Copyright Law FAQs

Q: What is copyright?
A: Copyright is legal protection of intellectual property provided by the laws of the United States. Copyright applies to works in all media, not just print, and it covers all forms of a work, including its digital transmission and subsequent use. One of the most common forms of copyright violation involves downloading or sharing songs and movies from the Internet without the express consent of the copyright owner.

Q: Why is it important for a student to be aware of copyright law?
A:Copyright infringement is expressly prohibited by the US Copyright Act. Anyone who infringes another's copyright in a creative work is subject to liability, and could be required to pay large sums in damages. A summary of the civil and criminal penalties for violation of Federal copyright laws is as follows:

  1. Infringer pays the actual dollar amount of damages and profits; or
  2. The law provides a range from $750 to $30,000 for each work infringed, unless the court finds that the infringement was willful. In such cases, the maximum penalty is increased to $150,000.
  3. The court may award attorneys' fees and court costs.
  4. The court can issue an injunction to stop the infringing acts.
  5. The court can impound the illegal works.
  6. The infringer can be sent to jail for up to 10 years.

A student/faculty or staff member who violates these policies can be disciplined which could include suspension, termination or even expulsion.

Q: What is the law concerning digital copyright?
A: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) obligates the College to block access to infringing material when a copyright violation is reported. Members of the community who engage in illegal file-sharing are subject to civil penalties from copyright owners as well as disciplinary action from the College.

Q: Is sharing and downloading music files and videos illegal?
A: File-sharing is illegal when it involves copying or distributing copyrighted materials, usually music and movies, but also TV programs, text, games, software, and images, without permission from the copyright owner.

Q: What kinds of activities violate the federal law?
A: Here are some examples of copyright infringement that may be found on a network:

  • You make an MP3 copy of a song because the CD or audio file you bought expressly permits you to do so. But then you offer your copy online using a file-sharing program so others can download it.
  • You join a file-sharing network and download unauthorized copies of copyrighted music from the computers of other network members.
  • You make a movie or large segment of a movie available on a Web site without permission of the copyright owner.

Q: How is copyright infringement detected?
A: The representatives of copyright owners, such as the Recording Industry of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), regularly scan the Internet for file-sharing programs (for example, BitTorrent, Gnutella, and Ares) that exchange music, films, or software belonging to the copyright owners they represent. If copyright infringement is detected, they send a violation notice to the owner of the network where the unlawful file-sharing has occurred. The violation notice contains information that can be used to identify the network location of the offending computer.

Q: What happens if the violation notice leads to your computer?
A: When Saint Louis University receives a violation notice, ITSC notifies the network user that they must remove or disable access to the infringing material on their computer. Upon a second notification to a student, network access for their personal computer will be suspended, and the matter will be referred to the Office Student Conduct for appropriate disciplinary action. Upon a third notification ITSC will terminate network access for anyone who repeatedly infringes on the rights of copyright holders.

Q: I need to disable file sharing on my computer, how do I do that?
A: Each peer-to-peer client works differently. Indiana University has a webpage that has instructions for disabling several of the clients at

Q: To whom should copyright infringement be reported?
A: Saint Louis University's agent under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is: