(Not) File Sharing

WCTS strongly recommends that you do NOT enable filesharing on your computer. Once filesharing is enabled, your computer becomes extremely vulnerable and anyone could break into your computer without your knowledge. If you feel that you must enable filesharing, you are strongly encouraged to set a password and distribute it only to specific people.

It is illegal to share copyrighted music and videos. See the Whitman College Acceptable Use Policy.

Your Responsibilities at Whitman College with Respect to Copyright Law

Many members of the Whitman community have questions about their rights and responsibilities with respect to use of copyrighted material, particularly the sharing of music and movies in digital format over the Internet. This document provides an overview of Whitman's policies and procedures governing music and movie sharing and how we deal with alleged violations. Recent legal actions by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) against violators of music copyright have made it imperative that everyone understand the risks of their behavior when sharing music and movies with others.

Copyright Law

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material regardless of the format of that material. Copyright law is complicated and its interpretation is sometimes controversial. More information about copyright can be found at wcts.whitman.edu/resources/copyright.

Peer-to-Peer Programs (P2P)

Spurred on by the widespread use of the Internet, P2P programs have been developed to allow people to share information in digital formats. Most commercially produced music and movies are copyrighted and cannot be freely shared. This is the law.

Whitman does not examine the information content that is being transmitted (e.g. the music itself) but does monitor the type of information (e.g., that is an MP3 file) in order for us to give priority to academic uses of our network. Members of our community must follow college-defined policies for appropriate use of technology resources. The details of the Whitman's IT policies and procedures can be found at wcts.whitman.edu/policy/

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

The DMCA specifies procedures that Whitman must follow when notified an individual using our network is violating copyright laws. If the copyright holder contacts Whitman about a violation we will stop network access for the individual, notify him/her of the notice we have received, and require removal of the offending material from his/her computer. The individual has the right to claim that the material is not protected by copyright and then a legal process begins. To date, every notice we have received has resulted in the offending material being removed. The details about the DMCA procedures can be found at www.whitman.edu/policy/copyright.cfm.

Recent Legal Actions

Recently, the RIAA has taken further action to subpoena the names of people who are sharing large amounts of music. If Whitman receives a subpoena, we are required to provide the name of the violator who is using our network. These subpoenas can lead to lawsuits, substantial financial penalties and perhaps jail time. In the spring of 2003, for example, four students at other colleges settled copyright claims against them out-of-court for approximately $15,000 each. The consequences of illegally sharing copyrighted material over the Internet are serious.

Some people have argued that the recording industry has been overcharging for music CDs and that music sharing is justified. Others feel that the recording industry has been too slow to adopt legal ways for music to be distributed over the Internet at lower cost. Regardless, most music and movie-sharing violates the law that we are bound to uphold. If you distribute copyrighted music and videos you are putting yourself at risk of losing computing privileges and even facing prosecution under civil and criminal laws.

Protecting Yourself

Because of functionality built into file-sharing software resident on your computer, your audio and video files may be available for uploading over the Internet without your knowledge or permission. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to not use the software in the first place--there are usually legal equivalents readily available. However, if you do choose to use the software, you can find more information on how to turn off this functionality, as well as other tips on responsible computing, on the main Security & Updates page. Just remember that if you choose to use the software, YOU are responsible for any consequences.

If you have further questions, contact helpdesk@whitman.edu

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