Peer-to-Peer File Sharing and Copyright Law

Related Copyright Content


The College of Coastal Georgia is committed to creating, discovering, and sharing knowledge and information. The College is also committed to taking reasonable steps to avoid misuse of its computer network, including use of the computer network to violate the copyright law of the United States. All students, faculty, and staff should have a basic understanding of the copyright law.

It is illegal to make an electronic copy (including downloading) of any movie or song or video or image without the express permission of the owner even, if an individual has purchased a tape or CD with the video or music on it. If the individual makes an electronic copy (including downloading one from another machine by file sharing), it is illegal to distribute that copy. Distribution means a person let others download a copy of the file from his or her machine. Since musicians, record companies and movie producers are all trying to SELL their work, a person is, in effect, stealing (not paying for) what they own and then giving it away to others for free.

The College’s policies prohibit copyright infringement of any kind. When an employee or student participates in file sharing without securing permission, he or she puts themselves at risk for legal action taken against them by the copyright owners. In addition, this behavior puts the College at risk because the institution’s computing resources are being used for illegal activities.

Recently, there has been growing concern about the use of campus computer networks to reproduce and distribute commercial copyrighted music, movies, and software. Campus computer networks are often used to reproduce and distribute copyrighted music, movies, television shows, pictures, and software through the use of peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. P2P file sharing applications allow a computer to connect to a P2P network, and once connected, make it possible to download and share files with other users on the network. P2P networking has been around for many years, but file sharing applications such as LimeWire, KaZaA and BitTorrent have made it easy to trade files with people around the world.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has been very active in pursuing litigation against who they have determined to be sharing files illegally. In the first round of lawsuits filed in the spring of 2003, four students reached out-of-court settlements ranging between $12,000 to $17,000 for their infringement which involved hosting local campus file sharing networks. Since then, the RIAA has launched thousands of copyright infringement lawsuits against alleged file-swappers. The average cost of settling those actions is $3,000.

In addition to potential lawsuits, P2P file sharing software is increasingly causing serious problems for users. The most common effects are inability to go to desired Web sites, unwanted pop-ups, and a very slow computer. Simply removing the sharing software is usually not enough to cure the problems; Spybot and similar tools are often needed to cleanse computers of the “spyware” secretly installed by P2P programs. Solving P2P-related problems can consume inordinate technical support time - a sad waste of College resources - not to mention the losses suffered by computer owners.

This web site is intended to answer some frequently asked questions about the application of the copyright law to peer-to-peer file sharing. Members of the College community should be aware that unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject them to civil and / or criminal liabilities.

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