The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA) is a legal framework to protect the rights and management of digital works.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act and File Sharing

File sharing is making files available for others to download. Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing makes an individual's computer the host of the files to be shared. By sharing copyrighted materials over the Internet without the consent of the copyright owner, the distributor may be violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA). Most of the software, games, songs and videos obtained through P2P programs are being shared illegally.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has sued thousands of people for alleged file sharing of copyrighted material. Violators of the DMCA can be punished by substantial fines. Individuals also may be held civilly liable (regardless of whether the activity is for profit) for actual damages or lost profits, or statutory damages up to $150,000 per infringed copyright. Attempting to profit from file sharing can even result in a prison sentence.

The Elements of Notification

Quoted from Public Law 105-304 (U.S. Code, Title 17, Chapter 5, Section 512)

  • (A) To be effective under this subsection, a notification of claimed infringement must be a written communication provided to the designated agent of a service provider that includes substantially the following:
    • (i) A physical or electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the [copyright] owner...
    • (ii) Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed...
    • (iii) Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing ... and information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to locate the material.
    • (iv) Information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to contact the complaining party, such as an address, telephone number, and, if available, an electronic mail address...
    • (v) A statement that the complaining party has a good faith belief that the use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.
    • (vi) A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and, under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

To present notification of a complaint, contact the designated agent, James Smith, at dmca@tamu.edu.

Copyright Infringement Policies and Sanctions

Texas A&M University is committed to maintaining the integrity and availability of the Texas A&M network for the vital educational and research purposes for which it was designed and prohibits the use of its network to violate the law, including the U.S. Copyright Act. The unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, violates the Copyright Act and may subject you to civil and criminal liabilities.  Also, the user could be violating the university's Employee or Student Rules for Responsible Computing.

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 website of the U.S. Copyright Office at www.copyright.gov.

Texas A&M’s policies concerning copyright infringement are found in Student Rule 22. Rules for Responsible Computing and University Rule 29.01.03.M2 Rules for Responsible ComputingStudent Rule 24. Student Conduct Code identifies the violation of copyright laws using computing facilities and resources as misconduct subject to disciplinary sanctions as outlined in Student Rule 27. Sanctions.

When Texas A&M Receives a DMCA Violation Notice About a Student

In compliance with DMCA requirements, Texas A&M University must respond expeditiously to notices of alleged copyright infringement. A student will usually receive an email from Networking and Information Security, notifying them that a copyright holder has sent the university notice of alleged infringement, which identifies the student's IP address.

The student then needs to confirm the receipt of the notice and take all appropriate actions. If the student ignores this request, other actions may be taken, including disabling the network connection and convening a required hearing before the Student Conflict Resolution Services (SCRS). SCRS may impose sanctions on the student that may range from a letter of reprimand to expulsion from the university.