Peer to Peer File Sharing and Copyright Infringement
Peer to Peer File Sharing (P2P)
Peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing technology (such as BitTorrent, Gnutella, and LimeWire) allows users to make files available for other users to download and use. Files stored on one computer may be made available to others on the Internet through the use of P2P technology.
When is P2P File Sharing Illegal or in Violation of Campus Policy?
If your files are protected by copyright, you may be violating federal copyright law by making the files available for download. You may not even be aware that your P2P applications are enabling file sharing on your computer.
In addition, campus policy prohibits the use of campus resources for copyright infringement. Whenever you connect to the campus ResNet or wireless networks, you are using campus resources, and you are responsible for the use of your computer and your connection.
The campus receives notices of illegal file sharing on the campus network nearly every day from organizations such as the Recording Industry of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). We are required to investigate these claims of copyright infringement and repeat offenders may lose their network privileges.
How to Stay in Compliance with the Law
Make sure that your computer is not set up to share your files over the Internet. Remove any P2P applications installed on your computer. These applications are designed to enable open file sharing and may default or revert to sharing mode without your knowledge.
Avoid P2P file sharing on the campus network. The industry actively targets college networks when looking for illegally shared music and movies.
But there’s some good news - there are legal alternatives! A list of some legal sources of online content can be found at www.educause.edu/legalcontent.
The RIAA and Motion Picture Association of America Web sites have information about their current activities and some background on why they are working to prevent the theft of creative content. They can be found at www.riaa.org/ and www.mpaa.org/.
Summary of Civil and Criminal Penalties for Violation of Federal Copyright Laws
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. Penalties for copyright infringement include 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. 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.