Understanding Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Technology
Peer-to-peer file sharing (also known as P2P) is a network technology that allows people to download files from one another over the Internet.
P2P has several different flavors. BitTorrent is very popular and uses a client like uTorrent.
Is P2P file sharing legal or illegal?
Peer-to-peer technology is legal. The technology simply enables a person to download files and share with others during the download process.
Some people use P2P to download music, movies, and software without permission. This is known as copyright infringement. Some artists have released their work on the Internet for free. Downloading a freely distributed song, movie, or software using P2P is not illegal because you have the express consent of the copyright holder to do so.
The bottom line is that it's legal to use P2P so long as you have permission to download the files you're downloading. If you're downloading music, movies, software, or other copyrighted material without permission, it's illegal.
Illinois State University is blocking P2P
To reduce the number of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaints, the University has opted to block peer-to-peer network traffic over wireless and on ResNet. This measure is intended to protect Illinois State's students and to maintain the integrity of the institution.
In the past, Illinois State, like many universities, has received complaints of copyright infringement from trade organizations, like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
Can I request special access to P2P?
If you have a legitimate need to access P2P, you may request an exception for a single computer connected to ResNet. P2P exceptions are for wired ResNet connections and do not extend to wireless or public Ethernet ports. A P2P exception only allows access for your computer's IP address.
You may make a P2P Exception Request for ResNet if you have a legitimate need. You must visit the exception request web page using the computer for which you want the exception, and it must be connected to your ResNet port. Do not visit the web page from a friend's computer or while connected wirelessly.
The P2P exception is for your computer only. If you get a different computer or try using another computer, even if it's plugged into the same network port, you will be unable to access P2P. If you get a new computer, you must submit a new P2P exception request for that computer.
P2P exceptions are for the current semester only. For example, if you get a P2P exception during the Fall semester, it will only remain in effect during that semester. If you need P2P access through ResNet in the Spring semester too, you must make a new exception request at that time.
Copyright and Intellectual Property
Obtaining a P2P exception does not alleviate you of your responsibility to obey the law. You are expected to follow U.S. copyright law and to abide by intellectual property rights.
Illinois State's Appopriate Use Policy says:
All members of the University community must observe copyrights and intellectual property rights, including software licensing. The transfer of electronic data files in violation of copyrights or intellectual property rights is prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to, software, electronic music, and video files. In addition, the University’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) agent will evaluate all reports of copyright infringements that may be a violation of the DMCA, and forward all reports deemed to be an infringement to an Appropriate Use Coordinator.
In other words, just because you have access to P2P networks does not mean you can download or share music, movies, TV shows, books, games, or software without permission from the copyright holder.
What can I download or share using P2P?
A P2P exception allows you to access P2P for legitimate purposes. For example, you could use P2P to download or share material that is in the public domain or that has been placed under an open license like the Creative Commons License. Some games, like World of Warcraft, distribute updates over P2P.
How you use P2P is up to you, so long as you do not violate copyright. If you download or share copyrighted material without permission, you are engaging in copyright infringement.
Violations and University Response
If you fail to comply with these terms or if the University receives a DMCA complaint against you, your P2P exception will be revoked, you will lose access to P2P file sharing, and you will be referred to the Office of Community Rights and Responsibilities for disciplinary action.
Breaking the law can also lead to criminal or civil penalties. Stories about people being sued over copyright infringement often make headlines in today's news, and those found guilty are often made to pay exorbitant fines reaching to the tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Where should send my comments and suggestions?
Comments and suggestions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.