File Sharing Policy

Peer-To-Peer File Sharing Policy


Purpose

The primary purpose of this policy is to inform, educate and set expectations for the members of the A.C.T. community of their individual and corporate responsibilities towards the use of Peer-to-Peer applications using the A.C.T. network.

Scope

This policy addresses the issues, impacts and concerns with file sharing aspects of Peer-to-Peer networking applications using A.C.T.'s network.

Background

While the definition itself is controversial, generally a peer-to-peer (often referred to as P2P) computer network refers to any network that does not have fixed clients and servers, but a number of peer nodes that function as both clients and servers to the other nodes on the network. This model of network arrangement is contrasted with the client-server model. Any node is able to initiate or complete any supported transaction. Peer nodes may differ in local configuration, processing speed, network bandwidth, and storage quantity. Put simply, peer-to-peer computing is the sharing of computer resources and services by direct exchange between systems. Many researchers are looking into the practical uses of this technology.

This policy intends to make it clear that P2P architecture, itself, is not in question. What is a concern, however, is one of the most prevalent uses of this technology, P2P File Sharing applications used for the distribution of copyrighted content. BitTorrent, Limewire, Morpheus, KaZaA, Aimster, Madster, AudioGalaxy and Gnutella, are examples of the kinds of P2P File Sharing software, which can be used inappropriately to share copyrighted content. Note, that some of these applications are not pure peer-too-peer architectures, further reinforcing that the issues with File Sharing applications have more to do with risk of abuses, than in the technology itself. Along with copyright infringement, other concerns of P2P File Sharing applications include network resource utilization, security, and inappropriate content.

For the purposes of this policy, a Peer-to-peer file sharing application is any application that transforms a personal computer into a server that distributes data simultaneously to other computers.
 

Issues

Copyright Infringement

Downloading or distributing copyrighted material, e.g. documents, music, movies, videos, text, etc., without permission from the rightful owner violates the United States Copyright Act and school policy. While it is true that a number of artists have allowed their creative works to be freely copied, those artists remain very much the exception. It is best to assume that all works are copyright-protected except those that explicitly state otherwise.

Those who obtain or distribute copyrighted material should be aware that if found liable for copyright infringement, the penalties can be severe, depending upon the amount and the willfulness of the infringing activity. In a civil lawsuit, one found liable for copyright infringement can be ordered to pay damages of as much as $30,000 per copyrighted work infringed. This penalty can be increased to $150,000 per infringed work in cases of particularly flagrant infringement. In the most serious and widespread cases of copyright infringement, criminal prosecution is possible.

Additionally, students, faculty and staff who may be in violation of copyright law place not only themselves at risk - they may be exposing American Conservatory Theater to liability as an institution, for contributory or vicarious infringement, e.g., using the A.C.T. network resources to obtain the material and/or to store the material on A.C.T. computers and/or servers.

Impact to A.C.T.'s network

Peer-to-peer file sharing applications typically allow a user to set up their computer so that other people can access specific files on their computer. This process, in effect, converts the user's computer into a server. While this might seem like a nice service to offer, there are some serious drawbacks.

A user's computer acting as a server can place an enormous burden on A.C.T.'s network. If the computer/server is popular and does excessive, high-volume transfers of files, this single computer/server can severely impact the performance of A.C.T. network. Imagine the impact if there are several computers/servers functioning in the same manner. For example, music files (MP3) are usually very large files, between 2 and 10 MB in size, and movie files (DivX) can be enormous, averaging 600 MB in size. Some Peer-to-Peer applications let you choose NOT to be a server, but others, such as Gnutella, don't. If users simply install the software and don't take the time to read the documentation, they may not realize that their computer is acting like a server. Make sure you understand what the software does.

Security

Another serious problem with setting up your computer as a server is that faculty/staff and students could be reducing the security of their system, allowing a cracker (computer criminal) to more easily compromise their entire computer and gain access to private and/or A.C.T. data. Furthermore, any compromised computer on the A.C.T. network increases the potential risk to all other devices and systems within that same security context of that network. Peer-to-peer file sharing applications differ in how much security they provide. Be cautious.

Uninstalling peer-to-peer applications

If you have installed a peer-to-peer file sharing application on your computer that connects to the A.C.T. network and you have considered the issues presented in this policy and now would like to remove the application, you can usually achieve this in a Microsoft Windows environment by clicking on START, SETTINGS, and CONTROL PANEL and then select ADD/REMOVE PROGRAMS. If you are using an Apple computer, drag the application to the trash, and empty the trash on your computer. If you need any help with this, please contact IT.
 

Policy

It is the policy of A.C.T. that the A.C.T. network connections may not be used to violate copyright laws. The unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted materials is a serious violation of A.C.T.'s Internet Acceptable Use Policy, as well as the U.S. Copyright Laws, as discussed above.

Individuals who violate copyright policy are subject to sanctions outlined in the Employee Handbook or under the "Nonacademic Conduct Code and Disciplinary Procedures" in the Student Handbook.

If there are any questions or comments regarding the provisions of this policy, please feel free to contact an MIS Associate or human resources manager.

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