Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA)

H.R 4137, the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), is a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.  It includes provisions that are designed to reduce the illegal uploading and downloading of copyrighted works through peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. Ursinus is required by this act to provide the following information.

Each college campus must distribute three pieces of information related to copyright policy and law: 

i) A statement that explicitly informs its students that unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject the students to civil and criminal liabilities;

ii) A summary of the penalties for violation of Federal copyright laws; and

iii) A description of the institution’s policies with respect to unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, including disciplinary actions that are taken against students who engage in illegal downloading or unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials using the institution’s information technology system. 

1. It is expected that all students respect the legal protection provided by copyright. Unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject a student to civil and criminal liabilities.

2. 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 www.copyright.gov, especially their FAQ's at www.copyright.gov/help/faq.  

3. Unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing will be handled in accordance with established college practices, policies, and procedures, confirmation of inappropriate use of Ursinus College Information Technology resources may result in termination of access, disciplinary review, expulsion, termination of employment, legal action, or other disciplinary action deemed appropriate. Information Technology will, when necessary, work with other College offices such as Residence Life, the Judicial Board, the Deans' office, Campus Safety, relevant law enforcement agencies, and any other appropriate authority in the resolution of violations.

Directions to remove P2P file sharing software may be found on the University of Chicago web site Guidelines on How to Disable Peer-to-Peer Services

The HEOA also requires that all colleges and universities offer legal alternatives to unauthorized downloads. EDUCAUSE has compiled a web site that references sources of legal alternatives for downloading media content.