University Process on Dealing with Possible Infringement of Intellectual Property Rights

I. Introduction

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act amends federal copyright law to provide certain liability protections for online service providers, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, when their computer systems or networks carry materials that violate (infringe) copyright law. To qualify for liability protection, the University is required to have a policy under which the computer accounts of users will be terminated if they repeatedly infringe the copyrighted works of others.

II. Background Information

Compliance with federal copyright law is expected of all students, faculty, and staff at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Copyright” is legal protection for creative intellectual works, which is broadly interpreted to cover just about any expression of an idea. Text (including email and Web information), graphics, art, photographs, music, and software are examples of types of works protected by copyright. The creator of the work, or sometimes the person who hired the creator, is the initial copyright owner.

You may “use” all or part of a copyrighted work only if (a) you have the copyright owner’s permission, or (b) you qualify for a legal exception (the most common exception is called “fair use”). “Use” of a work is defined for copyright purposes as copying, distributing, making derivative works, publicly displaying, or publicly performing the work.

Copying, distributing, downloading, and uploading information on the Internet may infringe the copyright for that information. Even an innocent, unintentional infringement violates the law. Violations of copyright law that occur on or over the University’s networks or other computer resources may create liability for the University as well as the computer user. Accordingly, repeat infringers will have their computer account and other access privileges terminated.

Copyright violations are violations of the UNC-CH IT Appropriate Use Policy. Violators may be referred to the appropriate disciplinary procedure. Violations of law may also be referred for criminal or civil prosecution. Since copyright infringement is a violation of the student code of conduct, instances involving student infringement may be referred to the Student Attorney General.

III. Processes

A. Notice and Counter Notice When the University Receives an Infringement Claim Against You Based on Your Personal Use

Notice: A copyright owner, or person acting for the owner, must provide the University’s designated agent ( ), with written notice that information residing on the University’s computer systems or networks is an infringement of the copyright. This notice must meet the requirements of 17 U.S.C. 512(c)(3). The notice requirement also applies to information in system cache and to information location tools (e.g., hypertext links) that infringe copyright.

[Note: if a person working for the University has independent knowledge of a copyright violation on a University computer system or network, the University may have a duty to remove the infringing material. This is true even if there is no “notice” from the copyright owner. Therefore that person should report the violation to a computer administrator and to the Security Office as soon as possible.]

Removal of information: The University will promptly remove or disable access to the allegedly infringing material.

Notice to computer user: The University will promptly inform the computer account, holder/user, that the allegedly infringing material has been removed or access has been disabled.

Counter-notice from computer user: The computer account holder/user may send the University’s designated agent ( ), a written statement that the removal or disabling of access was based on a mistake or misidentification. This counter notice must meet the requirements of 17 U.S.C. 512(g)(3).

Transmittal of counter notice: The designated agent will promptly transmit a copy of the counter-notice to the person who complained of infringement, and will inform that person that the removed material or disabled access will be restored in 10 business days.

Final University action: The University will restore the material or access no less than 10 business days and no more than 14 business days from receipt of the counter-notice, unless the person who complained of infringement first notifies the designated agent that the complainant has filed a court action to restrain the computer account holder/user from the infringing activity that was the subject of the original notice to the University.

B. Process When the University has Noticed that Material you Provided for an Official University Website, or Provided for another Internet Communication on behalf of the University, may Infringe on Intellectual Property Rights

The University has a legal duty to ensure that official web sites, official email, and other official communications and expressions do not violate the intellectual property rights of third parties. The most common intellectual property rights found on the Internet involve copyright and trademark/service marks.

“Official” web sites and communications include those that are funded or otherwise sponsored by the University for a university purpose, or which are created by an employee or agent of the University who is acting within the authorized scope of employment or agency on behalf of the University (e.g., posting course materials on the web for educational use of enrolled students).

The University has “notice” of possible infringement when a third party advises a university official that there is an infringement, or when it appears to a university official that material is likely to be infringing based on the circumstances (e.g., copies of nationally syndicated cartoons appear on a university web site without any statement of copyright permission).

When the University has notice of a possible intellectual property infringement in official university-provided content, it will in good faith:

Attempt to establish who truly owns the copyright (or other intellectual property) through consultation with the author of the University content and the party claiming ownership.

Attempt to determine if any legal defense (e.g., “fair use”) exists to allow the material to be used by the University.

Attempt to negotiate permission or settlement if it appears that the content is infringing or if it appears that settlement is preferable to litigating an unclear claim. If permission or settlement is not feasible and it appears that the material is infringing, the University will remove the material.

Determine if any disciplinary action is appropriate against the person who posted infringing content. In the case of repeated infringement or bad faith infringement, disciplinary sanctions may include termination of computer privileges. Violations of the above terms of the agreement may result in the suspension of computing privileges, disciplinary review, termination of employment, and/or legal action. ITS will refer serious violations to the appropriate department for disciplinary action.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has the twin objectives of minimizing liability while also providing full legal support for the activities of faculty and staff. In the context of copyright and other intellectual property, this means that University Legal Counsel should be advised as soon as there is any notice of possible infringement. Legal Counsel will work with the university content provider to establish any defenses. However, if there is inadequate information to provide a defense, or it appears that no defense exists, the best route to minimize university damages may be prompt removal of the allegedly infringing material.

Removal of official university content, especially course materials, can be harmful to academic freedom, to teaching effectiveness, and to the university’s educational mission. Therefore, faculty and staff are encouraged to secure copyright permission, or a license, or a legal basis for use of someone else’s intellectual property without permission, before using the material.

Direct questions to:

ITS Security Office


Telephone: (919) 445-9393

Fax: (919) 445-9488

For more information:

Please visit our Copyright Policy.