Copyright Policy



Copyright Policy

Copyright is a form of legal protection provided by United States law (title 17 U.S.C. 512(c)(2)) that protects an owner’s right to control the reproduction, distribution, performance, display and transmission of a copyrighted work. The public, in turn, is provided with specific rights for "Fair Use” of copyrighted works. Copyrighted works protect "original works of authorship” and include:


  • Books, articles and other writings
  • Songs and other musical works
  • Movies and television productions
  • Pictures, graphics and drawings
  • Computer software
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Sculptural and architectural works

Specific information on copyright law and fair use may be found:


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Copyright Infringement

The copyright law provides the owner of copyright in a work the exclusive right:


  • To reproduce the work in copies.
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the work.
  • To distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending.
  • To perform the work publicly.
  • To display copyrighted work publicly.
  • In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

The copyright law states that "anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner…is an infringer of the copyright or right of the author”. Generally, under the law, one who engages in any of these activities without obtaining the permission of the copyright owner may be liable for infringement.


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Peer-to-Peer File Sharing

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file sharing is a general term that describes software programs that allow computer users, utilizing the same P2P software, to connect with each other and directly access digital files from one another’s hard drives. Many copyrighted works may be stored in digital form, such as software, movies, videos, photographs, etc. Through P2P file sharing it has become increasingly easy to store and transfer these copyrighted works to others thus increasing the risk that users of P2P software and file sharing technology will infringe the copyright protections of content owners.

If P2P file-sharing applications are installed on your computer, you may be sharing someone else’s copyrighted materials without realizing you are doing so. As a user of the WGU network it is important that you recognize the legal requirements of files that you may be sharing with others. You should be very careful not to download and share copyrighted works with others.

The transfer and distribution of these works without authorization of the copyright holder is illegal and prohibited.


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Violations and Penalties under Federal Law

In addition to university sanctions under its policies as more fully described below, 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.


University Plans to Effectively Combat Unauthorized Distribution of Copyrighted Material: Student Sanction

As a student, your conduct at WGU is subject to and must fully conform to the WGU Student Code of Conduct policy, its Acceptable Use policy, and any other applicable University policies.

WGU may monitor traffic or bandwidth on our networks utilizing information technology programs designed to detect and identify indicators of illegal peer-to-peer file sharing activity. In addition to, or as an alternative, the university may employ other technical means to reduce or block illegal file sharing and other impermissible activities. 


Legal Sources for Online Music and Videos

The following links are online sources that provide information on legal access to copyrighted music and videos:

EDUCAUSE (opens new window)
Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) (opens new window)
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) (opens new window)


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Article Number: 21085, 2657

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‎08-14-2019 12:20 PM
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