The Cooper Union is obligated by federal law to inform its students of its policies and sanctions related to copyright infringement. Unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing (e.g., using BitTorrent to obtain/distribute music or movies) may subject students to civil and criminal liability, sanctions arising from a violation of Cooper Union's Code of Conduct, and loss of internet services provided by the Cooper Union IT Department.
The basics of copyright law may be found at numerous websites, including those of many universities whose policies relating to copyright infringement generally and file sharing in particular are similar to Cooper Union's policy:
A limitation on copyright protection is known as "fair use." Permission of a copyright holder is not required (i.e., there is no copyright infringement) where the use is for noncommercial activities such as teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, research, studio work, criticism, comment, or news reporting. [Note that while "teaching" activities may qualify as fair use, the doctrine of fair use has a requirement relating to the "amount and substantiality" of the copyrighted work that does not permit, for example, the copying and distribution of an entire copyrighted textbook to a class.]
The routine use of file sharing programs to obtain music, movies and software does not constitute fair use. For more information on fair use see:
Code Of Conduct
In addition to the sanctions for copyright infringement provided by federal law, Cooper Union's Code of Conduct explicitly prohibits:
- "illegally duplicating copyrighted or licensed software" (Category B offense)
- "any unauthorized use of network and/or computer hardware" (Category B offense)
A violation of copyright law might also be viewed as an act of academic dishonesty or fraud, which are Category A offenses and punishable by suspension or dismissal.
IT Department Responsibilities
In order to receive a Cooper Union computer account, a student is required to sign a document provided by the IT Department in which they promise to respect the rights of copyright holders. While the IT Department does not monitor its networks for content, it may monitor the volume of use (bandwidth) for each computer on its networks. A student who is using excessive bandwidth may have his or her internet access reduced or terminated.
Students should be aware that representatives of copyright holders routinely search the internet for infringers, resulting in lawsuits being filed against students. Such lawsuits may be very expensive to settle. Copyright holders have frequently filed notices of copyright violations directly with The Cooper Union, which requires the school to take immediate action to eliminate infringement.
The IT Department advises against installing and/or leaving file sharing programs on any computer attached to a Cooper Union network. While there are legitimate reasons for using such programs (e.g., the distribution of non-copyrighted software), by operating "silently" they may put the owner of the computer in the position of distributing infringing files, and being liable for such distribution, even though he or she has no intent of doing so.