Here are common file sharing questions and answers, provided for informational purposes only.

Note: Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing applications are not supported by JWU IT.

What is file sharing?

In general, file sharing is the practice of making files available for other individuals to download. It can be as simple as sharing a file on a web page for general consumption, or enabling file sharing on your personal computer in order to access them from work. 
What is P2P sharing?

What is P2P sharing?

The most common and controversial method of file sharing is use of peer-to-peer (P2P) software. This includes software such as Limewire, E-Donkey, Kazaa, Morpheus and BitTorrent.

P2P software is installed by the computer owner and appears somewhat innocuous in its behavior. You install the software, then use it to download "free" music, videos, etc. However, this "free" music is generally copyrighted material that you have downloaded from other computers in the P2P network. In addition, your computer becomes part of this network, enabling other individuals on the Internet to download music from your computer. You have now illegally downloaded and distributed copyrighted material.

Why is file sharing illegal?

The majority of P2P file sharing involves copyrighted or restricted material such as music; sharing such material is illegal. A copyright grants exclusive rights to the material's creator/owner of the material and its distribution. By distributing this material without permission, the distributor is violating copyright law and is subject to penalties under the law.

However, not all file sharing is illegal. For instance, it is legal to share non-copyrighted material or material with permission of the creator.

For more information, see Wikipedia's article on File Sharing and Wikipedia's article on Copyright.

What harm can P2P software do to my computer?

Several commercial P2P file sharing programs install adware and/or spyware on your computer. They are also a common source of malware, such as viruses and Trojan horse software.

For more information see Wikipedia's article on File SharingMalware and Trojan Horse software.

In addition to serving up unwanted advertisements, these programs may gather personal data from your computer to send back to the parent company, alter your computer settings, and interfere with your computer's performance.

For more information see Wikipedia's article on Spyware.

What are the consequences if I choose to use P2P software on my computer?

Penalties for copyright infringement include civil and criminal penalties. In general, anyone found liable for civil copyright infringement may be ordered to pay either actual damages or "statutory" damages affixed at not less than $750 and not more than $30,000 per work infringed. For "willful" infringement, a court may award up to $150,000 per work infringed. A court can, in its discretion, also assess costs and attorneys' fees. For details, see Title 17, United States Code, Sections 504, 505.

Willful copyright infringement can also result in criminal penalties, including imprisonment of up to five years and fines of up to $250,000 per offense.

For more information, see the U.S. Copyright Office website, especially their FAQ's.

Violations may result in the termination of your access to the Internet via the university's Internet system and student conduct review actions up to and including dismissal from the university.

What is the RIAA?

RIAA, Recording Industry Association of America, is the trade group that represents the US recording industry.

Legal Alternatives for Acquiring Copyrighted Material

EDUCAUSE maintains a list of legal alternatives for downloading or otherwise acquiring music, video, images, or other copyrighted material:

Music Download and Streaming Sites

  • Sound Cloud
  • Ektoplazm - Free and legal pystrance, techno, and downtempo music
  • Bandcamp - Music directly from artists
  • - Live music archive; listen and download thousands of hours of free music from over three thousand bands and artists
  • - Recorded music
  • - Unsigned and emerging bands and artists
  • - Unsigned and emerging bands and artists
  • - Hip hop songs
  • - Creative Commons licensed music
  • - Remixes, samples, and mash-ups licensed under Creative Commons
  • - Punk, Hardcore, Metal
  • - Indie music for download and streaming
  • - Indie rock music, new songs, popular rock bands, top album releases, free MP3s
  • Anti.Com - "Real artists creating great recordings on their own terms”
  • MP3.Com - Huge collection of free music for download and streaming
  • - Free music every day
  • - Music created with Apple's GarageBand
  • - Free music archive from WFMU


Movie Download and Streaming Sites

  • Open Culture.Com - 550 free movies online; Great classics, indies, noir, Westerns, etc
  • Archive.Org Movies - Free archive of classic, new, animations & cartoons, movies, etc
  • Open Culture - Free cultural and educational media on the web
  • Filmnet.Com - Social community-based video content
  • YouTube Screening Room Channel - Top films from around the world
  • Creative Commons - Search for movies and media under the CC license
  • - Independent films released on P2P Networks

Where can I get more information?


Other resources:

Regardless of any information you may read and follow in this or any other article, you are ultimately responsible for copyright violations and illegal file sharing, that may result from having file sharing of any type enabled on your computer.