Peer-to-Peer File Sharing

Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing involves using technology (i.e. software such as Kazaa, Bittorrent, and Gnutella) that allows users to share files on their individual computers with other users around the world via an internet connection. While there are legitimate uses for P2P file sharing, it's mostly used for illegal downloading of copyrighted materials.

Copyright Laws

Copyright refers to the legal rights that creators have over the use, distribution, and reproduction of their work which may include music, movies, books and software. Copyright infringement is the unlawful use of those materials. An example of copyright infringement is downloading all or part of a song without either purchasing the song or obtaining permission from the creator. You should assume that all materials are copyright protected unless you created them or you have received the creator's explicit permission to use them. More information about copyright can be found on the U.S. Copyright Office web site , especially their Frequently Asked Questions.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a US law enacted in 1998 that heightened the penalties for copyright infringement on the Internet. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and, more recently, the Motion Picture Association of America have aggressively pursued protection of intellectual property rights of their respective artists. Additionally, students may face civil or criminal penalties for copyright infringement.

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. A court can, in its discretion, also assess costs and attorneys' fees. For details, see Title 17, United States Code, Sections 504, 505. 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.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) of 2008 includes several sections that impose requirements on all U.S. colleges and universities to deal with unauthorized file sharing on campus networks. Stonehill College has developed an HEOA Compliance Plan that details our plan to: educate students annually about copyright violation; use technology to deter the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials and offer alternatives to illegal downloading.

The College will take appropriate action against copyright infringement, which may include removing or disabling access to the copyrighted material. Where it has been clearly established that a student is a repeat infringer, the College may terminate that person's account or take other action consistent with the College's Community Standards.

Legal Alternatives

Many online services allow you to download and pay for individual songs, albums, or movies which you can play or view on any device. Some companies use a subscription model where a monthly fee provides access to a vast library of songs or movies. Some TV networks now provide their shows online for free.

The following sites provide many links to legal alternatives to downloading as well as information about copyright.

Legal Sources of Online Content (from Educause)

Legal Music Services (from the RIAA)

Get Movies and TV Shows (from the MPAA)

Dangers of File Sharing

P2P file sharing software has the potential to cause serious problems for your personal computer, as well as the Stonehill College network. File sharing can monopolize network bandwidth and interfere with the ability of others to connect to the Internet for academic and administrative purposes.

P2P software is often configured so that other users can access your hard drive and share all your files all of the time. Most also come bundled with "spyware" applications which degrade your computer's performance and allow third parties to monitor your computer usage. It is also very difficult to verify that the source of the files is trustworthy.

Many files on file sharing sites are infected with computer viruses and some of those are designed specifically to spread through P2P networks. Viruses and other malicious software may allow outside users to access your personal information, including financial or medical data, personal documents, or other sensitive information putting you at risk for identity theft.

If you have any questions about P2P file sharing, please contact the Service Desk at 508-565-4357 or service-desk@stonehill.edu.