Plan to Combat Unlawful Distribution of Copyrighted Material Over the Stony Brook University Network

Issued by:

Office of the Chief Information Officer 
July 1, 2014

Compliance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) requires the following from the institution:

  • An annual 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
  • A summary of the penalties for violation of Federal copyright laws
  • 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
  • Implementation of technology-based deterrents to reduce the potential for illegal file sharing
  • Offer alternatives to illegal file sharing
  • Periodic review of the plan

Annual Disclosure / Communications Plan

  • Stony Brook University requires every student to read and certify that they agree to comply with the terms of the Student Conduct Code. Specific language in the Conduct Code dealing with copyrighted material is included in this agreement. The Compliance process for students requires that they agree to the terms of the policy before they are allowed to register for classes.
  • The Provost will send a note to every member of the University community once a year about the risks of sharing copyrighted material and remind them of the fair use provisions of the copyright law.
  • The Division of Information Technology conducts an annual security awareness campaign which reminds the community of their obligation to follow the provisions of the Responsible Use of Information Technology Resources Policy, including the provision on copyright infringement.  
  • The Division of Technology, in cooperation with the staff of the University Libraries and the Office of the Provost, maintains a copyright Web page that links to useful information. See
  • The IT Guides which are distributed at orientation and made generally available to the campus community will provide useful information on copyright law and on legal alternative sources of copyrighted and public domain information.

Summary of Civil and Criminal Penalties for Violating 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 website of the U.S. Copyright Office at, particularly its FAQ section at

Actions Taken Against Persons Found to be Illegally Sharing Files

Stony Brook University complies with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by attempting to identify alleged copyright infringers. The University Community Compliance Office will notify alleged infringers.

In addition, the students are bound by existing University policies that specifically prohibit the use of copyrighted material without the permission of the copyright holder. Violators of the policy are subject to the removal of their network access and referral to the Office of Community Standards.

Technology-Based Deterrents Used to Combat Illegal File Sharing

The University continues to use appropriate technology to reduce and/or eliminate the practice of illegally sharing copyrighted material. Known vectors used to share files are blocked from the campus.

Alternative Resources For Sharing Copyrighted Material

A comprehensive list of legal downloading sites is available from Educause. A link to this resource is available on various pages in Student Affairs and the Division of Information Technology. The University encourages all students to take advantage of these resources.

Plan Effectiveness Review

In 2015, this plan will be reviewed based on outside complaints for illegal file sharing. Technology-based solutions will continuously be evaluated and implemented if deemed necessary to combat illegal file sharing.