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Copyright at UMass Amherst: Higher Education Opportunity Act Information

The following official statement outlines efforts at UMass Amherst to comply with the Higher Education Opportunity Act.

Information and Communication

Annual Notice to Students

The University of Massachusetts sends out an informative e-mail message to all students biannually regarding copyright infringement. In this message, students are reminded that unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material is illegal. Links are provided that contain more details, such as a summary of our penalties and policies regarding those who violate copyright law.

We time these messages to be sent out at the start of every semester. Therefore, students are reminded just as they begin to use our network every session. An excerpt of this notice is provided below:

Copyright at UMass Amherst (excerpt)

Downloading or sharing copyrighted music, pictures, movies or software is illegal. To avoid breaking the law, please do not share copyrighted materials through peer-to-peer (P2P) applications.

To learn more about copyright violations and how to avoid them, check out our Copyright Quiz

Our notice describes in short that violating copyright law will not be tolerated. In addition, a link is provided to our Copyright section within our website. A description of our policies is linked from this notice, which explains in detail our university policies.

We also require students who connect to review our Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) that clearly describes illegal copyright infringement will not be tolerated. Upon accepting this AUP, the student must complete a short quiz to make sure they understand our policy.

New students are also subject to our “New Students Orientation” presentation that includes copyright infringement policy review.

Preventive Measures

We have a Copyright and Fair Use section on our website dedicated to copyright infringement education, prevention and policies. This website contains written plans that effectively combat unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material on our network. 

Since we have a multitude of channels delivering copyright messages, we need to constantly be reviewing our methods and materials. We review our website and printed materials regularly to make sure the latest information is made available, we evaluate patterns of policy violation to learn how to prevent them in the future, and we annually review our New Student Organization presentation.

Most of our channels for communicating copyright topics include a list of legal alternatives. These materials, including print materials, New Student Orientation presentations, Copyright Class presentations, and our online copyright website (hosted on our Office of Information Technologies homepage) are periodically reviewed. We strive to make sure the list of alternatives are up to date, legal and relevant.

Legal Downloading Campaign

On our Avoid Copyright Infringement page, the first step is to use legal alternatives to acquire copyrighted material.

Our copyright class includes an updated list of legal alternatives available. We also provide an on-demand copyright presentation called “The Downsides of Downloading” within the residential spaces that promotes legal alternatives and describes the copyright issue at large.


We employ a vigorous DMCA response process. Our response processes include mandatory copyright quiz completion and acknowledgment form signing; repeated policy violations requires users to attend a copyright education session and may also be referred to our Dean of Students for further disciplinary action. See Appendix A for more details. We also deploy bandwidth-shaping technologies to mitigate abuse of network resources.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst informs users that a variety of legal alternatives are available for students to acquire copyrighted material.

Copyright holders or their designated agents may contact the university with any one of the complaints described below. This occurs when a computer registered on the campus network is identified as illegally distributing copyrighted materials .

Note: The university does not monitor individual Internet connections. Copyright complaints do not originate from UMass Amherst or UMass Amherst IT.

DMCA Compliance

Formal complaints that copyright holders may choose to file with the university for every explicit instance of copyright infringement.

First Violation Procedures

UMass Amherst IT's Responsibilities
  • Disable access to the materials violating copyright and suspend the network connection of the computer using these materials.
  • Inform the alleged infringer of the existing complaints via the Notice of Copyright Violation (pdf, 19k). We do not perform digital forensics, but can provide more information about the specific files that prompted a copyright complaint.
Student Responsibilities

Students are responsible for all activities on the campus network originating from computer(s) registered in their name. Copyright holders reserve the right to contact the university for each instance of copyright infringement.

  • Return the signed Notice of Copyright Violation to UMass Amherst IT (A109 LGRC). A signed form only confirms the receipt of the Notice and it is not an admission of responsibility.
  • Take the Copyright Quiz.

Multiple Violation Procedures

UMass Amherst IT's Responsibilities
  • Follow the First Violation Procedures -- disable the network connection of the computer identified in the DMCA Complaint and provide you with the Notice of Copyright Violation Form.
  • (For students who have received more than two copyright complaints or who have not attended the Copyright Class) Forward their name to the Dean of Students Office for disciplinary action. Sanctions could include permanent removal from the campus network and withdrawal from the university.
Student Responsibilities

Students will be able to reconnect to the campus network once they complete the First Violation Procedures (above) and attend a mandatory Copyright Class.

Early Settlement Letters

UMass Amherst IT's Responsibilities
  • Contact the affected individuals by phone and email and forward Early Settlement packages in person.
  • Offer an optional in-person consultation to discuss the situation in more detail. Note: These consultations are designed to answer general questions, and do not constitute legal advice.
Student Responsibilities

Students are encouraged to seek legal counsel in order to obtain a full understanding of these letters' possible consequences.

  • Seek legal counsel immediately. IT recommends that students contact Student Legal Services or a private attorney.
  • Pay the settlement fees -or- pursue the case in court.
    Note: The minimum statutory damages for the unauthorized use of copyrighted materials can amount to $750 per file.
  • Early Settlement Letters are highly time-sensitive communications. Students are encouraged to take action as soon as possible.
  • Ignoring Early Settlement Letters may have severe legal implications, and may result in a subpoena.
    Note: Students must address all settlement communications forwarded from IT even if they are no longer affiliated with the university.