Peer-to-Peer (P2P) and File Sharing Overview

What is Peer-to-Peer File Sharing?

Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing allows users to make files available for other users to download and use. When installed your computer, file sharing software enables others to download the user’s files onto their own computers.


Example of a P2P system (from Wikipedia)

Does Using P2P Software Violate ITS Policy?

Using P2P software itself is not a violation of ITS policy; for example, the popular communication service Skype uses a type of P2P technology. However, if you use P2P software to illegally download and distribute protected or copyrighted material such as movies, music or other media, you then violate federal copyright law in addition to the ITS Copyright Infringement policy.

P2P Software Can Put Your Data At Risk

In addition to copyright infringement, using P2P may expose sensitive information on your computer, such as protected health information or proprietary WCMC intellectual property, to users outside of the WCMC community, which is a violation of ITS user policy for Responsible Use of Information Technology Resources. If you have P2P file-sharing applications installed on your computer, you may be sharing copyrighted works illegally without even realizing it. Even if you do not intend to engage in infringing activity, simply installing P2P software on a computer can easily end up sharing unintended files with other P2P users, and you may then be personally responsible for the legal and financial consequences of illegal file sharing on your computer.

Illegal Use of P2P Violates WCMC policy

In addition to prohibiting the use of the WCMC computer network to violate copyright, ITS policy forbids activity that threatens the security of the network and computing environment. P2P software can undermine network security and expose your computer to threats, such as viruses, malware, password and identity theft, spyware, and other threats that can incapacitate computers. P2P file-sharing software can also impede legitimate network traffic at busy times of the day.

ITS policy covering use of the network extends to any computers you connect to the WCMC network, whether at home or elsewhere off campus. If you use VPN connections from home, your home network becomes visible as part of the WCMC network.

What Can Happen If I Am Caught Using P2P Software Illegally?

If ITS detects that a user is using P2P software and has copyrighted material on their computer, a thorough investigation will be conducted, during which the user may be disconnected from the WCMC network until the copyrighted material is removed. It may also result in disciplinary action by being escalated to Human Resources or Academic Affairs.

Content owners, such as the recording industry, movie studios, and game and software companies, are specifically targeting illegal file sharing on university networks. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has employed aggressive legal strategies to address illegal file sharing, such as forwarding “early settlement letters” for alleged infringers and filing infringement lawsuits. Since September 2003, the RIAA has filed suits against more than 20,000 individuals using P2P software worldwide. ITS is diligently addressing this issue to and educate the college community in this area to uphold regulatory requirements and reduce the risk to our network.

Legal Alternatives for Online Music and Video

There are many legal options for online content. Educause has provided a growing list of services that you can use to enjoy music, videos, books and more.