File Sharing Basics

What is the difference between uploading and downloading?

In a complete file-sharing cycle, items are uploaded from one computer and downloaded into another. One could upload and share songs they had written and recorded with others who have written and recorded their own music and this is lawful activity. Peer-to-peer software however, doesn't distinquish between content that is copyrighted and content that is not. Having peer-to-peer software installed on one's computer leaves the door open for copyrighted songs, which may have been purchased and downloaded legally, to be unlawfully uploaded without the owner of the computer's knowledge or permission.

How can I download music or other copyrighted works?

Downloading itself is not illegal per se. It is what you download that may violate the law. There are many companies that sell access to digital works and you may purchase them through those vendors. You should read their terms of conditions carefully though as there are sham companies that appear to be legal but are not.

Am I safe if I turn off uploading in my peer-to-peer software?

Not necessarily. Any time you have peer-to-peer software installed on your computer you take a risk. Some applications will reset themselves to upload every time you use them, even if you'd previously set them not to upload. You are responsible for your use of this technology. If you choose to use it, you will have to keep checking to assure that you are using it lawfully.

Am I violating University policy to have peer-to-peer software on my computer?

No. There are lawful uses for this technology. It is how you use the software that may violate University policy and/or the law.

Am I violating University policy to use peer-to-peer software to upload and download?

Not necessarily. It is how and what you upload and download that may violate University policy and/or the law.

How is it possible for someone to upload without their knowledge?

Many peer-to-peer applications come already configured to upload. If one does not specifically reconfigure the application to prevent uploading, it is possible to be uploading without knowledge of doing so. With some applications, even if one has reconfigured them to not upload, they will reset themselves to do so. Also, if one allows others to use their computer, they may have downloaded and installed these applications unbeknownst to the computer's owner.

What is the University's peer-to-peer education project?

The Office of Information Technology runs an automated system that notices when computers on WMU's networks (ResNet and WMUnet) appear to be uploading files using peer-to-peer file sharing technology. They will then send an e-mail to the person identified as the registered owner of the computer. This system does not look at content being uploaded, nor content on the computer's hard drive, it will simply send an e-mail to the computer's owner letting them know that their computer appears to be engaged in peer-to-peer uploading and referring them to this website.

Why is the University doing this?

The University is doing this because many people who are using file sharing technology are doing so in ways that may result in copyright infringement or other risks. WMU receives hundreds of notices of illegal downloads via Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaints, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) preservation notices or RIAA pre-settlement, subpoenas, and/or settlement letters. Many users reported that they had not intended to upload and/or that they thought they'd turned uploading off or confined it to uploading files they could lawfully upload. This project is a way to provide education to those who are at risk of unlawful file sharing.

How does the project work?

The project runs on University networks and doesn't block uploading. It will simply send an email to the computer's registered owner informing them that uploading is taking place from their computer. Nothing is downloaded to the user's computer and it does not affect the performance of the computer or the network. Neither content of the file(s) being uploaded, nor the computer's hard drive is looked at.

If I am using my file sharing software to lawfully upload, will I still get emailed?

Yes. The project does not discern whether or not you are uploading legal files. It will send an email everytime it notices uploading, but not more than once per 24 hour period. If you upload every day, you will receive an email every day.

Can I opt out of receiving these messages?

No, at this time, you may not. It is easy to be unwittingly uploading and being informed when it is happening may save you from serious consequences.

Can others see my uploading activities?

Yes, anyone on the Internet who chooses to look may see it, including the RIAA who is looking and who is sending cease and desist notices.

Does the University care about unlawful downloading of copyrighted material?

Yes. It is a violation of University policy to engage in copyright infringement, which includes using peer-to-peer file sharing software to download copyrighted works.

Is any other information being monitored on my computer?

No, the education project only recognizes peer-to-peer file sharing uploading activities and the IP address of the computer that is uploading. It doesn't identify any of the computer's hard drive content, or even if the item being uploaded is lawful or unlawful.

Will I be in trouble with the University if this project identifies me as one doing lots of peer-to-peer filesharing?

This project is an educational tool, not an enforcement tool. It is designed to be a service to inform you so you may determine for yourself if your file sharing activities are lawful or unlawful.