Music, Videos and Software found on the Internet is normally subject to copyright and reproduced illegally without a licence from the copyright holder. Although some files found on the Internet are distributed legally, it is fair to say that the vast majority are distributed without permission. Anyone distributing, accessing or storing such material is breaking the law. Copyright applies to software, music, video and other forms of information stored on computer. There are a number of Internet filesharing networks used to distribute files. Some well known networks include: Kazaa, eDonkey, FastTrack and BitTorrent.
If you use an Internet filesharing program you need to know that as well as letting you download files from other people it will also (unless you specifically tell it not to) share files you have so that anyone else can access them, turning your computer into a server. Industry organisations responsible for copyright enforcement can trace who is serving the files and take action (including legal action) accordingly. The University has therefore had to take action to prevent the use of Internet filesharing programs.
If you use Internet filesharing to download or make available copyrighted files via the University's network then you are:
- breaking University regulations.
- putting yourself at risk of legal action.
- putting the University at risk of legal action.
University computing regulations state that failure to comply with the terms of copyright legislation will render the user personally liable for any fines. EnSuite Online regulations state that you cannot run a server (i.e. a computer that makes files or services available remotely) on your EnSuite Online connection. Breaches of the regulations can be dealt with by University disciplinary procedures.
In addition to legal problems, there are other problems with filesharing programs:
- They are massive bandwidth hogs, generating disproportionate amounts of Internet traffic and so swamping other uses of the network, including academic use.
- They are a risk to your security and privacy on the Internet - by their nature they make files on your computer available to other people. An additional problem is the third-party programs that are bundled with filesharing clients in order to finance them. These extra programs are generally installed on your computer without you realising, and can then take various actions such as collecting personal information about you, tracking web sites you visit, and targetting you with additional advertising.
- They can break your network connection and stop your Internet access working. For example, when Kazaa is installed it forces alot of spy and adware onto your computer, uninstalling Kazaa does not fully remove these "added extras".
We recommend that you don't use Internet filesharing programs. There is also a file and printer sharing feature built into Windows (Network Neighbourhood/My Network Places). This is limited so that it is contained within the University network and may be useful (for example when collaborating on a group project with other students). However it also has its own security risks and should only be enabled if you understand these risks.