Peer 2 Peer Sharing (P2P)

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P2P Sharing and Property Rights

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts network users, like users in colleges across the nation, use various flavors of Peer to Peer (P2P) sharing software. P2P products range from general purpose products like Windows built-in networking to applications like LimeWire, KaZaA and BitTorrent.

While file sharing programs are convenient tools with many useful applications, they are often used to illegally distribute copyrighted materials. Copyrighted materials such as music, movies, TV shows, pictures, books and software can be illegally transferred through file sharing. To avoid copyright infringement through file sharing, the college is recommending students to strictly restrict the use of file sharing applications to material that is legal to share or to disable the file sharing software all together.

Industry organizations like the Recording Industry Association of America: RIAA have filed a series of lawsuits against college students who have misused file sharing to distribute copyrighted materials. In addition, the No Electronic Theft (NET) Act supplies serious legal consequences that include a fine up to $250,000 and 3 years in prison. It is the users responsibility to be aware of their activity when it comes to file sharing and it is up to the user to understand the legal nature of their usage. Lack of this understanding about copyright laws will not excuse the user from legal consequence or actions by the college.

MCLA is committed to taking appropriate action to avoid this misuse from occurring on their college network. All users are reminded that MCLA's Network User Agreement explicitly mentions their responsibility to observe copyright and other applicable licensing restrictions.

Summary of Civil and Criminal Penalties for Violation of Federal Copyright Laws

Copyright infringement is the act of exercising, without permission or legal authority, one or more of the exclusive rights granted to the copyright owner under section 106 of the Copyright Act (Title 17 of the United States Code). These rights include the right to reproduce or distribute a copyrighted work. In the file-sharing context, downloading or uploading substantial parts of a copyrighted work without authority constitutes an infringement.

Penalties for copyright infringement include civil and criminal penalties. In general, anyone found liable for civil copyright infringement may be ordered to pay either actual damages or "statutory" damages affixed at not less than $750 and not more than $30,000 per work infringed. For "willful" infringement, a court may award up to $150,000 per work infringed. A court can, in its discretion, also assess costs and attorneys' fees. For details, see Title 17, United States Code, Sections 504, 505. Willful copyright infringement can also result in criminal penalties, including imprisonment of up to five years and fines of up to $250,000 per offense.

For more information, please see the Web site of the U.S. Copyright Office at, especially their FAQ's at