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Policy regarding copyright issues.

Owner: Information Technology

Members of the Teachers College community are bound by, and should be familiar with,  Columbia University’s Copyright Policy, available at and reproduced here:

Intellectual honesty is the foundation of our academic lives. Original thought and proper credit for others' work is central to learning and teaching. Like plagiarism, violation of copyright is a serious breach of the commitment to intellectual integrity that you made when you came to Columbia.

As a member of the Columbia community, you have access to the Internet and World Wide Web—from a departmental or personal computer or your CUNIX account. We hope that you will take advantage of this privilege. Please remember that you are responsible for what you do including complying with copyright law—whether using the Web to read or publish pages or using file-sharing programs like Kazaa, Gnutella, IRC, FTP, or others.

You must respect copyright. Copyright protection covers any original work of authorship that is fixed in some tangible medium of expression. To be original does not mean that it has to have any literary merit. Even ordinary e-mail messages or postings are protected by copyright. Nor does the creator have to do anything for a work to be protected by copyright. A work is protected from the moment it is created, and it does not have to contain a copyright notice to qualify for protection.

What this broad coverage means is that just about any work you come across, including software, books, music, film, video, articles, cartoons, pictures, and e-mail, whether on the Internet, a CD, DVD, or tape, is likely to be protected by copyright. Copyright law prohibits anyone from copying, distributing, making derivative works, publicly displaying or publicly performing a copyrighted work unless the user has the express permission of the copyright owner or the user qualifies under one of the legal exceptions, the most common of which is "fair use." Fair use is a complex doctrine that does not provide clear rules about which uses are fair and which are not. However, "fair use" almost never allows the distribution of a complete work, or even significant portions of one. The sharing of copyrighted music, film or other media, via a file sharing programs like Kazaa, Morpheus and Gnutella is virtually never a fair use. For more information on fair use, and other legal exceptions, see

All network users must comply with federal copyright law. Violations of copyright law are also violations of University policy. Copying, distributing, sharing, downloading, or uploading any information or material on the Internet may infringe the copyright for that information or material.

The University must take appropriate action under the terms of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, if it receives notice of copyright infringement. A notice of infringement could be a notice from a record or film industry representative that copyrighted music or a film is being downloaded and distributed without the permission of the copyright owner. Among other things, the University is legally required to take action to cause the infringing activity to cease. Actions may also include invalidation of an e-mail account, disconnecting a network port, and a report to the appropriate dean or manager for disciplinary action. In the case of repeat infringers, the University is required under the law to take away the infringer's computer account and terminate all access to our network.

In addition to any University action, the copyright owner may also take further legal action against the individual concerned.

File-sharing programs automatically distribute files. Please be aware that programs like Kazaa, Morpheus, and Gnutella automatically turn on sharing when installed. If you use such programs, please ensure that you are not violating copyright by default, e.g., by sharing music or other media files or software you have loaded on your computer. Even unintentional infringement violates the law. 

Teachers College does not monitor user activity nor does it search out material that may have been posted in violation of another’s copyright, but the College is legally responsible for acting on the receipt of infringement notices from copyright owners and their authorized agents.  A copyright owner can, through a subpoena, require the College to identify persons engaging in unauthorized copying, downloading or sharing. When Teachers College receives notice about possible violations of copyright, the notice typically provides an IP address as well as date and time of the infringing event.  If CIS can determine the user from the IP address, the infringement notice is forwarded directly to the user. An original of the email is maintained. The user’s device may be placed into quarantine and the user may lose network access.  

The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 requires institutions to take steps to combat unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials through illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution.   The College generally applies a three step approach to such unauthorized distribution, but particularly egregious misconduct may result in more severe consequences. Please see Penalties for Violation of Copyright Law (Copyright-Penalties for Violation) and Complaints about and Discipline for Violation of CIS Policies. (Complaints about and Discipline for Violation of IT Policies)

Responsible Office: Computing and Information Services

Effective Date: April 2015 

Last Updated: April 2015

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