Copyright Law and Potential Civil and Criminal Sanctions for Copyright Infringement

The federal Copyright law (Title 17, United States Code, Section 10, et seq.) requires all members of University of Saint Mary, including students, to respect the proprietary rights of owners of copyrights and refrain from actions that constitute an infringement of copyright or other proprietary rights. 

Those who disregard this policy place themselves individually at risk of civil and criminal liability.  As a general matter, a person who is found liable for civil copyright infringement may be ordered to pay actual damages or “statutory” damages in an amount of not less than $750 and not more than $30,000 per work infringed.  For a “willful” infringement, damages may be awarded by a court up to $150,000 per work infringed.  A court can also assess costs and attorneys’ fees, in its discretion.  See 17 U.S.C. §§ 504 and 505.  Also, “willful” copyright infringement can result in imprisonment of up to five years for a first time offense and additional fines. See 17 U.S.C. § 506 and 18 U.S.C. § 2319. 

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) File Sharing

It is a violation of copyright law to use file sharing software (e.g., BitTorrent, KaZaA, Limewire, etc.) to download music, movies, and other copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder.  This is unauthorized Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file sharing, and the University of Saint Mary does not condone such use.

Students, faculty or staff who engage in unauthorized P2P file sharing on the University of Saint Mary network may be held liable for the infringement of copyrighted works (music, movies, computer software, video games and photographs).  Be aware that the University of Saint Mary is under no legal obligation to defend, or accept responsibility for, the illegal actions of their students or employees in the P2P context.  It is each individual’s responsibility to know what constitutes infringement of copyright—if one is not sure then s/he should learn more about the law and/or refrain from copying materials. 

If a member of the University community is found to have illegally shared files over the USM’s network, the full range of disciplinary actions are available (along with the civil criminal penalties the person may be subject to), including:

  • Indefinite or permanent loss of computer privileges and network access;

  • Denial of future access to USM’s IT resources;

  • All disciplinary sanctions available pursuant to the Student Handbook;

  • Dismissal from the University; and/or

  • Legal action.

Alternatives to illegal downloading include, but are not limited to, iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu.  


The University’s logo, trademarks, and service marks may not be reproduced, altered in any way, or used in combination with any other images or text without the permission of the USM Marketing Office. This includes—but is not limited to—event promotion, logos or materials for USM student clubs or organizations, or unofficial social media channels for student groups.

Revised:  08/05/2014