Peer-To-Peer File Sharing Policy
The primary purpose of this policy is to inform, educate, and set expectations for the members of the university community of their individual and corporate responsibilities towards the use of peer-to-peer applications using the university’s network.
This policy addresses the issues, impacts, and concerns with file sharing aspects of peer-to-peer networking applications using the university’s network.
While the definition 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 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, µTorrent, Morpheus, KaZaA, Aimster, Madster, AudioGalaxy, and Gnutella are examples of the kinds of P2P file sharing software that can be used inappropriately to share copyrighted content. Note that some of these applications use more than one means of network transport, and can be used to transfer non copyrighted content. Our purpose is to address abuses, rather than implicate 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.
It is the policy of APU that the university’s network connections may not be used to violate copyright laws. The unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted materials is a serious violation of APU’s Internet Acceptable Use Policy, as well as U.S. Copyright Laws, as discussed above.
In order to ensure compliance with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and law enforcement, peer-to-peer file sharing has been restricted by the university. All peer-to-peer file sharing network activity will be monitored and usage tracked. Network activity that utilizes peer-to-peer applications that have a high prevalence for distributing copyrighted material will be blocked.
Enforcement of Policy
If an artist, author, publisher, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), or a law enforcement agency notifies the university that a faculty/staff member or student is violating copyright laws, IT will provide to the relevant offices within the university information in the form of Internet Protocol (IP) address information and any information from logs to assist in the investigation of the complaint. If appropriate, action will be taken against the violator in accordance with university policy. In some cases, violations of university policy can result in suspension or revocation of network access privileges without refund of network access fees and/or civil or criminal prosecution under state and federal statutes.
If you believe that a restriction has been placed incorrectly, contact the IT Support Center to request that a site, application, or service be allowed. For this process you will need to provide your name, living area or office location, a current contact number, type of service being blocked (website, application, game, etc.), and a justification as to why the service should be whitelisted. Due to the complex nature of peer-to-peer services, IT will provide best-level effort to seek a solution for legitimate P2P services. Fortunately, most popular applications (such as games from Blizzard Entertainment) will automatically fall back to a direct internet connection if they determine that P2P is not available. In addition, a number of legal options exist for obtaining access to copyrighted materials. A comprehensive list can be found on the Educause website.
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 several university policies. 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.
Students, faculty and staff who may be in violation of copyright law not only place themselves at risk, but they may be exposing Azusa Pacific University to liability as an institution for contributory or vicarious infringement—e.g., using university network resources to obtain the material and/or to store the material on university computers and/or servers.
Impact to APU’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 APU’s network(s). This single computer/server can severely impact the performance of APU’s network—for example, music files (MP3) are usually very large, 2-10 MB, and movie files (DivX) can be enormous, averaging 600 MB.