Peer to Peer File Sharing

There are legal statutes and University of Michigan policies that prohibit the unauthorized acquisition, distribution, or sharing of copyrighted materials.  All students, faculty, and staff at the Dearborn campus are expected to comply with these policies.  Legally protected materials can include music, movies, television shows, and published materials.  Using peer-to-peer (P2P) web sites and software programs may result in you illegally uploading protected files - in many cases without your knowledge.  Don't put yourself at risk.  There is information available to help educate you about legal file sharing, and to protect you from unwittingly engaging in unlawful activity.

What is Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file sharing?

File sharing occurs when you upload or download digitally stored information across a network or the Internet.  Peer-to-Peer (P2P) refers to software that you load on your computer.  Once installed, it allows other computers, using the same software, to connect and directly access or retrieve files stored on your hard drive.  Often times these files can be shared without your knowledge or direct action.  While it is perfectly legal to share files that are not copyrighted, it may not always be clear whether something falls into that category.  In addition, many P2P applications are configured to automatically upload files to the Internet, which may cause you to inadvertently violate copyright laws.

Can I legally share files?

There are many files you can share without violating University policies or laws.  If you own the material or copyright, you can upload it.  There are many files in the public domain that you can upload or download without restriction.  There are also many Internet sites where you can legally download or purchase music, digital books, and videos.

What is Peer-to-Peer software?

There are many P2P software packages available.  Some examples include Kazaa, LimeWire, BitTorrent, Gnutella, Shareaza, and Ares.

What are the risks of using Peer-to-Peer software?

You may inadvertently upload or download legally protected materials. 

Files you have downloaded from the Internet may contain viruses, worms, or malware.  Once you open the file, your computer may become infected.

Using P2P software may expose personal, private, or confidential data stored on your hard drive.

P2P software traffic may consume your bandwidth or expose your system to malicious traffic on the Internet.

What are the consequences if I share protected files?

You could be subject to University sanctions, legal action and/or stiff fines.  The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) protects the rights of copyright holders and their digital media, such as music, movies, and television shows.  There has been much publicity focused on attempts by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to enforce illegal downloading of songs, particularly on college campuses.  All these industries continue to vigorously pursue unauthorized file sharing.  The University regularly receives notifications from companies that have identified illegal file sharing on University networks.  When that happens on the UM-Dearborn campus, steps are taken to identify the machine and the person who initiated the action.  Usually, access to the network is blocked and the user is notified of the violation and relevant policies. They must document that they have removed all protected files before their access to the network is restored.  If a University owned computer is identified, it may need to be scanned or reinstalled.  Serious violations of University policies can result in investigations or disciplinary procedures.  In a worst case scenario, the University cannot protect individuals from legal ramifications of copyright violation.

More Information and Resources:

University of Michigan - File Sharing

University of Michigan - Copyrights

University of Mihcigan - FAQs on P2P

Campus Downloading - websites where you can legally download music