Copyright & File Sharing

Enforcing the laws regulating the use of copyrighted music, movies, software, and other intellectual property is not discretionary. When a representative of a copyright holder notifies Furman University about violators on our campus we are obliged to make sure the illegal file-sharing stops. If you share files illegally, you are not only subject to losing your network privileges, you may also be subject to prosecution in criminal and/or civil court.

Summary of Civil and Criminal Penalties for Violation of Federal Copyright Laws

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. 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 Web site of the U.S. Copyright Office at, especially their FAQ’s at

University students, faculty and staff all have a large stake in the performance of our network and how file-sharing affects your Internet bandwidth. Not only is the practice of downloading most copyrighted media illegal, it can also consume a disproportionate share of network resources. We encourage all users to review and respect Furman University’s network usage policies.  We discourage improper network usage, including but not limited to:  copyright infringement, hacking, bullying or other electronic abuse.

Notices of copyright and intellectual property violations received by Information Technology Services involving students will be referred to Student Life for disciplinary action. Faculty violations will be sent to the Dean of Faculty. The Director of Human Resources will receive notices of staff violations. The illegal downloading or sharing of copyrighted media may result in fines, the loss of access to all network resources at Furman University, and/or criminal prosecution.

Have questions about copyright and file-sharing? Please see Furman’s Copyright Resource Office.

Related University Policies