File Sharing and the Higher Education Opportunity Act

Clemson University recognizes that there are legitimate uses for file sharing and does not want to block or limit those who need to collaborate with others. However, due to legislation outlined in the re-authorization of the Higher Education Opportunity Act that was signed into law in 2008 with an implementation date of July 1, 2010, Clemson University is obligated to comply with the various aspects the HEOA.  The peer-to-peer, file-sharing, and copyright stipulations are outlined below followed by Clemson University's proposed actions in response to comply:

1) Annual Disclosure

Each institution must provide notification to each student which contains the following:

a. A statement that explicitly informs its students that unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject the students to civil and criminal liabilities;

b. A summary of the penalties for violation of Federal copyright laws; and

c. A description of the institution's policies with respect to unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, including disciplinary actions that are taken against students who engage in illegal downloading or unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials using the institution's information technology system.

Clemson University's Response:  Jointly, the Office of Information Security and Privacy along with the Office of Community and Ethical Standards will send out via email a notice both at the beginning of the Fall and Spring semesters informing the students of the liabilities and other issues associated with illegal file sharing on the campus infrastructure.  This email notification will contain all or part of the following verbiage provided by the Department of Education:


"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 of the U.S. Copyright Office at, especially their FAQ's at"

Additionally, students will be reminded of the Acceptable Use Policy in which each student is responsible for accepting prior to using the computing resources at Clemson University.  This policy can be found at Student Acceptable Use Policy

Penalties will be assessed on the merits of each case and to be adjudicated by the Office of Community and Ethical Standards.  Additional information about OCES and their response to the Higher Education Opportunity Act go to OCES-Downloads, File Sharing and Copyright Infringements information page.


2) A plan to effectively combat unauthorized distribution using technology-based deterrents.

There are four categories of "technology-based deterrents" that institutions can use to meet this requirement.  Only one category has to be used, and each category is weighted equally valid in meeting this requirement.

1. Bandwidth shaping

2. Traffic monitoring to identify the largest bandwidth users

3. A vigorous program of accepting and responding to Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notices

4. A variety of commercial products designed to reduce or block illegal file sharing

Clemson University's Response:  Clemson University has chosen to deploy technology based deterrents found in categories 2 and 3.  Periodically monitoring anomalies in bandwidth usage among the campus network coupled with a stringent and effective program to respond appropriately to any and all DMCA notices will effectively meet the criteria of this requirement.

3) Legal Alternatives

Clemson University's Response: Legal Alternatives both for pay and other free services are maintained via this site maintained by the Educause community.  Legal Download Alternatives.


In addition to the above requirements, HEOA requires an annual review of the institutions plan of combating illegal and unauthorized file sharing.  Each summer, OISP and OCES will meet to review the effectiveness of current polices, procedures, and practices and make the appropriate changes as deemed neccessary.

help button

Contact CCIT
Service Desk:

Support Hours
(864) 656-3494

Live Chat

Help & Support Form
Use this form to report a problem, ask for help or leave a comment.