Keeping It Legal (& Safe)

Copyright NoteIn 1998 the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was signed into law to address some of the complexities that digital transmission of works added to existing Copyright Law. Ten years later, the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) also became law, amending the Higher Education Act of 1965 and supplementing the DMCA.

The HEOA, specifically aimed at postsecondary institutions, imposed an array of new federal regulatory and reporting requirements for colleges and universities, who risk severe fines if found to be noncompliant.

Brown’s “Safe Harbor” status is contingent on expeditious take-down or otherwise blocking access to any infringing material whenever it is brought to Brown’s attention (via its DMCA agent). The Act also allowed for the imposition of substantial civil and criminal penalties for copyright infringement incidents relating to the use of University network services, which includes paying either actual or ‘statutory’ damages, running from $750 to $30,000 per work infringed. If found to be ‘willful’ the penalties can rise to $150,000 per work infringed and can also garner criminal penalties, including imprisonment of up to five years and fines of up to $250,000 per offense.

What does this mean to you?

First, become familiar with Brown’s Copyright Infringement Policy, which details procedures for handling violations and their consequences (for staff, a warning letter will be generated and an acknowledgment of understanding must be signed, a copy of which will be kept in the individual’s personnel file).

Second, remove any peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing software from your computer unless it is necessary for your work. This will not only keep you in compliance but safe from hazards associated with the use of P2P.  Those hazards are listed in a Morning Mail message sent to the Brown community at the beginning of the 2011/2012 academic year.