University of Vermont

Information Technology

UVM Compliance with Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA)
Peer-to-Peer File Sharing Requirements

The Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA) provides financial support and operational guidance for US institutions of higher education. The 2008 re-authorization of the HEOA, HR 4137, included four requirements in §668.14 regarding copying of copyrighted material as conditions for institutions participating in Federal programs:

  1. Written plans to "effectively combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials by users of the institution's network";
  2. Periodic reviews of the legal alternatives for downloading or otherwise acquiring copyrighted material;
  3. Make available the results of the periodic reviews of (2) to students through a web site or via other means; and
  4. To the extent practicable, offer legal alternatives for downloading or otherwise acquiring copyrighted material.

In addition, the University is required to make readily available to enrolled or prospective students information about institutional policies and sanctions related to copyright infringement and the civil and criminal penalties associated with copyright infringement.

This web site documents UVM's compliance with the 2008 HEOA.


Unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including  peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject a student to civil and  criminal liabilities and to University student conduct sanctions.  UVM  policy prohibits unlawful use of computers or network accounts.   Violations may result in suspension or termination of access to  UVM's network or to services available through that network, and may  result in disciplinary action through the Center for Student Ethics and Standards, including suspension/dismissal or separation from the University of Vermont, employment termination,  or criminal prosecution.  This web page details the processes for responding  to complaints under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the  disciplinary actions that are taken against students who engage in illegal downloading or unauthorized distribution of copyrighted  materials using the University's information technology system.

Combating Unauthorized Distribution of Copyrighted Materials

UVM uses a combination of enforced policy, education, and technologies to combat unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material.

University policy explicitly (4.a) prohibits:

Unlawful use of computers or network accounts [which] includes, but is not limited to, defamation; obscenity; unlawful discrimination or harassment; violation of copyrights, trademarks, or licenses; and violation of other rights.

Users of UVM's network services acknowledge this prohibition when they activate their network account.

UVM introductory training programs for faculty, staff, and students include explicit reference to University policy regarding respect of copyrights and civil and criminal penalties for violation of Federal copyright laws. Training programs for faculty who develop technology-based instructional materials include material to help faculty work within Federal copyright laws.

UVM employs several technology-based deterrents to unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials and has a vigorous program for accepting and responding to Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notices:

  • Clients in Residence Life are required to register their network-connected devices with their unique and secured NetID.
  • Wireless clients, both UVM community members and guests, are required to register their devices with their identities.
  • When registering for the wired network, and when activating a Net-ID, one is presented with a summary of acceptable uses, including a notice that "unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject Users to University disciplinary action and to civil and criminal liabilities." This message is also included in email to each individual who has activated a Net-ID.
  • Network Services uses network technology to shape bandwidth from clients in Residence Life facilities to addresses outside the University in order to inhibit distribution of copyrighted material from UVM's domain.
  • Downloads from UVM's software library, including software such as Microsoft campus products, require authentication with UVM NetID/password in order to comply with license terms and conditions.

The procedure for dealing with reports of unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material is to identify the registered device owner, and:

  • On first offense:
    • forward notice of infringement and issue a reminder that unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material is prohibited; and
    • require confirmation of receipt of notification and intent to comply.

    If there is no response, suspend Internet service and require meeting with Center for Student Ethics and Standards. Approval from CSES and certification from ETS for removal of any software involved in infringement are required before restoring Internet service.

  • On second offense:
    • forward notice of infringement and issue a reminder that unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material is prohibited; and
    • require certification within three days from ETS Computer Depot Clinic of removal of infringing file(s) and any software involved in infringement.

    If there is no response, or if removal is not certified within three business days, suspend Internet service and refer incident to the Center for Student Ethics and Standards for a conduct hearing, which will result in a student conduct record. Approval from CSES and certification from ETS CDC for removal of infringing file(s) and any software involved in infringement are required before restoring Internet service.

  • On third and subsequent offenses:
    • forward notice of infringement and issue a reminder that unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material is prohibited;
    • suspend Internet service; and
    • refer incident to the Center for Student Ethics and Standards for a conduct hearing, which will result in a student conduct record.
    • Approval from CSES and certification from ETS for removal of any software involved in infringement are required before restoring Internet service.

Semiannual Reviews of Legal Alternatives

The Associate Vice President/CIO convenes semiannual (July/January) meetings with representatives from Dean of Students Office, General Counsel's Office, Compliance and Privacy Services, Client Services, and Information Security to review the effectiveness of current procedures and evaluate new legal alternatives for downloading or otherwise acquiring copyrighted material.

Notification of Results of Periodic Reviews

Students will be notified in this section of the results of the last periodic review of legal alternatives for downloading.

UVM recommends Legal Sources of Online Content, a list of sources for music and video published and regularly updated by EDUCAUSE. The site includes a link to legal online sources of books.

Institutional Information

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 and FAQ of the U.S. Copyright Office.

UVM uses a variety of methods to inform students about copyright laws:

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