BU’s Copyright Violation Notification Process

Illegal File Sharing

An Important Message from the Dean of Students

It is illegal and a violation of Boston University policy to download or upload copyrighted materials unless you have permission from the copyright holder or one of the limited exceptions under the U.S. Copyright Act applies (e.g., fair use). It is copyright infringement.

How can I tell whether what I’m sharing is copyrighted material?

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

Violations of Federal Copyright Law

You could face both civil and criminal penalties for copyright infringement.

  • Civil penalties could be between $750 and $150,000 per work for willful infringement. In other words, if you download 3 songs illegally, the civil penalty could be as much as $450,000.
  • Criminal penalties for willful infringement range from fines to 10 years in prison.

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.

Violations of University Policy

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.

To avoid illegal sharing…

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
  • Torrents
  • 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.