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Peer to Peer File Sharing

New electronic file sharing technologies, called peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing, have enabled university researchers and scholars to share large data sets and other materials in real time. But these same technologies are also being used for the unauthorized retrieval, use, and redistribution of movies, music, software, and other copyrighted material.

University associations, including AAU, have sought ways to reduce the inappropriate use of P2P technology on university networks without restricting free speech and expression, invading privacy, or limiting the legitimate uses of P2P. These efforts have included creation of the Joint Committee of the Higher Education and Entertainment Communities to work on these issues collaboratively. The Joint Committee is supported on the higher education side by AAU, the American Council on Education, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and EDUCAUSE, and on the entertainment industry side by the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America. Its membership is shown here.

The Joint Committee has developed white papers to aid colleges and universities to understand the legal aspects of P2P file sharing and to develop and implement campus educational programs on appropriate and inappropriate uses of P2P technologies, as well as on policies for reducing inappropriate uses through network management.

P2P file sharing language was added to the Higher Education Opportunity Act (P.L. 110-315) which requires colleges and universities each year to inform students about the penalties for illegal distribution of copyrighted material, certify to the Secretary of Education that they have developed plans to “effectively combat” illegal file sharing, and offer “to the extent practicable” alternatives to illegal file sharing.

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