Though most peer-to-peer (P2P) software—software that connects individual users to each other directly without need for a central point of management—and similar programs are legal, a lot of the materials available are not, and some programs may put your system and the NU Network at risk.
P2P software can be packaged with malware that can threaten your computer's security, and some of these programs automatically share everything on your machine, even if you've opted not to share. In addition, traffic generated by P2P file sharing of music and movies slows NU Network response time and detracts from the network resources available for academic and research uses.
Many of the files available on these networks are not authorized by the copyright holder to be downloaded or shared. NU's Office of General Counsel provides an intellectual property primer outlining Digital Millennium Copyright Act details and copyright-related information. As a general rule regarding legitimate subscriber services, if it's too good to be true, it probably is.
How do I legally use digital music and movies?
To legally use online media files, ensure you are legally obtaining the following:
- Software: Software owners often provide the software you need to play the file for free or require a service fee that makes downloading and using the media files easy. Most software that plays digital files is legal, even if it allows you to play or share illegal files. While programs like Kazaa have been declared by courts to be legal, the software itself does not give you legal rights to the content (the music or movie files you play using the software).
- File: Each song or movie available online is referred to as a "digital file." These files should be considered copyrighted content unless you have proof to the contrary. Once you have the software to play the files, you then have to pay for or obtain permission to play any music or movies using that software.
When evaluating services to decide if they provide legal music and movie files, look for statements that they have obtained the copyright permission of the artists or company representing the artists. If you don't see this information, be suspicious; send a message to the providers asking if they have obtained permission from the copyright holder to sell or distribute these files.
Note: Some Internet services, such as Kazaa and mp5networks, claim to provide unlimited downloading of files using their legal programs. While this statement is true, it is misleading. Although having a program such as Kazaa is completely legal, careful reading will reveal that the subscription fee you pay is for program support and ad-free searching only. This does not give you legal permission to download and share any file available, even if the software makes it easy to do so.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and EDUCAUSE provide a list some of the more popular legal online media sources, including iTunes and YouTube. If you want to purchase access to songs or movies, find a service that has negotiated copyright agreements with the companies representing the artists. It is ultimately your responsibility to ensure that the files you are downloading and sharing are legal copies.
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Last Updated: 7 August 2013