Unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material is illegal, and can subject you, personally, to criminal and civil penalties including very hefty fines. “Unauthorized distribution” includes the uploading and downloading of copyrighted material such as music, movies, games, software, television shows, etc.
The primary holders of copyrights such as RIAA, MPAA, HBO and NBC routinely monitor file sharing software use, in particular BitTorrent and Limewire, to detect illegal distribution of their copyrighted materials, and provide notification of detected violations to the organizations responsible for the IP addresses from which the violation was detected.
Illegal distribution of copyrighted material via file sharing software is NOT an anonymous crime. There are IP addresses associated with the computers involved in the transactions, and those computers can be identified through their IP address, and thereby the owners/users of the computers can be identified.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act requires the College to take specific actions when we are notified of detected violations from a computer on our network. We are required to ensure that the activity causing the violation is stopped, and any copyrighted material involved in the infringement is removed from the computer. Those actions are required of the College, but do not protect the owner or user of that computer from further legal or civil action by the copyright holder. Depending on the magnitude of the violation, the College may be required to provide the name of the individual involved for litigation by the copyright holder, with subsequent civil and criminal penalties.
Typically, file sharing software installed on computers defaults to sharing files on the local computer with outside users of the same software. It also normally defaults to starting up when Windows starts up, so it begins sharing as soon as you boot up the computer. A user who installs file sharing software on their computer can be sharing copyrighted material with outsiders without even knowing it, and without ever using the software, merely because they installed the software on their computer. The safest course of action is to uninstall any file sharing software from your personal computer.
Additionally, file sharing software has been known to allow an outside user of the same software to acquire any files on the computer, including those containing identity and credit card information. Again, the safest action is to not install file sharing software on your personal computer, and to uninstall any currently installed.