Boston University does not currently block the legal use of peer-to-peer file sharing software on the University network. However, users must be aware of all pertinent laws including the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Information on the University’s policies on copyright as it pertains to the DMCA can be found in Copyright Infringement.

By default, the peer-to-peer software you are using could be illegally sharing, even if that is not your intent. The University of Chicago maintains a page with helpful instructions on disabling the sharing features of various peer-to-peer client programs. We strongly recommend that you review these instructions.

File sharing

While it is perfectly legal to share content you created, or to which you have distribution rights, the words “file sharing” today often refer to illegal file sharing. Downloading or distributing copyrighted material without explicit permission from the copyright owner is illegal.

The basics and risks

Installing a file sharing application will connect your computer to a peer-to-peer (P2P) network and make it easy for you to download files from individual personal computers all over the world. Those people can see and download files directly from your personal computer just as easily.

Agencies representing the recording and motion picture industries use these same capabilities in their automated searches to find people illegally sharing copyrighted songs and movies. These agencies may use the information they find to initiate warnings or they may move directly to sue you for sharing copyrighted material, without warning. You do not have to be sharing a lot of files to be sued, and it can be very costly and time consuming to defend yourself in court or to settle the law suit.

By default, most peer-to-peer software you install will begin sharing your files immediately, without asking you. The University of Chicago maintains a page with helpful instructions on disabling the sharing features of various peer-to-peer client programs.

Installing peer-to-peer file sharing programs can also make your computer vulnerable to spyware attacks, flooding it with annoying pop-up ads or silently intercepting your login credentials and credit card information as you shop or do your banking online.

How does BU handle DMCA copyright issues?

You should review the University’s policies pertaining to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). The University has certain legal obligations when notified of DMCA violations. Depending on the circumstances, these might include ensuring that network access to copyrighted material is terminated (i.e., your network access and/or your account and password may be disabled) or responding to subpoenas requesting your identity and other information.

Your responsibilities regarding use of BU’s network resources

When you created your BU login name and Kerberos password, you agreed to abide by the University’s Conditions of Use and Policy on Computing Ethics. You are responsible for your use of computing and network resources at the University. Your account and authorized network access are solely for your use. If you allow anyone else to use your account or computer or if you provide them with network access, either by registering them as a guest or by providing access (intentionally or unintentionally) through, for instance, a wireless router, you will be held legally responsible. It will be your computer or network session that is specified in any subpoena. Therefore, you should take great care to protect your computer, your network access, your accounts and passwords, and any other types of authorization or access assigned to you.

Can’t I just say I didn’t know it was illegal?

No. Ignorance of the law can only harm, not help, your case.

If I think the law is unreasonable, can’t I just ignore it?

No. You are entitled to your opinion and you can get involved with efforts to change the law, but whether you violate or ignore a existing law, the risks and the penalties are the same.