Peer-to-Peer File Sharing for Staff and Faculty
Peer-to-peer (P2P) and anonymous file sharing programs (i.e. those with no password) work by allowing users from all around the world to find and access each others hard drives to share information such as music, movies, software, or other digital files without a central server. Although this may sound like a good idea to some, in practice there are several problems (see below for security concerns and copyright issues).
The use of P2P is an escalating technology and legal issue between Internet users and copyright owners such as recording artists and the motion picture industry. The organizations representing the copyright holders are becoming increasingly aggressive in enforcing their copyrights and have announced the intention to sue several hundred infringers in the near future. Recent articles in the media have mentioned lawsuits involving up to $150,000 per occurrence.
For University staff using University resources (e.g. computer or network), downloading or sharing copyrighted songs or movies for personal or other non-job related reasons without the permission of the copyright holder is against University policy. Such behavior is not acceptable and is subject to disciplinary action.
There likely are very few University staff that need peer-to-peer or anonymous technology for their job. For those few that do, it is important to understand the risks and responsibilities when using such programs. Because of the security concerns, legally protected or other important University information should never be stored on a computer that has P2P software installed or file sharing enabled without a strong password.
- P2P and anonymous file sharing programs on your computer can inadvertently allow access to your entire computer.
- P2P file sharing networks have recently been used to spread viruses and worms.
Questions & Answers
What are P2P file sharing programs and what are some examples?
P2P file sharing programs are designed to let people easily exchange music, movies, video and other files over the Internet. Some common programs are KaZaa, Gnutella, iMesh and eDonkey.
Can I use peer-to-peer file sharing software for legitimate job related purposes?
P2P file sharing programs have some legitimate uses for certain jobs or research, therefore the University does not ban P2P programs from its network. If you are authorized to use P2P file sharing programs for job related purposes:
- Comply with copyright law.
- Disable outbound sharing on the P2P software.
- Do not store any important University information on the same system.
- Follow the recommendations for a "security check-up" at:
How can I remove a P2P file sharing program?
For Microsoft Windows, click on START, SETTINGS, CONTROL PANEL and then select ADD/REMOVE PROGRAMS. Select the program and click REMOVE. If you need assistance, contact your local technical support person/group or call 1-HELP (612-301-4357). Some programs are difficult to remove in the normal manner since they install other software.
Other Resources and Links
- University Acceptable Use of Information Technology Policy
- Copyright Information & Education - U of M Libraries
- University Copyright Permissions Center
Nothing contained on this web page may be construed or relied upon as legal advice. Consult an attorney directly regarding your specific legal needs.