Pacific University Compliance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act 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 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.

This document outlines Pacific’s plan to comply with these requirements.

Defining Copyright Infringement

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.

Annual Disclosure

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

  • In order to use the University’s computing resources, all members of the Pacific Community agree to an Appropriate Use Policy that includes a section on copyright compliance. The most recent version of the Appropriate Use Policy may be found here.
  • All new community members are required to read and accept the Appropriate Use Policy in order to activate their Pacific computer accounts.
  • New students are required to attend an orientation session that includes information about the University’s copyright policy.
  • An email will be sent each year from the Chief Information Officer to all community members detailing university policies regarding distribution of copyrighted materials.
  • This statement will be posted on the Pacific University web site.

Plans to “Effectively Combat” the Unauthorized Distribution of Copyrighted Material

Pacific University currently employs bandwidth-shaping technology to prioritize network traffic. We limit the amount of bandwidth available to P2P applications but we do not filter such applications since much of the traffic is legal.

The University investigates each Digital Millennium Copyright Act notice received in a timely manner. University Information Services staff members identify and document information related to community members suspected of using the network resources at the time of the infringement. Documentation for suspected student infringement is given to the Department of Student Affairs. Suspected misuse by faculty or staff members is reported to the Chief Information Officer. First time offenders must meet with a university representative to be trained and given information regarding copyright law. Any identified illegal content is then removed from the community member’s computer. Subsequent violations and lack of compliance with copyright laws may result in disciplinary actions being taken by the University which are handled according to the appropriate student, faculty, or staff handbook procedures.

Alternatives to Illegal File Sharing

The EDUCAUSE web site provides links to sites that provide numerous options for obtaining music, videos, and other digital content in a legal manner. Members of the Pacific community are encouraged to take advantage of these legitimate sources of digital content. See Legal Sources of Online Content on the EDUCAUSE web site.

Consequences of Sharing Copyrighted Materials

Copyright infringement constitutes a violation of university policy and may create potential liability for both civil and criminal actions. Please note that action on the part of the University as a matter of policy does not remedy or immunize a user against possible legal actions by the content owner, or in very serious cases involving large quantities of material, possible criminal actions brought by public law enforcement.

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 web site of the U.S. Copyright Office at, especially their FAQ.

Other Resources

This document will be reviewed and updated yearly.

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