Why Copyright Matters:
Understanding what can happen to you
The most obvious risk resulting from illegal reproduction or redistribution of copyrighted material is the risk of litigation or the threat of litigation.
While the "fair use" provisions permit certain uses of copyrighted materials for educational purposes, not all uses, even within the classroom, fall under "fair use." Copyright owners who believe their rights have been violated may bring legal action against the infringer. University faculty, staff and students can be held personally liable for unauthorized use of copyrighted works. A successful suit may result in the violator paying monetary damages and legal fees. If you willfully infringe a copyright, a court can award damages of up to $150,000 for each infringement. Willful copyright infringement can also be a crime under federal law. It is therefore important to understand the conditions under which something may be considered fair use.