Digital Millennium Copyright Act and Higher Education Opportunity Act Information

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) protects copyright holders by enacting two treaties: the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. These treaties require that members prevent the circumvention of measures to protect copyrights and also protects against tampering with copyright management information.

Why do I need to know about the DMCA?

The DMCA covers any copyrighted material including music, movies, software, and books. Although file-sharing has become commonplace, it is a violation of federal law and PSU's Acceptable Use Policy to download or distribute copyrighted files to which you do not have rights. The RIAA and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) aggressively pursue violators. The penalties to you and the University can be severe. To protect the PSU community, the University has adopted a DMCA violation enforcement guideline and embarked on a DMCA education campaign.


What are Peer-to-Peer (P2P) applications?

A P2P application allows you to download material from other people’s computers.  Additionally, it allows others to download material from your computer. There are many risks associated with using P2P applications. Specifically, you may be infringing copyrights, exposing yourself to malware, and may become vulnerable to hackers. Even when you do not currently have a P2P program open, others may still be able download materials from your computer. The following are some examples of P2P programs: Limewire, UTorrent, BitTorrent, and Gnutella.


What does the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) have to do with P2P file sharing and copyright infringement?

The HEOA of 2008 is a federal law signed by the President.  It reauthorizes the Higher Education Act of 1965 and has added some provisions regarding P2P and copyright infringement.  The HEOA of 2008 does not make any changes to copyright laws.  However, it requires all colleges and universities receiving federal student financial aid funds to manage copyright infringement on their networks.  The requirements are as follows:

1.       PSU must describe copyright laws, penalties for copyright infringement, and our campus policies regarding these matters to our students.

2.       PSU must have a written and implemented plan to “effectively combat” copyright infringement through our networks.  PSU is required to use a “technology-based deterrent.”

3.       PSU must provide information regarding alternatives to illegal downloading.


How does this impact me as a student at PSU?

If we receive a copyright infringement notice from an outside company (e.g. Sony or the RIAA), you will receive both an email notification and may have one sent via US Postal Service explaining the violation. These notifications should include a ticket number.

For first time violations, you will initially have one week (7 days) to respond before your internet is disabled. 

For subsequent violations, your internet will be immediately suspended, and the case referred to the Office of the Dean of Students.  Illegally downloading copyrighted material is a violation of the PSU Student Code of Conduct for the following provision:

OAR 577-031-0136 (17) Violation of any University or Oregon University System rule, policy or Internal Management Directive (IMD), including but not limited to: Standards of Residence, PSU Housing Handbook, University Housing Office contracts, University Key Policy, the University Computer and Acceptable Use Policy, and the Prohibited Discrimination and Harassment Policy.

For repeated violations your wireless internet access can be permanently terminated.


How does this impact me outside of PSU?

Copyright owners may sue people for copyright infringement.  If they win their court case, the copyright owner is entitled to actual damages and any profits that the infringer may have gained due to the infringement.  In the alternative, the copyright owner may choose to recover statutory damages of no less than $750, but no more than $30,000 per infringement. If the court finds that the infringement was willful, the court may increase the award to a total of not more than $150,000.  The court may also award attorney fees for the copyright owner.

Moreover, cases of willful infringement can also be punished by 5 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

Companies have successfully sued people for illegally downing copyrighted items.  Here are two examples of cases where a person illegally downloaded music and lost in court.  The implications of their actions are serious and courts have entered judgments against them for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Capitol v. Thomas case

Sony BMG v. Tenenbaum case

How does this impact PSU?

If PSU does not address student copyright infringements, PSU can lose access to Title IV federal financial aid programs and be subject to litigation and fines.  Fifty-seven percent of students at PSU need financial aid.  A suspension or termination of Title IV federal financial aid programs will impact many students who cannot afford to continue school without aid.


Additional Resources

List of legal alternatives to gaining access to music, movies, and tv shows (Source: Educause)


Directions for uninstalling file sharing programs (Source: IT at Cornell)

Additionally, you may contact OIT 503-725-HELP to get help removing a P2P program.


Digital Millennium Copyright Act  (PDF) (Source: U.S. Copyright Office)


Higher Education Opportunity Act  (Source: U.S. Department of Education)


Example DMCA-HEOA Quiz Questions

Which of the following is NOT a P2P program?

a.       BitTorrent

b.      Gnutella

c.       Rhapsody

d.      UTorrent


The answer is c.  All others are P2P programs.

Determine if the following statement is true or false: There is no free and legal source of music, tv, or movies online.

a.       True

b.      False


The answer is false. Just because content is free, does not mean it is illegal.  Educause provides a list of free and legal online content, including music, TV, and movies.