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Copyright Law and NYU Policies

Explore how copyrights are protected under Federal Law and NYU policies:

Where can I find the latest U.S. copyright law and related information?

The Library of Congress and the U.S. Copyright Office provide the latest copyright law and related information on You can download a full PDF version of the U.S. Copyright Law at

What are the civil and criminal penalties for violating 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 of 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, at 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 about copyright infringement remedies, visit

What is NYU's position on illegal downloading?

Very simply, the University does not condone the illegal downloading and sharing of copyrighted content. For information on NYU's position, see this note from the Vice President, Information Technology and CIO.

Why does NYU process copyright notifications?

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), an Internet Service Provider (ISP) may be protected from legal liabilities if it responds expeditiously to copyright infringement notifications. Educational institutions, such as NYU, are generally considered as ISPs for purposes of the act.

If a copyright holder discovers an unauthorized copy of their work being redistributed on an NYU supported resource, they may file a notification of alleged infringement under penalty of perjury and in accordance with the statutory requirements for notification under DMCA. NYU's Copyright and Fair Use website provides more information on how to file a copyright infringement notice.

Upon receipt of notification, NYU must swiftly notify the individual of the alleged copyright infringement, or if the materials are hosted on NYU property (website, staff/admin computer, etc.), remove or block access to the material identified in the notification or face loss of protection under the DMCA. If NYU complies, then the University is potentially exempt from monetary liability. The act contains special provisions for non-profit institutions for certain acts on the part of instructors and graduate students and considers them "a person other than the provider" and affords protection to the educational institution under certain conditions, listed in the Handbook for Use of Copyrighted Materials at NYU.

What are NYU's policies on peer-to-peer application use?

At NYU, when we are contacted about a copyright infringement, we usually contact the owner of the machine to give them a chance to correct the situation. We do this because the owner of the machine that is acting as a server could be liable if the copyright owner decided to sue. Usually, the machine is reconfigured so it no longer acts as a server, and the situation is easily resolved.

These issues are almost always handled amicably and rarely result in a disconnection. If we do not receive a response from you, or if we receive multiple unresolved complaints, your connection will be disconnected. Multiple offenses may result in the matter being referred to the Office of Community Standards and Compliance for possible disciplinary action.

At NYU, we review our policies and standards on a regular basis to evaluate their currency and relevancy. We have specific policies in place regarding the use of ResNet and NYU-NET. These policies are available on the IT Policies and Guidance website and already cover most issues brought up by peer-to-peer applications.

Other colleges and universities choose to handle this issue in various ways. Many schools are evaluating their policies to address peer-to-peer application usage specifically. In fact, some schools terminate your network connection first and ask questions later. We choose to handle these issues in the above-mentioned manner so as to provide education and more information.

How does the use of peer-to-peer applications affect NYU?

There are a number of problems. First, in the process of sharing files back and forth with other peers, you put yourself in the position of possibly infecting or damaging your own computer. Not everyone is trustworthy; there are those out there who will disguise a malicious program as something harmless, like a music file. The intent is either to infect your machine or to install a remote control program on your machine in an effort to use your machine for nefarious purposes.

Second, because these programs attempt to discover and query other peers, when they do so, they generate network traffic, which is sometimes interpreted as hostile. When another network administrator sees this type of traffic targeted towards their networks, it can be misinterpreted as a probe for vulnerabilities or an attack.

Third, ResNet policy states that the only types of servers that are allowed on ResNet are web servers. Since these programs allow others to connect to your machine and share content, in essence they are acting as a file server, which is not allowed. This has been the policy since the inception of ResNet, before P2P programs were developed.

Finally, many files being shared on peer-to-peer networks are distributed without the permission of the person or company who owns the copyright on that work. Downloading, or making available for download, these copyrighted works can be a violation of federal law. Many copyright owners monitor P2P networks to find infringers, and large industry organizations have stated that they will file lawsuits against individual sharers. If you are sued, the damages can be significant. Often, the file sharing happens in the background, without your knowledge or consent.

When is it appropriate to obtain copyright permission for a protected work?

It is wise to seek permission to use a copyrighted work from the copyright holder. A copyright permission request should be made at the earliest instance before engaging in the use of another's copyrighted work. See the Handbook for Use of Copyrighted Materials at NYU for guidance.