Copyright Law and Peer-to-Peer File Sharing
What is Peer-to-Peer?
Peer-to-Peer (“P2P”) file sharing is a way of exchanging or transferring files over
the Internet. 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. Below is a list of various P2P programs that
allow users to exchange and share files:
- Bit Tornado
What is wrong with Peer-to-Peer file sharing?
Copyrights help to ensure that authors of creative works can control how those works
are used and prevent others from capitalizing on, or using or distributing, the works
without permission. While P2P file sharing programs may be used for legitimate reasons,
these programs are overwhelmingly used for the illegal distribution of copyrighted
works such as music, movies, software, books, images, and TV programs without permission
from the copyright owner. Sharing any file of a work that you did not create yourself
as an original work, is not in the public domain, or for which you do not have permission
to share can have serious consequences. Not only are there substantial legal risks,
using P2P programs degrade the speed of the University’s network, may contain spy-ware,
viruses, or exploits that may allow unauthorized access to the machine as well as
the network hosting the program. The laws that govern copyright are not specific
to any one technology; you can violate the rights of a copyright holder using many
different types of technology. Both uploading and downloading of copyrighted files
can violate copyright law.
What is the University’s policy on Peer- to-Peer file sharing?
Most, if not all, of the P2P programs listed above threaten or disrupt the integrity
of the University’s computing services and its network. The University respects the
intellectual property of others, regardless of the medium in which the material is
transmitted in as this is a cornerstone of academic integrity. Access to the University’s
technology resources is a privilege granted to students, faculty, staff, and approved
guests. Everyone using these resources is responsible for using them in an effective,
ethical and lawful manner. We prohibit the use of unauthorized distribution of copyrighted
material, which is a violation of the University’s Acceptable Use of Information Technology Resources Policy and the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities
What is the University doing to combat Peer-to-Peer File Sharing?
The University currently employs bandwidth-shaping technology to prioritize network
traffic. We also have appliances from Audible Magic that detect and block copyright
What will happen if I am caught using these programs?
If you are found violating copyright laws or University policy, the University, in
accordance with its policy, may terminate your campus computer connection and will
impose proper sanctions. Sanctions may include, but are not limited to, limitation
or revocation of access rights and/or other sanctions up to and including suspension
or expulsion for students, and termination for employees.
In addition, there are 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. 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 web site of the U.S. Copyright Office at www.copyright.gov,
especially their FAQ's at www.copyright.gov/help/faq.
How do I remove P2P Software from my computer?
Refer to AskTOM article How do I remove P2P software from my computer?
Where to I Download Music, Movies, and Software Legally?
Everyone knows how easy it can be to locate illegal copies of music, movies and software
on the Internet. The MusicUnited web site provides links to many legal music pages where you can locate MP3s and other
forms of digital music that are provided for free or at a small charge. RespectCopyrights.org links to several online services where you can download and watch movies ranging
from major feature films to independent short subjects. These sites, which are sponsored
by a number of groups in the recording and motion picture industries, are also great
sources of information about illegal file sharing, the effects it has on the music
industry, and the consequences it can have for individuals.
While the University cannot endorse any particular Internet music or movie service
provider, we do recommend the organizations above as good starting points as well
as the following sources: