File sharing is making files available for others to download. Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing makes an individual's computer the host of the files to be shared. By sharing copyrighted materials over the Internet without the consent of the copyright owner, the distributor may be violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 ("DMCA"). Most of the software, games, songs and videos obtained through P2P programs are being shared illegally.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has sued thousands of people for alleged file sharing of copyrighted material. Violators of the DMCA can be punished by substantial fines. Individuals also may be held civilly liable (regardless of whether the activity is for profit) for actual damages or lost profits, or for statutory damages up to $150,000 per infringed copyright. Attempting to profit from file sharing can even result in a prison sentence.
In addition to legal issues, P2P file sharing can put your computer at risk.
- Downloaded files often contain malware, which can infect users' computers with Trojans or worms.
- To share files on your computer or access files on other computers within a P2P network, you generally must authorize access through your firewall. This exposes your system to potentially malicious traffic from the Internet that would otherwise be blocked by the firewall.
- Inappropriate settings on your P2P file sharing application or misplacing a file in the wrong folder could also lead to the accidental exposure of your personal or confidential information.
- Many downloadable P2P file-sharing programs automatically set up your computer to share files possibly without your knowledge.
- For more about these risks, see the Texas Department of Information Resources' page on Peer-to-Peer File Sharing.
NOTE: File sharing consumes a lot of bandwidth, which can slow campus network response time, especially in the residence halls.
In compliance with DMCA requirements, Texas A&M University must respond expeditiously to notices of alleged copyright infringement. A student will usually receive an email from Networking and Information Security, notifying them that a copyright holder has sent the university a notice of alleged infringement, which identifies the student's IP address.
The student then needs to confirm the receipt of notice and take all appropriate actions. If the student ignores this request, other actions may be taken, including disabling the network connection and convening a required hearing before the Student Conflict Resolution Services (SCRS). SCRS may impose sanctions on the student that may range from a letter of reprimand to expulsion from the university.
Simply do not download copyrighted material if you don't have the owner's permission. If you have installed file-sharing programs on your computer, disable file sharing over the Internet on these programs. To share only certain files, create one folder for shared files and limit all file sharing to it.
Remove any illegally obtained copyrighted material from your computer and make sure there are no potentially infringing files in your shared folder. Use legitimate services for obtaining media.
If you do need to have open shares, protect both your machine and the campus network by doing the following:
- Set up password protection for all shared file systems.
- Configure shares on local system drives to allow access to specific individuals or groups.
- If possible, only allow Read access to a share.
- Scan all files before transferring them to your system.
- Only transfer files from a well known source.
- Do not share material that is copyright protected.