Salem believes very strongly in promoting compliance with United States copyright laws and protecting the intellectual property interests of copyright owners. Salem prohibits the unauthorized use or distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, which is subject to both civil and criminal penalties as well as disciplinary action in accordance with Salem’s policies and procedures.

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 Web site of the U.S. Copyright Office at, especially their FAQ’s at

Unauthorized Peer-to-Peer Sharing

Unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing will be handled in accordance with established college practices, policies, and procedures. Confirmation of inappropriate use of Salem’s Electronic Resources may result in termination of access, disciplinary review, expulsion, termination of employment, legal action, or other disciplinary action deemed appropriate. The Information Technology Department will, when necessary, work with other college offices such as Residence Life, the Honor Council, the Deans’ office, Campus Safety, relevant law enforcement agencies, and any other appropriate authority in the resolution of violations.

Legal Alternatives for Acquiring Copyrighted Materials

Many options exist for obtaining music, videos and other digital content in a legal manner. Users of Salem Electronic Resources are encouraged to utilize legitimate sources of digital content that may be found at a variety of sources, including the following:

  1. Audio and Video: EDUCAUSE,,
  2. Audio, Video, Ebook, Hard-copy print: Salem College Library, (Search here for film, eBook, audio, print, and other electronic materials).
  3. Software: SourceForge,
  4. Software: AlternativeTo,
  5. Open Access and Creative Commons:

(NOTE: The inclusion of these links does not constitute an endorsement by Salem of any of the services listed).


Salem’s Electronic Resources Usage Policy has banned the use of all file sharing programs (with limited exceptions for legal file sharing that is needed for education and research use). This policy, which can be found on MySalem under Documents, the IT department’s MySalem page, and referenced in the Academic Catalog and the Student Handbook, notes that unauthorized file sharing is illegal and that it also constitutes a violation of the policy. The Policy states that violators will be subject to disciplinary action by Salem and possible civil or criminal penalties.

Students are further reminded of these policies via the annual “Institutional Information” disclosure [as required by the Department of Education under 34 C.F.R. § 668.43(a)(10)].

Educational resources on copyright issues are as follows:

  1. Salem’s Library website, which provides a list of resources related to copyright issues. Currently, the link to this material is:;
  2. Consortium for Educational Technology in University Systems:;
  3. Copyright Law of the United States of America:; and
  4. Columbia University Copyright Advisory Office: