Update on Peer-to-Peer File Sharing

This morning, the University’s CIO Jerry DeSanto sent out a reminder to all University community members about peer-to-peer file sharing.  We’ve posted about this before (see “What Students Should Know about Peer-to-Peer File Sharing”), but it’s such an important issue that it bears repeating. There were also some new regulations that took effect over the summer that students and faculty should be aware of.

Don’t forget: if you have questions about copyright, you can always ask a librarian!

Here’s the text of VP DeSanto’s email:

Members of the University Community:

Greetings from the Planning and Information Resources Division —  We have been hard at work during the summer months making improvements to the classrooms and computer labs, data center, enterprise applications and related services used to conduct the work of our campus community. Our technology infrastructure allows us to share resources and collaborate with each other and colleagues around the world in numerous, productive ways. I want to remind you that, while using the University’s technology resources, we have all agreed to abide by the Code of Responsible Computing and Student Computing Policy.

On July 1, 2010, final regulations from the federal government specific to the use of peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing applications within colleges and universities took effect. Peer-to-peer file sharing is widely used to exchange files, most commonly music and video; however, the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material may subject the individuals involved to 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.  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. Colleges and universities can be required to identify offenders within their network(s); The University of Scranton will comply with any court orders it may receive.

The University limits the amount of bandwidth allotted to peer-to-peer applications in order to ensure the availability and integrity of our network and services. In addition, we prohibit the use of those aggressive peer-to-peer applications that utilize excessive network resources or are known to carry mostly illegal content. As stated in the University’s Copyright Compliance and Peer-to-Peer File Sharing Policy , individuals who are in violation of policy will be subject to disciplinary action, which may range from written warnings, fines, counseling, and/or suspension of network access. If you have any questions about this please contact the Technology Support Center at 941-HELP (x4357).

Best wishes for a very rewarding academic year.
Jerome P. DeSanto
Vice President for Planning and CIO

What Students Should Know about Peer to Peer File Sharing

Photo courtesy of Phoney Nickle, under a Creative Commons license
Photo courtesy of flickr user Phoney Nickle, under a Creative Commons license

Here at the Library, we love pirates.  (Who doesn’t?)  But we don’t love hearing about our students being pirates – that is, pirating music, movies, or other copyrighted material.

Here’s what you need to know about pirating:  Downloading or distributing whole copies of copyrighted material for personal use or entertainment without *explicit* permission from the copyright owner is against the law – and the movie and music industries are increasingly searching for and prosecuting people who violate their copyright (yes, including students – for a first hand account, see “How it feels to be sued for $4.5 million,” by Joel Tenebaum).

For this reason, the University of Scranton is particularly concerned about peer-to-peer file sharing.  Not all file sharing is illegal – you can legally share content that you’ve created, or content for which the creator has given permission to share  (for example, some artists and musicians choose to share using a Creative Commons license – like the photographer who took the pirate photo that we’ve used at the top of this post).  But sharing anything that’s under copyright – and that’s mostly everything! – is a violation of both federal law and the University’s Student Computing Policy.

As a result, the University prohibits some peer-to-peer applications and limits bandwidth on others, and student violations  are taken very seriously – see the  University’s Peer-to-Peer File Sharing Policy.

So what’s a movie-and-music-loving student to do?  There are *legal* ways to listen to music and watch movies either for free or for a low price.  For music, try out free internet radio stations like Pandora or playlist.com.  If you prefer to own your own mp3s, check out Amazon’s mp3 store – songs are often $0.99 or less, and each week samplers of new music are available for free.  For movies, become a fan of the University of Scranton Programming Board on Facebook to get the latest updates on free movie showings on campus.  If you’re willing to pay a few bucks, explore streaming music services from Netflix or iTunes.

Want to know more?  If you have questions about the University’s policies on file sharing, contact the Technology Support Center at extension 4357.  If you have general questions about copyright, feel free to ask a librarian – we have lots of resources on copyright and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.