Copyright Infringement Policies and Sanctions


The college takes copyright protection very seriously. Many scholars, musicians, and performers rely on copyright to protect their intellectual property.  This webpage explains what peer-to-peer file sharing is, what copyright infringement is, what the consequences of copyright infringement are, and how to avoid copyright infringement by following fair use guidelines or accessing music, TV shows, or movies legally.  This information is not intended to be a comprehensive treatment of copyright laws; it is intended to provide basic information to help you avoid copyright infringement.


What is Peer-to-Peer File-Sharing?

"Peer-to-peer" (P2P) file-sharing refers to computer systems that are connected to each other via the Internet using P2P software like BitTorrent, Kazaa, eDonkey, or Limewire.  These programs make it easy to share files between computers.  There are many legitimate uses of P2P file sharing, such as sharing open-source software; 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 and be subject to civil and criminal liabilities.


What is copyright infringement?

Copyright holders are granted exclusive rights under section 106 of the Copyright Act (Title 17 of the United States Code) including the right to reproduce, distribute, display, or perform the copyrighted work or to make a derivative work.  Copyright infringement is the act of using works protected by copyright law without permission or legal authority.  In the file-sharing context, downloading or uploading substantial parts of a copyrighted work without permission or the authority to do so constitutes an infringement.


Penalties for Violating Federal Copyright Law:

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 attorney 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


Carl Sandburg College’s Penalties for Copyright Infringement:

Carl Sandburg College prohibits the use of its network resources to conduct inappropriate and/or illegal activity.  The College complies with applicable federal and state laws and requires that network account holders do the same in accordance with Sandburg’s Policy on Computer and Internet Acceptable Use.  Alleged violations of the Computer and Internet Acceptable Use Policy shall be subject to disciplinary due process.  Unauthorized or improper use will lead to the possible revocation of the user’s access, and the College may also require restitution for any use which is in violation of the usage guidelines.  Carl Sandburg College will pursue criminal and civil prosecution of violators when appropriate.  For more information visit Carl Sandburg College’s Policy on Computer and Internet Acceptable Use at privacy-policy.


Fair Use:

Limited amounts of copyrighted materials can be used for educational purposes without the copyright holder’s permission under Fair Use guidelines. However, it should not be assumed that all educational use is Fair Use.  There are four factors to consider when deciding whether Fair Use applies to a situation:

  1. The purpose and character of the use
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount of work being used in relation to the work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use on the work’s potential value in the marketplace

Whether Fair Use applies to a situation depends on a detailed case-by-case analysis of these four factors.  For a better understanding of these factors, visit the U.S. Library of Congress,


Alternatives to P2P: Legal Downloading

There are many services available for legally accessing music, TV shows, and movies.  Visit Why Music Matters,, and Where to Watch,, to find services for legally accessing music, TV shows, and movies.

For more information on copyright compliance and legal downloading visit the Recording Industry Association of America,, and the Motion Picture Association of America,