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Peer-to-Peer File Sharing Programs (such as Kazaa) , Copyright Issues, and You

What it is:

Peer-to-peer networking (or P2P) software (such as KaZaA and a host of others) allows a user to search for and download files from a virtual network of other users' computers. The term 'peer-to-peer' refers to the method by which the network operates - files are shared directly from one 'peer' (such as yourself) to another. Aside from creating tremendous loads on private networks (taking up all availible bandwidth), the system also lends itself to the distribution of illegal (copyrighted) material because of the fact that there are no central servers of the data - making it extremely difficult (but by no means impossible) to track down. By default, this software turns on public access and allows others to copy files from YOUR computer. Many of these files are protected by copyright law and include music, movies and commercial software. You might not be aware of it, but the license you agree to when installing such software can grant others unrestricted rights to your computer. (See this disturbing license agreement for Brilliant Projector, software that gets installed with KazAa). In doing so, you may be storing and hosting copyrighted material on your computer.

What it means to you:

Federal copyright law prohibits both receiving and sending copyrighted content without permission. However, it is far more likely that you will be identified for complaint or prosecution if you are making available (sending, serving) electronic files in violation of copyright. P2P software will take you down this path - even without you knowing it.

The hidden feature of P2P software is its server capability, without which the system could not work because there would be nothing for anyone to access. Unless you are very knowledgeable and are very careful, you put yourself in a position of trafficking as a provider of copyrighted content (e.g., music, videos, game software). Network scanning by the recording, film, and software industries can then identify your computer as one being used for illegal activity. They complain to the College through the procedures established by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, and we respond with our own set of procedures that notifies you and the Dean's office that your computer has been involved in violation of copyright law. If you allow this to be repeated, the law requires that your network access be terminated and you may be subject to action in federal court.

This is not a hypothetical situation. In the last week of September, 2002, eight Colby students received notifications that complaints had been received from industry groups and software companies that have been observing what their computers have been making available. College policy makes it clear that violation of copyright is prohibited. There is no interpretation under Fair Use that can be used as a defense for massive downloading of copyright material. With or without your knowledge, if your computer is making files available without permission from the copyright owner, you could face serious consequences.

What you can do:

Because P2P software embeds itself quite deeply into most computers, ITS can not guarantee that by following our suggestions you have disabled or removed the software or any of its "add-ons" (hidden pieces of software.) ITS offers this information as a service to campus computer users. ITS does not support or condone the use of ANY P2P software, and will not install or remove the software from your system. If you wish to have the software certifiably removed from your computer, we recommend that you have a local vendor perform the work.

ITS can not explicitly prohibit the use of P2P software on your personal computer, however, we recommend you do not install such software and remove it if it is already installed . If you are aware of the dangers of using this software yet insist on leaving it on your system, please refer to our suggestions for limiting incoming connections.

* Have the software removed from your system

  • Because ITS does not install P2P software, the only way to guarantee removal is to have a professional do the work. Locally, Virtual Dimensions and Hanover Computer have quoted us a Colby rate of $30-50 for this service. (this price may vary depending on your specific situation).
  • For more advanced users, ITS offers instructions but note,these do not come with a guarantee for removing all components of the software from your computer.

    * OR, If you insist on using P2P software, please set the program to not automatically start and to limit inbound and outbound connections. (note, these are brief instructions intended for advanced users. more specific instructions are listed here.)

  • You can manually specify exactly how many connections (file upload/download sessions) that you want to allow.
  • In most cases, these options are located under the TOOLS menu, under OPTIONS or PREFERENCES.
    • Don't Launch Automatically. Uncheck any box that says "Lauch Program Automatically" This will prevent the software from automatically starting (and opening your computer to other users) every time you start your computer
    • Limit or Cut-off Inbound/Upload Connections. Set the maximum number of uploads to ZERO, and/or check any box that says "disable sharing of files with other users." If you leave these set at unlimited (which is the default), you are letting anyone else come and take your files, and your bandwidth.
    • Limit Outbound/Download Connections. You also have control over how many simultaneous downloads your computer will perform. The more simultaneous connections you make, the slower everything will be. Limit your download connections to one or two in order to get faster performance.
    • Kazaa v2 users should read these instructions as well for more tips for fine-tuning the use of this software.

Get more information at these web sites:

P2P(peer to peer) networks explained:

kazaa & your privacy

about how BDE hides inside Kazaa:


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