When you install this type of software, it usually creates a directory that will be shared with other users of that same software. If you have any music, videos, or another item protected by copyright in that directory – even if you own a legal copy of that item – you are making it available for others to download. Providing such material is just as much a violation of the law as is downloading something illegally. Some of these programs will scan your whole hard drive for media content to be put online! If you need to have this software on your computer, be sure to configure it so it does not break the law, but be very careful when doing this.
The normal and preferred approach is to simply block such activity. When blocked, a crime under the DCMA is not, in fact, actually occurring (even though it is being attempted).
When (1) a person is actively providing for download a piece of material protected by copyright in violation of federal law and (2) a complaint of an observed violation is formally made to our offices by one of the various watchdog groups (they make the complaints, we do not). It is at that point that UC is obligated to take action.
Some universities do indeed choose to take a hands-off approach to this situation. Interestingly, many of those universities have had students taken to court by copyright holders. Because UC takes a different approach, because we talk to reported violators, we, unlike some of those other universities, have never had the RIAA or any of the other group take any of our students to court, despite having every legal right to do so. They understand that we take the opportunity to educate, and they have thus far chosen to leave it at that. We want to prevent students from being prosecuted, and having large judgements levied against them. A Boston University student is a case in point. He had a judgement of $675,000 levied against him for 30 songs ($22,000 per song). We do not want our students to suffer the same fate.
While P2P technology itself can be used for legitimate purposes, the predominant – indeed, almost exclusive – use of P2P networks has been to trade copyrighted music, movies, pictures and software. From a legal standpoint, this activity violates copyright holders´ exclusive rights to copy and distribute their works. From a practical standpoint, this activity threatens the entertainment industry´s ability to succeed in the evolving digital marketplace. Such higher transfer speeds are already present on many university networks.
The Joint Committee of the Higher Education and Entertainment Communities published a White Paper in August 2003 describing the legal liabilities associated with infringing P2P file-sharing.
In December 2005, Co-Chairs of the Joint Committee Cary Sherman (President, Recording Industry Association of America) and Graham Spanier (President, Pennsylvania State University) wrote an op-ed piece published in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled Thou Shalt Not Pirate Thy Neighbor's Songs
In September 2005, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property held an oversight hearing on "Reducing Peer-To-Peer (P2P) Piracy on University Campuses: A Progress Update"
UC Student Handbook, Computer and Network section - talks about the University's stance on P2P networks and policies.