HEOA Compliance Plan
The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), signed into law on August 14, 2008 went into effect on July 1, 2010. This legislation was proposed in order to combat illegal file sharing and copyright infringement across college and university campuses. The Southwest Mississippi Community College Information Technology Department has drafted policies and procedures in order to comply with the Information Technology portions of the HEOA.
This document applies to all users of both wired and wireless networks on the SMCC campus, including: faculty, staff, students, and visitors.
H.R 4137, the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), is a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. It includes provisions that are designed to reduce the illegal uploading and downloading of copyrighted works through peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. These provisions include requirements that:
- Institutions make an annual disclosure that informs students that the illegal distribution of copyrighted materials may subject them to criminal and civil penalties and describes the steps that institutions will take to detect and punish illegal distribution of copyrighted materials.
- Institutions certify to the Secretary of Education that they have developed plans to “effectively combat” the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material.
- Institutions, “to the extent practicable,” offer alternatives to illegal file sharing.
- Institutions identify procedures for periodically reviewing the effectiveness of the plans to combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials.
In order to fulfill the annual disclosure requirement, the SMCC IT Department has adopted the following actions:
- The SMCC Director of Information Technology will send an email message to all students during the fall of each year concerning the college’s policies and regulations as part of the compliance requirement for annual reporting.
- Users must agree to the college’s Acceptable Use Policy and Consent to Monitor Statement when logging on to campus computers.
- Policies and procedures dealing with DMCA violations and illegal file sharing on campus have been added to the campus network Acceptable Use Policy.
Southwest Mississippi Community College has implemented a variety of technology-based deterrents to help combat illegal distribution and sharing of copyrighted materials as per required in the HEOA.
- The college operates and maintains bandwidth packet shapers which severely restrict the throughput of popular file sharing programs.
- The college implements intrusion detection and prevention systems that are capable of detecting and blocking certain file sharing applications as well as protecting the SMCC network from malware and security threats to campus computers and network devices.
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.
Alternatives to Illegal Downloading
There are legal alternatives to file sharing for students, faculty, staff, and other users on the SMCC network. The links below provide more information on these alternatives and will periodically be reviewed and updated as more options become available.