Possible Disciplinary Actions for Violating the DMCA

The University's policy "Regarding the Use of Technology and Information Resources" states that all users of the University's network must "Comply with all applicable federal, state, and local laws and University policy."  This includes United States Copyright law.  U.S. copyright law forbids downloading and/or distributing copyright protected intellectual property.  In practice this means that a student may not use peer-to-peer (P2P) software to download music, television programs, movies, or software nor can they distributes such products from their computers through such software, unless they have obtained the an appropriate license or authorization to do so from the owner of the copyrighted material. 

Enforcement Procedures 

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 requires the University to receive complaints from owners of intellectual property who allege that a user of the University's network is illegally downloading or making their intellectual property available to others.  The University has a uniform procedure for receiving and examining these complaints. When a complaint can be linked to a specific network user's computer, the University notifies that user.  The user must then comply with procedures that include bringing his or her computer to the Help Desk in Jepson Hall to have P2P software uninstalled, to meet with the University's DMCA agent, and to meet with a representative of the dean's office in his or her school. 


Disciplinary Action:  At their discretion, the deans' offices can take disciplinary action.  These may include:

A first offense...

  • Disciplinary Warning through Graduation
  • Other - Any future DMCA violation will result in loss of network privileges.
  • Optional Sanction - Community Service
A second offense...
  • Conduct Probation for a period of one semester
  • Signed agreement which states that the student knows their access to the network is:
    • Limited to public access computers only
    • Student loses access to wireless and data port in their room
    • Any further violation will result in permanent loss of network access.
  • Optional Sanction - Community Service
A third offense...
  • Conduct Probation for period of one academic year
  • Loss of network access or more restricted/limited access.
  • Optional Sanction - Community Service

Summary of Federal Criminal and Civil Penalties:

Federal law allows for much more severe penalties for illegal downloading.  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 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.  A court can, in its discretion, also assess costs and attorney's fees.  For details, see Title 17, United States Code, Sections 504 and 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.

If a student is sued by a copyright owner, that student will be responsible for all fees incurred in any legal or judicial proceedings related to that lawsuit.

For more information, please see the Web site of the U.S. Copyright Office, especially their FAQ's

Legal Alternatives to Downloading

The Music Library has compiled a list of streaming audio and video sites for UR students, faculty and staff, as well as free sites available to all.

Numerous legal alternatives are also listed at "Legal Sources of Online Content."


Revision History

Version Revised Date Author/Editor Comments
1.0 May 18, 2010 Melody Kimball Revision history added.
2.0 July 27, 2010 Shannon Sinclair

Updates to "Possible Disciplinary Actions for Violatingthe DMCA," "Enforcement Procedures," "Summary of Federal Criminal and Civil Penalties," and the addition of "Legal Alternatives to Downloading".




Help Desk
(804) 287-6400
Jepson Hall, Room G-19
Monday-Thursday: 8:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Friday: 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Phone support: S-S, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.
Telecom/Media Support
(804) 287-6500
Jepson Hall, Room G-3
Monday-Friday: 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
After hours: 287-6500
Technology Learning Center (TLC)
Boatwright Library, Room 317
Monday-Thursday: 8 a.m. - 1 a.m.
Friday: 8 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. - 1 a.m.
For holiday hours see http://tlc.richmond.edu