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Peer-to-Peer File Sharing

 

 

GUIDELINES FOR USERS OF THE UTPB COMPUTER NETWORK

Revised 01/05/2004


Things You Should Know About Peer-To-Peer (P2P) File Sharing

  • P2P File Sharing May Violate Federal Copyright Laws

  • P2P File Sharing Consumes Network Capacity And Slows Everyone Down

  • P2P File Sharing May Make Your System More Susceptible To Virus Infection

  • P2P File Sharing May Make Your Personal Information Available To Others


Introduction

 

Peer-to-peer (P2P) applications such as Napster, Gnutella, iMesh, Audiogalaxy Satellite, and KaZaA, make it easy for users to exchange files with each other over the Internet. While these programs are a good way of sharing information, they are not entirely harmless and can cause problems for personal computer systems as well as for the University network.

This document provides the information users may need to avoid degrading the performance of the University’s network, to avoid unknowingly sharing personal data, to prevent inadvertently violating Federal copyright law, or to prevent exposing personal computer equipment to malicious code or unacceptable use when using peer-to-peer applications.

Copyright Issues

File-sharing applications make it easy for you to share music, videos, movies, software, text and other files. However, unless you have the explicit permission of the copyright owner to possess or distribute the material, you may be in violation of federal copyright law. It is best to assume that all material is copyrighted.

The University cannot protect you from a copyright complaint. You are not insulated from legal action because of your status as a student or because you use University network resources. In fact, we may be legally required to assist a complainant in pursuing action against you. The penalties can range from University sanctions to civil and criminal prosecution. Individual copyright owners and the entertainment industry are quite active in pursuing legal actions. You are not protected just because you received material at no cost or are distributing material with no charge. Your only protection is to not possess or distribute any unlicensed copyrighted material.

Network Capacity

Most P2P applications you install will usually be configured so other users can access your hard drive and share your files all of the time. This constant file transfer can degrade your computer’s performance and generate heavy traffic loads on the University network, making it difficult for other users of the network to work well. The network is a shared resource and we all must use it responsibly. Network traffic capacity (referred to as “bandwidth”) is a limited and expensive resource that we must all consume responsibly.

UTPB network bandwidth consumption is monitored. If your usage could possibly impact the overall performance of the network, your computer may be blocked until the situation can be discussed and resolved.

Students living in University housing are limited in the amount of bandwidth they can use. Having P2P applications running all the time can quickly use up your bandwidth quota.

Before you install any program on your computer, especially a P2P application, read that program’s documentation and disable, if possible, unlimited file-sharing access.

Security

Virus writers are increasingly targeting file-sharing applications. If malicious code infects your computer, it can spread to millions of computers on the Internet. It is essential that you keep your anti-virus program up to date and install programs acquired only from reputable sources.

Some file-sharing applications also access your computer to provide a computational or storage resource for another organization’s personal use. This may not be an acceptable use of state-owned resources such as the UTPB network.

Privacy

If you are running a file-sharing application, make sure you know which files and data the program can access and provide to others. You may be inadvertently sharing personal information such as e-mail messages and credit card information.

University Policy and Assistance

In summary, please remember that file-sharing programs are not necessarily harmless and in using them you may inadvertently consume excessive network bandwidth, violate copyright law, inadvertently share confidential information or make your computer insecure. Disproportionate bandwidth usage and copyright infringement are violations of the University’s rules for acceptable use of information technology and may subject you to serious disciplinary action. For more information, read the University's Information Technology Policies on the UTPB IRD web site at http://www.utpb.edu/ird/rr/.