The RIAA and File-sharing
Like most campuses nationwide, Brown experienced a surge of copyright violation notices from the Recording Industry Association of America in late April. This did not signal, however, a comparable increase in the actual infringement taking place on the campus networks.
According to Mark Luker, Vice President of EDUCAUSE, this spike was due "not to an increase in infringing activity on campus networks, but simply to changes in the mechanism used to detect and report the presence of files in shared folders."
This mechanism was described in a May 13th article appearing in The Chronicle, "How It Does IT: The RIAA Explains How It Catches Alleged Music Pirates."
The Chronicle provided a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the RIAA's process for identifying copyright violators, recounting a private demonstration by an RIAA representative of the methods used. Of note:
- To catch those trading copyrighted songs online, the RIAA uses the same file sharing software as the traders do (Limewire).
- The automated process, performed by Media Sentry, can quickly identity a song and the associated IP address, then forwards the information to the RIAA.
- The organization has singled out universities for their automated investigations for file traders, i.e., all notices received by commercial Internet-service providers are processed manually. (The RIAA FAQ specifically states "... we have stepped up our efforts to address college piracy across the board by significantly expanding our deterrence and education programs...")
According to Mark Luker, it's important to be aware that "DMCA notices are frequently triggered by the presence in a "shared folder" of a file whose distribution from that shared folder would be unauthorized, rather than by observation of an actual unauthorized transmission of such a file... the RIAA's DMCA notices are almost completely folder-based..."
An explanation on the RIAA's FAQ supports this statement: "When you log onto a P2P network, your P2P software has a default setting that automatically informs the network of your user name and the names and sizes of the files on your hard drive that are available for copying. Because all this information is publicly available to anyone on the network, it’s relatively easy to look for – and find – users who are offering to “share” copyrighted music files... Given the huge number of P2P users, we use software to search the network for infringing files, similar to the way other users search the network."
What this means for you:
- Having peer-to-peer (P2P) software installed on your computer not only makes it possible for you to download files, but also for files stored in a sharable folder to be uploaded to others (file-sharing). Entertainment owners such as the RIAA consider either action an infraction of copyright agreements.
- Some P2P programs automatically reset themselves to sharing mode every time you turn on your computer. So though you may not want to share, you'll need to turn sharing off each time you turn on your computer. In addition, even when you think you've turned sharing off, you may not have done so (the instructions could be wrong or misleading)
- Some P2P programs are not easy to uninstall and may in fact continue to reside on your computer.
If you need assistance configuring your file sharing program, Cornell University has collected a list of resources on how to disable or remove peer-to-peer file sharing programs.