DMCA Compliance FAQs

The copyright laws can be complex and difficult to distill.  These FAQs are intended to provide general guidance, for more detailed information, consult the UK Copyright Compliance Policy.

What is the DMCA?

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The DMCA is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. This legislation was enacted by the U.S. Congress in order to meet the unique challenges of traditional copyright law that were posed by digital media. UK’s policies with regard to notification of digital copyright violators and sanctions on abuse are based on the provisions of the DMCA.

You can find the U.S. Copyright Office's summary of the DMCA at

What are the penalties for violating Federal Copyright Laws?

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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.

How do I know what is legal and what is not when it comes to copying music or movies?

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If you download or distribute copyrighted media without authorization from the copyright owner, you are breaking the law. Distribution can mean anything from “sharing” media files on the internet to burning multiple copies of copyrighted media onto a data disk.

Doesn't my First Amendment right to free expression allow me to upload and download whatever I want?

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No, the courts have consistently demonstrated that they regard copyright infringement as theft, not as free expression.

Isn't downloading and uploading of digital material protected by the Fair Use clause?

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No, fair use covers the use of copyrighted materials for academic kinds of activities - teaching, scholarship, research, news reporting, etc. It strictly regulates the nature of the copyrighted material; the specifics of how it's being used; the amount that's being used (as a proportion of the whole work); and the effect of such use on the potential market for that material.

For example, if you are sharing a song with others on the Internet - even if you bought the song legally with your own money – this act is not considered fair use.

What is “fair use” and how does it apply to copyright law?

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Fair use is a legally permissible use of copyrighted material for specific purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching or scholarship. For more information about fair use, visit:
The best course of action is to get permission from a copyright holder before using their work. If the copyright holder does not agree that your use qualifies as “fair,” legal action can be brought against you.  Downloading and distributing copyrighted materials without authorization from the rights-holder is never an example of fair use.

Is it illegal for me to share copyrighted items even if I don't charge for it?

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Even if you're not making any money from doing it, it is still illegal for you to distribute material without permission from the copyright holder. Whether you are profiting or not, you are still illegally exploiting the work of musicians, actors, authors, etc. by giving away the work they have created – and therefore own - for free.

Can I legally download and share public domain material?

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Yes, if the copyright has expired on a work and it is truly in the public domain, you can copy and distribute it freely. Be careful, though: just because something has gone out of print (no longer being sold or being reproduced for purchase) - doesn't mean that it is in the public domain.

What is the definition of copyrighted material?

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Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the U.S. to the authors of “original works of authorship.”  The following categories are currently included in this protection:  

  • Literary works
  • Musical works, including any accompanying words
  • Dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works

Please note that material found on the internet can have the same copyright protection as material distributed through other forms of media. Exceptions include materials found in the public domain (which can be used without permission), as well as any material published before 1923 or 70 years after the creator’s death.

What is a takedown notice?

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A takedown notice directs UK to remove content (such as movies or music) from the network, and from the offending computer.

  • The representative of the copyright holder sends the takedown notice to the registered DMCA agent responsible for the IP address that was illegally sharing the copyrighted material.
  • When UK receives a takedown notice, Information Technology Services (ITS) does the following:
  1. Informs the copyright holder that the university has received their notification and is taking action. This is done through an automated response email system.
  2. Locates the computer which is doing the sharing.
  3. Removes the copyrighted content from the computer.
  4. Removes the software that was sharing the content illegally.
  5. Informs the customer that they should not be sharing copyrighted content illegally. Exceptions include materials found in the public domain (which can be used without permission), as well as any material published before 1923 or 70 years after the creator’s death. 

What if I didn't know I was sharing files?

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As a customer/consumer of UK’s network, you are responsible for all traffic to and from computers registered in your name. If you allow a visitor or friend to use your computer and they install and use file sharing programs which lead to an infringement, you are still responsible and accountable for the violation. A good rule of thumb is to never allow others to use your computer or prohibit guests from installing anything on your device. If you are not sure what is running on your computer or have reason to believe that your machine may be sharing files and need help, please contact ITS Customer Services at (859) 218-HELP (4357) or

How do I obtain network access after violating policy?

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  1. Contact ITS Customer Services (, (859) 218-4357);
  2. Review ITS Customer Services’ copyright infringement training materials; and
  3. In writing, acknowledge reading the training materials and commit to not infringe on another’s copyright in the future (per the training materials).

For any subsequent copyright infringement complaint, the customer’s access to the UK network is disabled and the Dean of Students (for students), Human Resources Department (for staff), or Office of Faculty Affairs (for faculty) is notified and that department’s processes are then followed.

What does this mean for me?  

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Violation of copyright laws may result in loss of access to computer and internet privileges, and may be subject to civil and criminal penalties (up to $250,000 and five years in prison). Read UK’s full Copyright Compliance Policy here. The university will provide a paper copy of the copyright information on request by sending an email to

Where can I learn more?

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For more information on copyright and how to appropriately use the works of others, please visit:   

  1. UK’s Copyright Website  
  2. UK’s Copyright Compliance Policy 
  3. Federal DMCA Policy 

What options exist for obtaining items legally over the internet? 

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Please use this site as a reference and resource for safe, legal means that you are able to download media online.