DMCA HEOA Information

Appropriate vs. Inappropriate Use of Copyrighted Material

A University of California Web site provides information about copyright, including appropriate vs. inappropriate uses of copyrighted material. The information includes FAQs about copyright ownership and using copyrighted material, and links to pertinent University of California policies. Copyright law allows for the Fair Use of copyrighted materials for purposes of teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair Use is a complex subject; some resources for more information follow:

Institutional Policies and Sanctions Related to Copyright Infringement

Information about university policy addressing copyright infringement is available on the Web. The UC Electronic Communications Policy (ECP) states that “The contents of all electronic communications shall conform to laws and University policies regarding protection of intellectual property, including laws and policies regarding copyright, patents, and trademarks” (section III.D.10. Intellectual Property).

The ECP also provides for sanctions against network users who violate copyright law and UC policy: “In compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the university reserves the right to suspend or terminate access to university electronic communications systems and services by any user who repeatedly violates copyright law” (ECP Section III.E, Access Restriction).

UC Davis also has a policy thats govern copyright infringement in the context of the DMCA.

Student Disciplinary Procedures

UC Davis handles claims of online infringement under the DMCA through established processes. 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, UC Davis utilizes established local procedures for adjudicating violations of university policies, including copyright violations. Appropriate sanctions are imposed according to university guidelines. The type of sanction imposed depends on the facts of the case and may range from loss of privileges, to suspension, and, potentially, to dismissal from the university. UC Davis may use sanctions as a means to further educate students about responsibilities. For example, the student may be required to take an ethics course, carry out community service, or develop copyright education materials for distribution.

It is important to note that the UC Electronic Communications Policy (ECP) provides for sanctions. It states that “In compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the University reserves the right to suspend or terminate access to university electronic communications systems and services by any user who repeatedly violates copyright law.” (ECP Section III Allowable Use, E)

Student infringers also are subject to sanctions under the University-wide Policy on Student Conduct and Discipline, which states that illegal file-sharing of copyrighted material is a violation that may be grounds for discipline.

“Chancellors may impose discipline for the commission or attempted commission…of the following types of violations….” (section 102)

“Abuses include (but are not limited to) unauthorized entry, use, transfer, or tampering with the communications of others; interference with the work of others and with the operations of computer and electronic communications facilities, systems, and services; or copyright infringement (for example, the illegal file-sharing of copyrighted materials). (section 102.5).

Civil/Criminal Liabilities

Although using peer-to-peer file-sharing (P2P) technology is not in itself illegal, what you share and how you share it may be. When you upload or distribute copies you make of copyrighted works, or when you download or acquire unlicensed copies of copyrighted works, you may be infringing someone else’s rights. If you are infringing—even unwittingly—you can be subject to civil damages of between $750 and $150,000 per infringement and even criminal jail time. Use technology wisely. You are responsible for the choices you make, including the choice to use P2P technology. When you use University resources you must not only obey the law, you must comply with all related university-wide policies and UC Davis policies.

Penalties for Violation of Federal Copyright Law

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, FAQs at

Definitions of capitalized terms and FAQs are on the University of California copyright website.

If you have an email address you can join the DMCA-info listserv or email questions to DMCA(at)ucdavis(dot)edu.


Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be legal advice about your personal copyrighted property or situation. If you have questions about your own copyright protected work, please consult an attorney with expertise in copyright. UC Davis students may be entitled to a free consultation through ASUCD.