Peer-to-Peer File Sharing
Network Capacity and Policy Issues Arising from the Use of Peer-to-Peer File Sharing Programs and Services
Recently, there has been significant media coverage, and controversy, surrounding the use of KaZaA and other peer-to-peer file sharing programs and services available on the Internet. These programs are designed to let people easily exchange music, movies, videos, and other files over the Internet.
In the final analysis, programs and services like KaZaA, Napster, Gnutella, iMesh, CuteMX, Scour Exchange, and FreeNetfile - are not as harmless as they might seem. This advisory points out the serious legal implications of violating copyright laws by sharing certain materials via these programs, and also focuses on the negative impact that these file sharing programs can have on network capacity. Additional security risks are also described.
It is tempting to conclude that the issues raised primarily involve our students. However, a number of our staff and faculty may be using the new file sharing technologies to explore what is available on the constantly developing Internet. So all members within the University community need to be aware of these issues.
Here's what we need to know about peer-to-peer file sharing programs and services:
Negative Effects on Network Performance
Peer-to-peer file sharing applications and services such as KaZaA, Napster, Gnutella, iMesh, CuteMX, Scour Exchange, and FreeNet, can generate so much network traffic that they adversely affect network performance for users who share the same local network. Use of these applications is perceived as being most widespread among students - many of whom subscribe to ResNet, Loyola University Chicago's Residence Hall Network Services. Many members of the University community who use the LoyolaConnect resource to get to the Internet through the University network also download these programs. And some are using their desktop computers in the computing centers and the labs, and university offices.
All persons who are authorized to access and use University computing, networking, telephony and information resources are required to use these resources in a manner that advance the education, research, health care and public service missions of the University. Any access and use of these resources and services that interfere with these goals are not permitted.
Information Services is continuously monitoring the network traffic situation as it relates to the use of these file sharing applications. Users on the University network whose usage hinders network performance and interferes with others trying to use the network for University work will be contacted. Action to maintain network integrity and performance will be taken where necessary.
This is not only a matter of network etiquette. Interfering with the ability of others to use network services violates Loyola University Chicago policy and may be grounds for suspension of access to University computing and networking resources and can result in other appropriate sanctions.
File Sharing Applications and Copyright Issues
Providing or obtaining copyrighted material, e.g., music, movies, videos, text, and etc., without permission from the rightful owner violates the United States Copyright Act and several university policies. While it is true that a number of artists have allowed their creative works to be freely copied, those artists remain very much the exception. It is best for you to assume that all works are copyright-protected except those that explicitly state otherwise. As an individual, you should also be aware that you face liability for damages of up to $30,000 per infringement under the U.S. Copyright Act.
Additionally, students, faculty and staff who may be in violation of copyright law place not only themselves at risk - they may be incurring liability for Loyola University Chicago as an institution, e.g., using the University network resources to obtain the material and/or to store the material on University servers.
If an artist, author, publisher, or law enforcement agency notifies the University that you are violating copyright laws then the relevant offices within the University will investigate the complaint. If appropriate, action will be taken against you in accordance with University policy. In some cases, violations of University policy could result in suspending your network access privileges and/or criminal prosecution under state and federal statutes.
Computers Acting as Servers
Peer-to-peer file sharing applications typically allow you to set up your computer so that other people can access files you choose to make available to them. While this might seem like a nice service to offer, there are some serious drawbacks.
Having your computer act as a server can burden the University networks if your server is popular and does excessive, high-volume transfers of files. For example, MP3 files are usually very large files, between 2 and 10 MB in size. Some applications let you choose NOT to be a server, but others, such as Gnutella, don't. If you simply install the software and don't take the time to read any documentation, you may not even realize your computer is a server. Make sure you understand what the software does.
Note: machines acting as servers for materials which infringe copyright can and will have their network connections turned off in response to complaints.
Another serious problem with setting up your computer as a server is that you could be opening a security hole for hackers, allowing them access to your entire computer. Peer-to-peer file sharing applications differ in how much security they provide. Be cautious.
If you have installed a peer-to-peer file sharing application on your computer that connects to the University network and you have considered the issues presented in this advisory and now would like to remove the application, you can usually achieve this in a Microsoft Windows environment by clicking on START, SETTINGS, CONTROL PANEL and then select ADD/REMOVE PROGRAMS.
If you still need assistance to remove the application you can contact the University ITS Help Desk at 8-4ITS (or call 773 508-4487), or send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org
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September 16, 2011: Initial Policy
October 29, 2012: Annual Review for PCI Compliance, Removed or fixed broken links