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Copyright Reminder

Many common campus activities involve copyright, and so it is critical that all Stanford faculty, students and staff have a working understanding of copyright law as it impacts their daily lives.  The Stanford University Libraries provide this Copyright Reminder to ensure that all members of the Stanford community have access to that critical information.  The Copyright Reminder highlights common campus copyright concerns, and outlines the fundamental elements of US copyright law that apply in those situations.

Peer-to-peer file sharing

Peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing allows individual Internet users to exchange files directly.  While the technology has many useful applications, unauthorized downloading and sharing of copyrighted works is problematic, and may result in harsh civil and criminal liabilities in addition to university sanctions. Fines of up to $150,000 in civil statutory damages may apply for each separate willful infringement, regardless of the actual damages involved.  Stanford may also take administrative action against copyright infringement, including loss of networking privileges and SUNet ID, or disciplinary action (up to, and including, termination for faculty and staff and expulsion for students).

Copyright owners can, and do, lawfully scan Internet traffic to identify instances where their material is being shared over P2P networks. When they discover a problem, they can send a complaint to Stanford under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or file a "John Doe" lawsuit against the IP address. In the latter case, Stanford would be legally required to provide the identity of the Stanford network user.

Copyright damages are usually statutory--that is, determined by statute.  The minimum damages amount for unintentional infringement is $200 per copyright violation (e.g., file sharing one song or one movie) and willful violations can result in penalties of up to $150,000 per violation (17 U.S.C. § 504). File-sharing can also result in criminal prosecutions and sentences of up to 10 years in prison (17 U.S.C. § 506; 18 U.S.C. § 2319). Every year since 2003, copyright owners have brought claims against individual Stanford students and staff members who have engaged in unlawful file-sharing.

Stanford's policy on file sharing

Administrative Guide Memo 62 prohibits the unlawful copying or distribution of copyrighted materials.  Stanford follows up and responds to every copyright complaint.  Do not share your passwords.  You are responsible for what happens on your system.

Stanford's copyright complaint policy for students

Stanford has created a "Three Strikes" policy for dealing with unresolved file-sharing complaints. More information about Stanford’s student policy can be found at Stanford's Copyright Complaint Resolution Center website. Students may be referred to Judicial Affairs for unlawfully file-sharing; discipline can be imposed up to, and including, expulsion.

Stanford's copyright complaint policy for faculty and staff

When staff receive a first or second complaint, the matter is referred to a supervisor and to HR. Discipline up to and including termination may be imposed. If a faculty member at Stanford receives more than one complaint, the matter is referred to a Department Chair.  Upon receipt of a third complaint, Stanford terminates Internet connectivity, including disabling the SUNet ID, and the matter is referred on for discipline: Faculty are referred to the Provost; staff are referred to HR and can expect to be terminated.

Technological deterrents

To combat unlawful file-sharing, Stanford uses Traffic Advisory Notices, which are sent to the top band-width users at Stanford on a rolling periodic basis. The Advisory provides information to the recipient about unlawful file-sharing and the consequences of unlawful file-sharing.

Free and legal entertainment on the Internet

There are multiple options to access free and legal music, TV shows, and movies. The MPAA has an entire page listing many legal resources to access television and movies from your computer, including a listing to all major networks (which often post shows a day after original airing). 

In particular, we recommend:

  • Hulu: provides access to recent TV shows and movies on a model supported by limited advertising
  • Pandora Free Internet Radio: provides targeted music selections based on artist or song preferences of the individual listener