It used to be that copyrighted work had to have the copyright symbol (©)
prominently placed on the work. The law has changed. Now, original work is copyrighted as soon as it is in tangible form — the copyright holder doesn’t have to register anywhere and no © is necessary.

It is not easy to tell whether a copyright has expired either. Without a lot of
research, the only materials you can be sure are out of copyright are works
published in the United States before January 1, 1923 and works published by the U.S. federal government and some state governments (including

It is no defense that…

You only listened to the songs or watched the movies in your room

You never made more copies

You didn’t know it was copyrighted

You didn’t know the law

…and in most cases, you may not rely on the Fair Use doctrine will either.

Illegal file-sharing is a violation of BU’s Conditions of Use and Policies on Computing Ethics and the Code of Student Responsibilities. The University regularly receives notice of allegations that students have shared files illegally.

For a 1st offense:

Violators will be required to participate in an educational program about copyright and certify that infringing materials have been removed from their computers.  Failure to complete those tasks within one week of notification, will result in suspension of the BU Kerberos account.

For a 2nd offense:

Violators will receive a letter from the Dean of Students, be required to participate in a second educational program, and again certify that infringing materials have been removed from their computers. Failure to complete those tasks within one week of notification, will result in suspension of the BU Kerberos account.

For a 3rd offense:

You will be referred to the Office of Judicial Affairs, which has the authority to impose the full range of sanctions, including fines, suspension, and expulsion.


1)      Check your computer for software that automatically uploads files

2)      Avoid sources of illegal media online. There are countless sources of illegal media online—too many to name here. They fall into a few basic categories

P2P (peer-to-peer) software


Browser-based downloads

Regardless of the source, if you distribute copyrighted works without permission from the copyright owner, it is a violation of law and Boston University policy

3)      Use legal alternatives, such as:

Free Streaming music:

Services like Pandora, Slicker, Last.FM and Rhapsody allow you to stream music for free.

Cheap Music Downloads:

Use services like Amazon Music Store or iTunes to buy music for as little as 99 cents.

Free Streaming Movies and TV:

Free content is available at major sites like Hulu and YouTube and smaller sites like Joost, Babelgum, and Atom Films.

Cheap Movies and TV Shows:

Stream individual movies or shows with Amazon, iTunes, or BestBuy’s Cinema, or get unlimited streaming with HuluPlus or Netflix.


Borrow, purchase or rent DVDs from the BU or public library, Redbox or a video store.

Copyright violation infringement notices are sent to your BU email account detailing the incident and infringing material/file. Upon receiving the initial notice, you have 7 days to take action and comply electronically (action and instructions on how to rectify the violation are detailed within the email notification). For more information regarding copyright notices visit this link

When you buy music legally, there is usually a copyright mark somewhere on the product. Stolen music generally doesn’t bear a copyright mark or warning. Either way, the copyright law still applies. A copyrighted creative work does not have to be marked as such to be protected by law.

It is illegal to copy a CD for use by someone other than the original purchaser. This means it is illegal to loan a friend a CD for them to copy, and it is illegal for you to make mixed CDs and distribute them to your friends as well.

If you are in the United States, U.S. law applies to you regardless of where the server may be located.

Yes, you are responsible for any activity that occurs using your account

Here is the bottom line: If you distribute copyrighted music without authorization from the copyright owner, you are breaking the law. Distribution can mean anything from “sharing” music files on the Internet to burning multiple copies of copyrighted music onto blank CD-Rs.

Yes, if the music is protected by copyright and you do not have the copyright holder’s permission. U.S. copyright law prohibits the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted creative work whether or not you charge money for it.

Yes, if the person or network you are downloading from does not have the copyright holder’s permission. Peer-to-peer systems like KaZaa, Grokster, Gnutella, LimeWire, Morpheus, WinMX, Aimster, and Bearshare have music that is not legal for you to download.

The law prohibits unauthorized copying and/or distribution of digital recordings that are recognizable copies of copyrighted work. The quality of the recordings does not matter.