Downloading and distribution of copyrighted music, movie and other entertainment files from online distribution sites that offer these items free of charge is illegal and in direct violation of the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Florida State University Student Conduct Code and the Florida State University 4-OP-H-5 Information Security Policy.
Illegal downloading and file sharing of copyrighted music, movies or other entertainment files is intellectual property/copyright infringement. Illegal downloading and file sharing activities maliciously expose the university’s network, computing systems and personal computers to destructive computer malware (e.g., viruses, spyware, worms, trojan horses, rootkits, keystroke loggers) and denial of service attacks. Illegal downloading activity significantly increases the risk of exposure to personal identity theft and irreparable or costly damage to both university and personally owned computing devices.
The potential consequences of illegal downloading and file sharing are extremely serious. There are both civil and criminal penalties for illegal downloading and file sharing:
- In a civil suit, an infringer may be liable for a copyright owner's actual damages plus any profits made from the infringement. Alternatively, the copyright owner may avoid proving actual damage by electing a statutory damage recovery of up to $30,000 or, where the court determines that the infringement occurred willfully, up to $150,000. The actual amount will be based upon what the court in its discretion considers just. See 17 U.S.C. § 504.
- Penalties to be applied in cases of criminal copyright infringement (i.e., violations of 17 U.S.C. § 506(a)), are set forth at 18 U.S.C. § 2319. Congress has increased these penalties substantially in recent years, and has broadened the scope of behaviors to which they can apply. Statutory penalties are found at 18 U.S.C. § 2319. A defendant, convicted for the first time of violating 17 U.S.C. § 506(a) by the unauthorized reproduction or distribution, during any 180-day period, of at least 10 copies or phono records, or 1 or more copyrighted works, with a retail value of more than $2,500 can be imprisoned for up to 5 years and fined up to $250,000, or both. 18 U.S.C. §§ 2319(b), 3571(b)(3).
- Defendants who have previously been convicted of criminal copyright infringement under 18 U.S.C. § 2319(b)(1) may be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine or both. Finally, a defendant is guilty of a misdemeanor violation if he violated rights other than those of reproduction or distribution, or has reproduced or distributed less than the requisite number of copies, or if the retail value of the copies reproduced or distributed did not meet the statutory minimum, or if other elements of 17 U.S.C. § 506(a) are not satisfied. Misdemeanants can be sentenced a maximum of one year and can be fined a maximum of $100,000. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 2319(b)(3), 3571(b)(5).
Law firms representing the entertainment industry aggressively investigate instances of music and movie pirating and upon identifying the offenders are increasingly invoking the applicable laws to reap financial settlements and awards totaling thousands of dollars.
The university is not legally empowered to protect, represent, advise or otherwise assist students who become subject to legal proceedings because of copyright infringement. Students who are sued, offered an out-of-court settlement or cited for criminal copyright infringement must obtain their own legal representation.
In addition to civil and criminal penalties, violators will be subject to the university’s disciplinary proceedings.