This primer gives users information and educational resources on file sharing and the risks and implications of using peer-to-peer technologies.
File Sharing Basics: what is file sharing, how users get caught sharing copyrighted content, and how to stop sharing files.
- Digital Media - content stored on a computer hard drive, such as songs, movies, software, video games, pictures and text.
- Peer-to-Peer (P2P) technologies - distributed systems for sharing files online. Many users of P2P technologies copy and distribute popular songs, movies and other digital media. Much of these media are protected by copyright and many P2P users trade these media without authorization from the copyright holder. The most popular P2P networks are currently eDonkey, Kazaa and BitTorrent.
- Anonymity - users of P2P technologies are not anonymous. Most major music labels and movie studios covertly monitor file sharing activities and record unauthorized file sharing of their content for possible use in complaints and lawsuits. An Internet service provider (ISP) can typically identify an individual user on its network using only the Internet Protocol (IP) address. An IP address is a unique identifier attached to each computer or access point on a network.
- Super-nodes - these nodes or "hubs" are computers connected to P2P networks that distribute thousands to millions of songs to other P2P users. A number of content owners have filed lawsuits against many P2P users that own computers serving as super nodes.
- Disabling File Sharing Features - some P2P users may not know they are sharing files. P2P users that disable file sharing features may still be sharing their files if their software has a glitch or their computer is infected with certain viruses or Trojan horses.
- How to Stop File Sharing - avoid the dangers of file sharing by uninstalling P2P programs on your computer. Run your antivirus and anti-spyware software (make sure you've downloaded and applied the most recent updates). If you do not have antivirus software installed, University Information Services offers a free downloadable site licensed version of Symantec (Norton) Antivirus (installation instructions are available here).
- Legal Alternatives - a number of websites are authorized to sell digital content and/or subscription services to consumers. To find out more, visit our Legal Music and Movies page.
- University Information Services's Where to Download Music and Movies Legally<http://uis.georgetown.edu/students/legalmusic>
- Georgetown University's Copyright Guide - Sharing Files through Peer-to-Peer Software <http://policies.georgetown.edu/copyright/sections/resources/#resources12>
- Office of Student Conduct Notice on P2P File Sharing, October 2002 <http://policies.georgetown.edu/33875.html>
- House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property Page <http://judiciary.house.gov/committeestructure.aspx?committee=3>
Copyright Implications of File Sharing: legal rights of copyright owners and users and penalties associated with copyright infringement.
- Copyright Owner - has the right to control, within certain limits, how their works are published, distributed, and sold, and the correlative right to be paid for the use of a work. A number of copyright infringement lawsuits and subpoenas have been filed by major companies and their respective industry associations, including the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) and the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA).
- Copyright Infringement - copying or distributing copyrighted media such as songs, movies, software, video games, text and pictures, without authorization from the copyright owner.
- Lawsuits - several court decisions have confirmed that unauthorized downloading or distribution of most popular copyrighted content through P2P networks is illegal and may result in steep civil penalties. Federal copyright law entitles the copyright holders to seek statutory damages of up to $150,000 for each act of willful infringement (for example, each song or movie illegally copied or distributed). Most P2P users sued have settled out of court for between $1,500 to $4,500 in total damages.
- Fair Use - the "fair use" doctrine allows for certain uses of copyrighted works, without permission or payment, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. Fair use also generally allows a user, contingent upon the licensing agreement, to make a digital backup copy of a copyrighted work such as software, music or a movie. Simply put, if you own media such as a music CD, you are permitted to copy the music onto the hard drive of your computer. However, it is illegal to share these songs with other people, whether you burn a CD for your friend or permit others to access your digital music files through a P2P network.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA): how content owners use this legislation to identify users of P2P software.
- The DMCA is intended as an update to copyright law in the age of digital technology.
- Using the DMCA and other Copyright Law - major industry associations and their members use the DMCA to identify individuals suspected of unauthorized file sharing of copyrighted materials and they pursue these alleged copyright infringers through general copyright law.
- Processes - the DMCA typically limits copyright infringement liability of ISPs, such as Georgetown University, when they comply with a validly issued legal process such as a complaint ("take-down" notice) or a subpoena.
- Take-down Notice - when given a validly issued complaint, ISPs are required to investigate and remove infringing content from their network, including content stored on devices and computer hard drives accessible through the network.
- Subpoena - ISPs are required to identify a user on its network when given a validly issued subpoena. Content owners use the subpoena process to identify alleged copyright infringers based on their IP address. These individuals already have pending "John Doe" lawsuits that name their IP address. Once the user is identified, the lawsuit is changed to name the defendant.
- Educause DMCA<http://www.educause.edu/Browse/645&PARENT_ID=254>
- Electronic Frontier Foundation's Subpoena Query Tool <http://www.eff.org/IP/P2P/riaasubpoenas>
- LearnAboutLaw.com - A DMCA Primer <http://www.learnaboutlaw.com/learnaboutDMCA.htm>
- Georgetown University DMCA and Courtesy Notification Procedures <https://policies.georgetown.edu/secure/tech/?id=33658>
- University of Texas Page on Complying with the DMCA <http://www.utsystem.edu/ogc/intellectualproperty/dmcaisp.htm>
- DMCA Text on Thomas.loc.gov <http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c105:H.R.2281.ENR:>