Hege Library & Learning Technologies

Copyright and Fair Use

Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA)


The Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA") of 1998 endeavors to balance the interests of internet service providers and copyright owners when copyright infringement occurs in the digital environment. The DMCA protects internet service providers from liability for copyright infringement by their users, if the internet service provider meets certain statutory requirements. To fall within the protection of the DMCA, an internet service provider must, among other things, take certain steps when it receives notice that infringing material resides on its network; adopt and implement a policy that provides for termination in appropriate circumstances of users who are repeat infringers; and accommodate standard technical measures that are used by copyright owners to identify and protect copyrighted works. The DMCA protects only the internet service provider, and not the users of its system who infringe copyright.

Under DMCA, Guilford is considered an ISP for its students, faculty and staff. DMCA requires the college to expeditiously respond to complaints it receives of copyright infringements. When notified, under penalty of perjury, by a copyright owner of infringing materials on a computer attached to the university network, Guilford will take immediate action to block network access to the computer and notify the owner of the computer. Network access will be restored after the infringing material is removed from the computer or within 14 days after receiving a proper counter-notification unless the copyright owner files an action seeking a court order against the computer owner. A second violation will result in loss of access to the college network for three years. Additionally, as an ISP, Guilford may be served with a subpoena for the identity of the owner of a computer determined to contain infringing materials. Guilford will comply with a lawfully issued subpoena that meets the requirements of the DMCA. Violation of the DMCA can result in severe civil or criminal penalties.

Action taken by the College to remedy and/or discipline an individual for a copyright violation does not preclude the copyright holder and/or the authorities from seeking civil legal remedies and/or criminal prosecution for copyright infringement. Federal law specifies that injunctions and orders to impound infringing materials may be entered by federal courts. Violators are subject to civil liability for litigation costs and attorney fees. Violators are also subject to liability for either the profits they earned from the infringement plus the actual damages suffered by the copyright owner, or statutory damages of $750 to $30,000 for each work infringed. Where the court finds that the infringement was willful, civil statutory damages may be increased to up to $150,000. Under certain circumstances, violators can also face criminal penalties up to $2,500, and/or imprisonment for up to 10 years (17 U.S.C. 501-511; 18 U.S.C. 2319). Additionally, anyone who helps or makes it possible for another person to infringe upon a copyright may also be held liable under a legal doctrine known as "contributory infringement (Sony Corp. v. Universal Studios, 464 U.S. 417, 435, 104 S.Ct. 774, 785, 78 L.Ed.2d 574 (1984))."

Guilford College utilizes next generation firewall technology to effectively block and identify unauthorized use of peer-to-peer file sharing programs. Firewall technology also enables the college to block sites associated with digital piracy as problem sites are identified.  

A statutory limitation to the Copyright Act of importance to nonprofit educational institutions is Section 107, the doctrine of "fair use." Under this doctrine, limited use of copyrighted material is allowed without prior permission of the copyright owner if certain criteria are met. Section 107 lists purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered "fair," and presents factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair.

Pursuant to the requirements of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA), Guilford monitors the efficacy of its plans to combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials on its network on an annual basis. Based on this analysis, Guilford may modify this plan to improve effectiveness.

Enforcement: Copyright infringement notifications will be acted upon in accordance with the requirements of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) 17 U.S.C. 512(c)(3) by the DMCA Agent, following established procedures. Violations of the DMCA may result in denial of access to College computing equipment and systems and to disciplinary action.

Additional information concerning copyrights may be obtained at the following sources:


Acknowledgement: This was developed using Harvard’s DMCA Overview and UNCG’s DMCA pages.