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Have you ever wondered about the risk of downloading music from the Internet? Without permission from the copyright holder it is illegal and the chances of getting caught are high. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is actively looking for such illegal activities on university campuses and aggressively pursuing violators. Some UMS students and employees have already paid thousands of dollars each to settle lawsuits or threats of lawsuits.

Copyrighted material, including most music, is often downloaded or distributed illegally using peer-to-peer file sharing software or "P2P," which allow computers to share files directly with other computers. There are countless P2P systems, e.g., Limewire, Kazaa, Bearshare, Gnutella, etc., that allow you to download music and video files apparently for free. P2P have many serious problems:

  • Downloaded music and video files are usually copyrighted. After you retrieve a file using P2P, your computer becomes a server, offering the file to other P2P users and making you responsible for illegal distribution. We receive daily complaints of computers illegally distributing copyrighted materials from our networks. Copyright holders are not required to warn you before taking legal action. Copyright violations can also result in criminal prosecution.
  • Once your computer is an illegal P2P server it can:
    • run more slowly
    • slow down the entire University network
    • result in a minimum $750 fine per song you share
  • Downloaded files can infect your computer with viruses, expose confidential information and lead to identity theft.
  • Using P2P can result in University disciplinary action, including termination, for misuse of University property.

How to Protect Yourself

  • If you use your computer to access confidential student and/or employee information you should NEVER INSTALL ANY ADDITIONAL SOFTWARE, from any source, without first checking with technical support staff.
  • The safest course of action is limiting use of your university computer to university business. If you can't live without music while working:
    • Play regular CD's in your computer. Purchasing used CD's online, e.g. through Amazon.com's marketplace or eBay.com, is a good way to build your CD collection.
    • Paid services may not be legal! Several P2P systems offer a paid service. This does not make their use legal. If you buy songs online, make sure the source is legal and avoid anything that requires you to install software on your computer. The Center for Democracy and Technology maintains a partial list of illegal sites posing as legal music sellers.
    • Avoid legal subscription services, e.g. Napster or Ruckus, that require you to install software that may interfere with business use of your computer.
    • Windows Media Player, included with Microsoft Windows, is reasonably safe to use for playing CD's and legally purchased and downloaded music.
    • There are sources of free and legal music on the Internet. Research carefully before using them. For example, the "Live Music Archive" at www.archive.org provides free access to music with the approval of copyright holders.
  • Be careful before bringing a PERSONAL computer onto a university network. Students and employees have been caught when they bring a personal laptop computer, with P2P software installed, to a university facility and attach to our wireless networks.
  • You are ultimately responsible for whatever you choose to do with your computer beyond University business. Nothing herein relieves you of your responsibility to ensure that your actions are legal and the University makes no guarantee that following the advice herein will protect you from legal action or financial consequences. The safest course of action is to use your university-provided computer for university business only.