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File Sharing - Important Information Regarding Peer-2-Peer Networks

Downloading or distributing copyrighted material for personal use or entertainment without explicit permission from the copyright owner is against the law. While file sharing applications such as Limewire, KaZaA, Morpheus, and WinMX are not illegal, many of the files being shared through such applications are illegal copies being distributed by users who do not have permission to share them. When you download a copy of one of these illegally distributed files you are committing an illegal action. In many of the applications used to download such files, the software is automatically set to share the files you download with others whenever your computer is on the Internet. You are then distributing copyrighted material without explicit permission from the copyright owner.

Online Videos:

Click here to view an online video about file sharing and peer-2-peer networks.

Basics of File Sharing Applications

File sharing applications allow your computer to connect to a peer-to-peer (P2P) network. Once connected, you are able to download and share files with other users on the network. The primary feature of P2P networking is that all of the files available (music, movies, software, etc.) are stored on the hard drives of each user's personal computer. When you download a file from this type of network, you connect directly to the computer of another user on that network. When others download a file you are sharing, they connect directly to your computer to obtain it.

Why File Sharing Applications are Bad?

Many file sharing applications install smaller applications known as spyware and adware without your knowledge. These applications can monitor your Web surfing habits or pop-up advertisements on your screen. Other users may gain access to files on your hard drive that you did not intend to share, or send you files infected with a virus. File sharing applications use large amounts of network resources and endanger your computer and other network computers by exposing them to viruses and worms.

Avoiding copyright infringement

  • Please make sure that your file sharing application is not set to share the files unless you have explicit permission from the copyright holders.
  • Please make sure that the distributor of a file you are interested in downloading has permission from the copyright holder to distribute it. For your own protection, you should assume that you do not have permission to download or distribute a file unless you have proof to the contrary. So, before you download a file, research if it is legal for you to do so. For example, check the Web sites of the musicians, record company, or movie studio involved to see if they allow distribution of their materials in this manner. When you purchase music, movies, games, etc., read the license carefully to learn if you have permission to convert the material to other formats for your own use, and whether or not you can share the material with others.

What legal sources are there for downloading files?

There are many important legal sources that students can use to listen to music using their computer. Remember that using a legal service such as iTunes does not protect you from being prosecuted for illegal downloading or uploading with another program.

Also be aware that there are many deceptive services that offer subscription based downloading that are not licensed to provide the files. For a list of sites identified as being illegal please see The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) website For example, LimeWire Pro requires a fee for it's use. However, this fee does not cover the downloading of copyrighted works and does not give you legal rights to download files through LimeWire.

Legal Digital Music Sources:   Legal Digital Film Sources:
For a comprehensive list see the Campus Downloading site For a comprehensive list see the MPAA's list of legal alternatives

Always review the terms and conditions of any site you use to download files as they may change before this site is updated.

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