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Copyright Laws and Penalties

It is illegal and against South Florida State College policy to share movies, music, software, and other copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder (Procedure: 1140 Copyright Compliance).

This applies to file sharing internal to South Florida State College or across the wider Internet. If questioned about violated computer software copyright laws or license agreements, you must be able to prove that you tried to prevent illegal software usage by the people who report to you or to whom you provide computer access. Otherwise, you are liable, and so is the College-- even if you didn't know a violation was occurring!

United States Copyright Law {Title 17 U.S.C. Section 101 et seq., Title 18 U.S.C. Section 2319} Federal law protects copyright owners from the unauthorized reproduction, adaptation, performance, display, or distribution of copyright protected works.

Penalties for copyright infringement differ in civil and criminal cases. Civil remedies are generally available for any act of infringement without regard to the intention or knowledge of the defendant or harm to the copyright owner. Criminal penalties are available for intentional acts undertaken for purposes of "commercial advantage" or "private financial gain." "Private financial gain" includes the possibility of financial loss to the copyright holder as well as traditional "gain" by the defendant.

Copyright law does not require the person committing the violation, or responsible for the violation, be aware that their actions are in violation of law. The absence of knowledge -- or even intent -- does not excuse the violation and is not a defense in a copyright infringement lawsuit.

Software Copyright

The law says that anyone who purchases a copy of software has the right to load that copy onto a single computer and to make another copy "for archival purposes only" or, in limited circumstances, for "purposes only of maintenance or repair." It is illegal to use that software on more than one computer or to make or distribute copies of that software for any other purpose unless specific permission has been obtained from the software publisher. If you pirate software, you may face not only a civil suit for damages and other relief, but criminal liability as well, including fines and jail terms.

Under copyright law, "[a]nyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner [reproduction, adaptation, distribution to the public, public performance, public display, rental for commercial advantage or importation] is an infringer of the copyright or the right of the author..." Section 501(a) of the Copyright Act. Infringement may occur by downloading software, uploading software, making software available for download, and transmitting software files. Whenever the distribution of a computer program occurs without the consent of the software publisher, it is a direct infringement of the copyright law.

Purchasing a single licensed copy of a piece of software and loading it onto several machines is known as "softlifting," and is contrary to the terms of a license agreement. This prohibition includes sharing with friends and co-workers and installing software on home/laptop computers if not allowed by the license.

Definition of Music Piracy

"Piracy" generally refers to the illegal duplication and distribution of sound recordings. There are four specific categories of music piracy:

  • Pirate recordings are the unauthorized duplication of only the sound of legitimate recordings, as opposed to all the packaging, i.e. the original art, label, title, sequencing, combination of titles etc. This includes mixed tapes and compilation CDs featuring one or more artists.
  • Counterfeit recordings are unauthorized recordings of the prerecorded sound as well as the unauthorized duplication of original artwork, label, trademark, and packaging.
  • Bootleg recordings (or underground recordings) are the unauthorized recordings of live concerts, or musical broadcasts on radio or television.
  • Online piracy is the unauthorized uploading of a copyrighted sound recording and making it available to the public, or downloading a sound recording from an Internet site, even if the recording isn't resold. Online piracy may now also include certain uses of "streaming" technologies from the Internet.

Legal Penalties

Software Copyright Infringement

The unauthorized copying of software is illegal, regardless of whether it is done for sale, for free distribution or for the copier's own use. Moreover, those who copy are liable for the copyright infringement whether or not they knew they had violated federal law.

The Copyright Act allows a copyright owner to recover monetary damages measured either by:

  1. actual damages plus any additional profits of the infringer attributable to the infringement, or
  2. statutory damages of up to $150,000 for each copyrighted work infringed. The copyright owner also has the right to permanently enjoin an infringer from engaging in further infringing activities and may be awarded costs and attorneys' fees. The law also permits destruction or other reasonable disposition of all infringing copies and devices by which infringing copies have been made or used in violation of the copyright owner's exclusive rights. In cases of willful infringement, criminal penalties may also be assessed against the infringer.

The penalties for under-licensing are the same as those for software piracy. Under federal copyright law the company may be liable for up to $150,000 for each software program infringed. The law also permits the software publisher to recover court costs and attorneys' fees it spends to sue the company and to destroy the all illegal software found at the companies. In cases of willful piracy, criminal penalties may also be assessed against the company.

Music Copyright Infringement

In the recording industry, there are usually two copyrighted works involved:

  • The copyright in the musical composition, i.e. the actual lyrics and notes on paper. This is usually owned by the songwriter or music publisher.
  • The copyright in the sound recording, i.e. the recording of the performer singing or playing a given song. This is usually owned by the record company.

On the federal level, Titles 17 and 18 of the U.S. Code protect copyright owners from the unauthorized reproduction, adaptation, or distribution of sound recordings, as well as certain digital performances to the public. The penalties differ slightly, depending upon whether the infringing activity is for commercial advantage or private financial gain. Under United States copyright law, "financial gain" includes bartering or trading anything of value, including sound recordings.

Where the infringing activity is for commercial advantage or private financial gain, sound recording infringements can be punishable by up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Repeat offenders can be imprisoned for up to 10 years. Violators can also be held civilly liable for actual damages, lost profits, or statutory damages up to $150,000 per infringement, as well as attorney’s fees and costs.

The online infringement of copyrighted music can be punished by up to three years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Repeat offenders can be imprisoned up to six years. Individuals also may be held civilly liable, regardless of whether the activity is for profit, for actual damages or lost profits, or for statutory damages up to $150,000 per infringed copyright.