Prohibition on Copyright Infringement

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 the federal Copyright Act. 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, and this includes peer-to-peer file sharing.  Broadcasting a music recording, a video, or even performing copyrighted sheet music to an audience without a license to do so is also a copyright violation.

RPI policies prohibit students from using RPI resources, such as RPI’s network, computers, or email systems to engage in copyright infringement.  See RPI Cyber Citizenship Policy.  Such activities are considered Grounds for Disciplinary Action, and the offending student is subject to discipline as set forth in the Rensselaer Handbook of Student Rights and Responsibilities.

Copyright infringement can also result in 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 website of the U.S. Copyright Office.

Document Last Reviewed/Updated
Portfolio: Secretary of the Institute and General Counsel
Responsible Office: General Counsel's Office
Contact Information: Craig A. Cook
Secretary of the Institute and General Counsel
(518) 276-3777
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