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Last Updated: 05-Feb-2016
Information Technology Services
Information Technology Services: Copyrights & P2P

What are peer-to-peer (P2P) applications?

P2P applications are file sharing programs that are designed to let people easily exchange music, movies, video and other files over the Internet. Some common programs are Ares, BitTorrent, KaZaa and LimeWire.

Is P2P file-sharing illegal?

P2P file sharing is not, itself, unlawful. It's what is being shared using peer-to-peer networks that that may or may not be lawful. There are legitimate and lawful uses of peer-to-peer networks. Unfortunately, there are also illegal uses of those networks.

So what's the problem?

Copyright law protects creative work. If you download or share copyrighted material without the copyright holder's consent, you are breaking the law. Peer-to-peer programs make lawbreaking easy—so easy it might not seem illegal at all. Of course, if you get sued or arrested, the courts won't care that it didn't seem like you were doing anything wrong. The only course of action you should take is to avoid violating copyrights.

But if I bought it, why can't I share it?

When you purchasing a work (e.g., a song or a movie) it gives you the right to view, listen to, or play the work but does not allow for the distribution of that work. If you "rip" your CDs to your computer/MP3 player, or purchase and download a work online, be sure to take steps to ensure that it is not being shared [see links for reconfiguring P2P applications in the right hand column].

What if someone else uses my machine to download copyrighted materials?

You are responsible for your computer and everything that takes place on it. Use caution when lending your computer to others. You should also take necessary steps to ensure your operating system has the latest updates, patches, and virus software.

Are there legal download services available?

There are a number of legal download services, including the following:

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Other risks associated with P2P file sharing
Aside from being sued or subpoenaed, using P2P applications will put you at risk:

 • If the program is not configured correctly, you could be sharing everything on your computer like personal pictures, documents, sometimes passwords to your email and websites, and personal financial records (like tax returns) or other files that may contain names, addresses, SSNs of not only you, but your spouse and dependents.

 • Simply being connected to a P2P network can allow worms to spread without any action on your part.

 • Downloading files that contain viruses and other malware that can expose your personal files to the outside world which can lead to identity theft.

 • Many free P2P applications are known to contain spyware and adware.

 • Don't trust the name of a file on a stranger's computer: you don't always get what you were expecting. The files could be viruses or spyware disguised as songs or movies.
P2P & Bandwidth
Find out what impact P2P software has on your internet connection

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Report stolen devices (laptops, PDAs, etc) and suspected computer break-ins to ITS immediately. The sooner we know about an incident, the sooner we can respond, potentially limiting any damage.
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