Copyright Infringement, Peer-to-Peer File Sharing, and Intellectual Property Policy

Policy on Intellectual Integrity

Meridian's Policy on Intellectual Integrity consists of the following sections:

  1. Plagiarism
  2. Copyright Infringement
  3. Peer-to-Peer File Sharing
  4. Intellectual Property
  5. Notification of Civil and Criminal Penalties

The purposes of this policy are:

  1. To support and ensure principles of academic freedom and creative expression for students and faculty.
  2. To implement higher education standards of citation and reference in academic publication.
  3. To protect the intellectual property of the University and the copyrights of all University community members and the public at a large.

Plagiarism

Students are expected to perform with academic and personal integrity in all aspects of their program. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to: 1) Plagiarism; 2) Unauthorized use of study aids during examinations; 3) Stealing, borrowing, or purchasing another person’s work; 4) Using the same paper twice for two different courses; 5) Fabrication of research data; 6) Fabrication of citations.

Meridian has adopted the definition of plagiarism offered in Kate Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses and Dissertations, 8th ed.:

“By definition, a research paper involves the assimilation of prior scholarship and entails the responsibility to give proper acknowledgment whenever one is indebted to another for either words or ideas . . . [students must acknowledge] the words and ideas of others in a paper by quoting works accurately and attributing quotations and ideas to their authors in notes. Failure to give credit is plagiarism”.

At times, a student may find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having knowledge of another student’s academic dishonesty. In such cases, it is the student’s ethical responsibility to take steps towards the resolution of the issue. Ethical steps would involve supporting the student who acted dishonestly to disclose their actions. If this is unsuccessful, the next step would be to report the issue to the Student Development Committee, which will conduct an inquiry.

Whether or not a student meant or intended to plagiarize is only part of the issue in cases of plagiarism. Rather, the primary issue is that plagiarism has occurred. As such, it is critical to review one’s research, writing, and/or citations prior to submission to avoid even unintentional plagiarism. Note that all student papers are subject to plagiarism software scans.

When a student is found to have plagiarized or behaved in an otherwise academically dishonest manner, the issue will be brought to the attention of the Student Development Committee. The committee is authorized to take appropriate disciplinary action, ranging from requiring the student to repeat the assignment or course, do additional work, and/or take tutorial(s). The committee is also authorized to place the student on Academic Probation and/or to initiate the student’s administrative withdrawal from Meridian.

Copyright Ingringement

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.

Copyright infringement by college and university students has been so widespread that there are specific provisions in federal legislation to deal with this issue. Copyright rules for education and academia are not stringent. However, they serve as a guideline for current practices in higher education regarding intellectual property. Students are personally responsible for complying with copyright law.

It is important students review the copyright rules found on the U. S. Copyright Office website http://www.copyright.gov and understand the following terms:

  • Copyright laws and regulations
  • Public Domain (for updated information about Public Domain materials, consult the U. S. Copyright Office website)
  • Fair Use: Fair Use is not clearly defined and is often is only defined in individually in legal cases. Judges consider these four factors:
    1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
    2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
    3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
    4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Actions Taken

If Meridian is informed of a suspected copyright infringement, the following steps will be taken:

  1. The student’s access to the network will be blocked.
  2. The student will be notified that you are in violation.
  3. The Academic Records Office will be notified of the violation.
  4. The student must call or email the Academic Records Office to set up an appointment.
  5. Before meeting with a member of the Student Development Committee, the student must:
    • Remove the copyrighted material from the computer.
    • Remove any peer-to-peer file sharing software.
    • Read DMCA Act and Policy.

Once these tasks are completed, the student must meet with a member of the Student Development Committee in-person to discuss the violation and the student’s understanding of the DMCA policies. After the Student Development Committee is satisfied that the student is in compliance with the policies, they will ask IT Services to restore the student’s access to the network.

Peer-to-Peer File Sharing

The illegal distribution of copyrighted music, movies, television shows, text files, and software is a pervasive problem. The most problematic of copyright infringement are peer-to-peer file sharing systems. Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing applications are used to connect a computer directly to other computers in order to transfer files between the systems. While P2P technologies have many legitimate uses, the primary use of P2P technology has been to copy commercial music and video files, without the copyright holder's permission, for personal enjoyment. Unauthorized file sharing violates the Copyright Law.

Penalties

Students cannot share any file for which they do not have distribution rights. The use of file sharing programs for copyright protected material can have major consequences for students, including civil and criminal penalties. See Civil and Criminal Penalties for Violation of Federal Copyright Laws below for a more detailed explanation. For example, if a song was sent to ten people, the sender may face statutory damages of up to $1,500,000. In addition to civil liability, there is potential criminal liability in copyright cases, with penalties depending on the number and value of products exchanged. While some lawsuits brought by copyright owners against students can settle for much less, they still have involved settlement amounts of as much as $17,000, plus attorney fees.

Unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, whether downloading or sharing out, using the Meridian’s network is a violation of Meridian’s Internet Use Policy. It is also a violation of US civil and criminal law under the federal Copyright Act. If Meridian receives an official notice of copyright infringement under the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), we are obligated as a service provider, and as a university under the terms of the Higher Education Opportunities Act, to take action.

Intellectual Property Policy

Intellectual Property is defined as all ideas, information, and knowledge that have been created by human beings. Like physical property, intellectual property is protected by law. Students’ written work, for example, is protected by intellectual property rights; as such, faculty may not duplicate or distribute students’ written work without the student’s permission. Similarly, in-person and online course content, including lecture notes, spoken recordings, lectures, directions for online posts, assignments, and learning activities are also protected from unauthorized use, as is content in all Meridian publications such as handbooks. Dissertations cannot receive final approval or be published if they violate these standards.

Students may not distribute or sell lecture notes, directions for posts, assignments, and/or learning activities, or other content from any Meridian course (in-person or online) or publication. Additionally, students must always give appropriate and accurate attribution to Meridian faculty and other theorists in their written work, which is further addressed below.

Teaching and the Distribution of Knowledge

Faculty are encouraged to reference third-party scholarly work in their teaching (both in writing and in class and only as legally permitted) as well as their own scholarly output and the University's curriculum as a whole.

When faculty reference their own intellectual property or the University's intellectual property in their teaching, they are not inherently providing any kind of approval or permission for student use of such property. In order to support faculty's freedom to teach and share in academic contexts, the University strongly defends its faculty with regard to intellectual property issues.

University Intellectual Property

Meridian University's curriculum is proprietary and may not be duplicated, adapted, or exploited without written approval from Meridian University's Legal Affairs Team.

Meridian intellectual property includes all written course content and terminology provided within the Pivot learning platform or by other means unless such content is clearly attributed to a source external to the University.

Curriculum provided via class session teaching -- whether onsite or via video call -- is provided by University faculty based on the University's course outlines and rubrics and is the property of the University. Concepts and principles that are used in the teaching of Meridian courses generally include references to the University's own rubrics, learning outcomes, and other publications. This curricular content is owned by the University and must be regarded as such when it comes to academic reference and business enterprise efforts undertaken by students, faculty, and staff.

In addition to curricular property, University intellectual property also includes, but is not limited to, content on the website, the Pivot platform itself as a software application, the content of the Knowledge Base, and the brandmarks, logos, and various wordmarks created by the University.

Academic References

Appropriate citation of University curricular content and documents in the context of academic writing for the sole purpose of academic publication is not a breach of this policy. Academic reference of University curriculum must be clearly and conspicuously cited using applicable bibliographic standards appropriate to the means of publication.

Prior approval does not need to be sought in order to cite University curriculum in academic publications. However, if the author is concerned that their writing and/or the use of Meridian curriculum in their writing: 1) may not be considered academic writing, 2) may not be considered academic publication, 3) may be for-profit, or 4) may breech confidentiality of student work, they should seek approval.

Publication that is related to the author's business purposes (e.g. a for-profit educational enterprise) is not considered academic publication and as such must be approved in writing by Meridian University's Legal Affairs Team, which may delegate such authority to the Student Development Committee in cases involving University students. Unapproved use of University intellectual property for for-profit purposes is a breach of this policy.

Seeking Approval

Students or alumni can write to studentservices@meridianuniversity.edu to initiate the Legal Affairs Team's review of their use of University intellectual property.

Notification of Civil and Criminal Penalties

CIVIL AND CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR VIOLATION OF FEDERAL COPYRIGHT LAWS

Failure to comply with copyright and intellectual property laws can result in a variety of consequences. In addition to cease-and-desist letters or lawsuits from copyright holders or companies, students may be subject to federal penalties such as injunctions, federally assessed damages and profits, seizures, forfeitures, recovery of legal costs, and criminal prosecution. 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 attorney's’ 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 Website of the U.S. Copyright Office at: https://www.copyright.gov.

It is important the students understand the following terms:

  • Copyright laws and regulations (http://www.copyright.gov).
  • Public Domain: For updated information about Public Domain materials, consult the U. S. Copyright Office http://www.copyright.gov.
  • Fair Use: Fair Use is not clearly defined and often is only defined individually in legal cases. The four factors judges consider are:
    • The purpose and character of your use
    • The nature of the copyrighted work
    • The amount and substantiality of the portion taken
    • The effect of the use upon the potential market

(Source: Stanford Libraries and Academic Information Resources page, “Measuring Fair Use: The Four Factors” at http://fairuse.stanford.edu/Copyright_and_Fair_Use_Overview/chapter9/9-b.html#3)

Learn More

Interested in learning more about the programs at Meridian?

email an advisor »schedule a call »