Pierce College Compliance with Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) Peer-to-Peer File Sharing Requirements

H.R. 4137, the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), is a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. It includes provisions that are designed to reduce the illegal uploading and downloading of copyrighted works through peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. These provisions include requirements that: 

  • Institutions make an annual disclosure that informs students that the illegal distribution of copyrighted materials may subject them to criminal and civil penalties and describes the steps that institutions will take to detect and punish illegal distribution of copyrighted materials.
  • Institutions certify to the U.S. Secretary of Education that they have developed plans to “effectively combat” the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material.
  • Institutions, “to the extent practicable,” offer alternatives to illegal file sharing.
  • Institutions identify procedures for periodically reviewing the effectiveness of the plans to combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials. 

Annual Disclosure

Consistent with our educational principles, we view education as the most important element in combating illegal sharing of copyrighted materials at Pierce College. We use a variety of methods to inform our community about the law and Pierce College’s response to copyright infringement claims. 

  • In order to use college computing resources, all members of the Pierce College staff will endorse a Network Account Application that includes a section on acceptable use, including copyright compliance.
  • Posters are being mounted in student computer labs and elsewhere to discourage illegal file sharing.
  • Computing support staff, including student HelpDesk workers, are regularly trained on the College position with respect to copyright issues. Student workers provide an important channel for communicating with the student community.
  • Pierce College's policies and procedures concerning the illegal use of computer resources, copyright policies, and our response to infringement claims are published on Pierce College’s website, as is a specific computer lab rule prohibiting violation of software copyrights.
  • Periodically, all college students and employees will receive email from the district chancellor, or designee, regarding copyright infringement and related issues. 

Plans to Effectively Combat the Unauthorized Distribution of Copyrighted Material

We currently employ bandwidth-shaping technology to prioritize network traffic. We limit the amount of bandwidth available to P2P applications, and certain applications that are primarily used for illegal file sharing and downloading are blocked – e.g., BitTorrent, Gnutella.

Members of the Pierce College community have many resources to help protect their privacy, their personal computer, and their good standing at Pierce College. Respect for copyright and intellectual property is important aspects of academic integrity. Information on how to use other people's materials appropriately is available at the Pierce College libraries, the Student Code of Conduct, the Pierce College District Acceptable Use Policy, and the US Copyright Law: Title 17, Appendix B, The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (see below for Summary of Civil and Criminal Penalties for Violation of Federal Copyright Laws).

Alternatives to Illegal File Sharing

EDUCAUSE maintains a comprehensive list of Legal Downloading Resources.

The Center for Copyright Information (CCI) also maintains links to legal sources of music and video downloads. This site also has information about the Copyright Alert System, which is a partnership between copyright owners and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that went into effect 2/25/13.

Members of the Pierce College community are encouraged to take advantage of these legitimate sources of digital content.

Reviewing Effectiveness

Compared to our peers, Pierce College receives remarkably few (averaging about one per year, since 2004) P2P file sharing takedown notices. We will continue to monitor these notices to watch for unexpected increases that would require additional measures.

Summary of Civil and Criminal Penalties for Violation of 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 U.S. Copyright Office website, especially their FAQs.