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Digital Copyright Guidelines


It is against Union College policy to use the college network to illegally share or download any copyrighted music, video, games or software.

The use of Union's computer network is a privilege and not a right. Access to the network may be revoked if you choose to violate college rules or federal law.

Learn more about Union College's computer use policy.

What happens if I get caught downloading illegally?

If Union College is notified that you are sharing or downloading copyrighted files illegally, the Dean of Students will review the case and determine appropriate action. Unacceptable conduct may result in disciplinary actions such as, but not limited to:

  • Temporary or permanent loss of computer privileges
  • Temporary or permanent suspension from college
  • Fees covering expenses incurred by the college
  • Involvement of local civil authorities

What is copyright?

Copyright provides protection to the creators of, as the U.S. Copyright Office states, “original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression.” In the United States, copyright law is administered by the U.S. Copyright Office.

Copyright protects books, photographs, poetry, software, music, plays, songs, novels and other literary works, audio recordings, and even architecture. Copyright does not, however, protect intangibles such as ideas, methods of operation, or systems. In addition, copyright does not protect things that are not attributable to a creator, such as facts.

Copyright is that it protects both published and unpublished works. For example, if you write a book but never have it published, and no one but you ever even reads it, your work is still protected by copyright law.

What is copyright infringement?

An author or creator of a work has a legal right to decide how that work will be used and include the right to:

  • copy
  • distribute
  • perform
  • adapt or modify
  • benefit financially
  • assign any or all of these rights to another party

Copyright infringement involves engaging in any of the above-listed activity, without having received the right to do so from the rights holder, including:

  • making photocopies of a protected book
  • making available audio files of a protected song
  • producing a protected play
  • writing a new song which copies the melody of a protected song
  • selling copies of copied album

Copying might be legal because the specific circumstances fall under “Fair Use,” or because the original creator has permitted use with an Open or Creative Commons license, or because the rights holder has specifically granted you a license, or because the work is no longer under copyright, or because the work was never eligible for copyright in the first place.

What about Fair Use?

Fair Use is an exception to the restrictions created by copyright law. It allows one to make copies of a copyrighted work (or, more typically, portions of it)for the purpose of comment, criticism, or parody.

In the U.S., there is a four-fold test to determine if something qualifies for Fair Use protection:

  • the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  • the nature of the copyrighted work;
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

If you quote a few lines from a copyrighted work in an academic paper, that will almost always qualify as Fair Use:

  • The purpose of the work is academic, not-for-profit, and educational.
  • You are not copying the piece in its entirety, but merely quoting a few lines from it.
  • Your use is unlikely to have any impact on the value of the work.

What is Public Domain?

Copyright protection does not last forever, and works created before a certain date (1923 in the United States) have passed into the Public Domain. These works are not “owned” by anyone, and any type of copying — even without attribution — does not constitute infringement.

Information taken from Copyright for Students: A Definitive Guide located at https://www.whoishostingthis.com/resources/student-copyright/

Read the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

What is peer-to-peer networking?

Peer-to-peer (P2P) networking is commonly used to share files between computers without the need for a mediating server. While there is nothing inherently wrong with using P2P networking, it is often used and commonly associated with illegally sharing copyrighted material.