Think you know everything about copyright? Check your knowledge
How do people get caught?
Wake Forest does not actively police for copyright infringement.
It does, however, respond to all charges of copyright infringement,
as required by the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.
The reason people get caught, then, is because this is not a victimless
crime, and the victims are taking steps to protect themselves. Copyright
violations hurt the entertainment industry and the actors, musicians,
and artists who would receive royalties on sales of their performances
but get nothing from bootlegged copies. The entertainment industry,
which suffers most directly from copyright violations, has both
the greatest incentive and the greatest resources to stop this,
and consequently uses many methods to identify copyright offenders.
Once a company compiles the evidence required
by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it contacts Wake Forest,
which is then required by law to take action to investigate the
Everybody does it.
To be blunt, so what. If you drive 70 miles per hour when the speed
limit is 65, you are breaking the law and can face penalties, even
though many people may have been driving as fast or faster than
you at the time you were stopped. Likewise, if you cheat on your
taxes and are discovered, you can face penalties or criminal prosecution,
despite the fact that other people may have cheated more blatantly
than you. In short, arguing that other people are also breaking
the law doesn't excuse your violations.
The law is unreasonable.
Copyright law protects the work of many people, including the work
of individuals in universities. Without this principle, a person's
intellectual creations can be appropriated - i.e., stolen - by others.
Universities' prohibitions against plagiarism are rooted in the
principle that ideas are the property of the people who come up
with them. If you remain unconvinced that this is an important legal
principle, exercise your civic rights by contacting your representatives
in Congress and initiating an effort to modify
U.S. copyright law.
Why does Wake Forest care?
- From a legal perspective, Wake Forest and all providers
of Internet access have a responsibility to ensure compliance with
the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. Failure to do so can
expose the University to significant penalties in the tens of thousands
of dollars for each violation. The University would be negligent,
from a financial standpoint, if it did not comply with this law,
especially since the entertainment industry can benefit financially
if it can prove a university fails to take responsibility for discouraging
and preventing copyright infringement.
- From a technical perspective, sharing of copyrighted materials
can create extraneous traffic on the network, since many of these
applications allow people from outside Wake Forest to pass through
Wake Forest's network to obtain files. These individuals are thus
consuming Wake Forest resources that have been created to serve
the needs of Wake Forest faculty, staff, and students.
- Finally, from an ethical standpoint, whether you
sell copies - or even give away copies - is irrelevant. Using the
Internet to obtain an unauthorized copy of copyrighted material
is nothing more than a high tech version of shoplifting.
It's theft, plain and simple.
Is it illegal if I don't share my files?
Obviously, a person who offers unauthorized copies of copyrighted
materials through the Internet is violating copyright law more blatantly
than someone who only obtains copies for personal use without sharing
to others. But the law applies to all violators, not just blatant
ones. Undoubtedly you know that it's illegal to photocopy a textbook
to save money, even if you don't make copies for your friends or
strangers. In the same way, obtaining even one unauthorized copy
of digitized music or video violates copyright,
even if you're the only person who uses this copy.
What are the penalties?
If you are found guilty of violating copyright, you can face penalties
both from Wake Forest and through the criminal court system. To
date, copyright violations that have been reported to Wake Forest
for investigation have been handled through University processes.Because
copyright violation is a federal crime, however, the entertainment
industry has the right to insist upon criminal prosecution. If the
industry continues to lose tens of millions of dollars because of
filesharing, it would be reasonable to expect
that it may take a harder line. Typical fines imposed on offenders
to date have ranged from $500 to $20,000. Violators may also face
federal criminal charges as well as court costs and attorney's fees
for the recording industry, which can be substantial since large
entertainment corporations are likely to hire expensive attorneys
to protect their substantial interests in relation to this issue.
My friend has told me it's legal if....
Unless your friend is an accomplished copyright law attorney, you
need to find a more authoritative source of information. If your
friend is wrong and you get caught for violations, you will be the
one facing the penalties.
That said, file sharing is not always illegal. It is possible to
use file sharing for legitimate, legal purposes. To do so, however,
you must share files that are not protected by copyright or have
explicit permission from the copyright holder to be sharing the
files. U.S. copyright law provides a presumption of copyright to
the person who creates material, even if material has never been
published or if the copyright has not been registered. (Visit
the U.S. Copyright Office's
Frequently Asked Questions for more on this. ) When
in doubt, assume that
a file is protected by copyright, unless you have specific and reliable
documentation to the contrary.
What's the risk for me?
In addition to comprising your moral integrity and making yourself
subject to University or criminal penalties if caught, file sharing
compromises your privacy and creates security breaches. As reported
by ZDNet, eWeek, PCWorld.Com and other sources, many file sharing
applications install "spyware" that allows unknown people
to access information from your computer and observe your activities
while online. To learn more about spyware, visit www.spychecker.com.
Where can I get more information?
Visit our copyright links page. Much information
is readily available on this topic, and ignorance is no excuse.