright violation will be charged a $50 cost recovery fine, charged to the student's bursar account. This fine is not intended to generate profit; rather, it provides a cost recovery to the Office of the Vice President for Information Technology.

It was agreed that fines of $50 for the first offense, $75 for the second offense, and $100 for the third offense are reasonable amounts to offset costs generated by activities such as: university lawyers and policy staff maintaining the file sharing tutorial and quiz questions; reviewing law, case law, and developments; maintaining procedures that keep IU compliant with law; having a full-time staff member to receive and process hundreds of notices per year; ensuring that each person responds and complies with the same process; and responding to questions from members of the university community.

In addition to sending complaints to IU, copyright owners may also take direct legal action against alleged infringers, and subpoena the university for information about people sharing files. The No Electronic Theft (NET) Act provides for serious criminal penalties, including a fine of up to $250,000 and a potential jail sentence. Lack of knowledge about copyright infringement laws will not excuse you from legal consequences, or from action by the university. It is your responsibility to be aware of the legality of your actions. For more, see How can I protect myself?

For more, see:

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Last modified on August 09, 2013.

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