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Is it ok to use a peer-to-peer service legally to download files that aren't protected by copyright?

Yes, but...

Many music, games, and videos downloaded through file-sharing programs fall into the category of copyright infringement. That is, people downloading the files do not have the permission of the copyright owner. In addition, peer-to-peer file-sharing programs do not determine whether requests for media files are requests for copyright-licensed or freely-sharable materials.

If you copy music to your computer from a CD you purchased and are signed on to a peer-to-peer service with file-sharing enabled, you are making the copyrighted music you purchased available to others. YOU are distributing copyrighted material and the copyright owner can hold you liable for a copyright violation.

Copyright owners frequently hire agents to scan university networks for copyrighted materials that are available to others from computer systems on the UB network. UB receives many notices from these organizations alleging copyright infringement. They focus on college campuses because of the high level of file-sharing activity. The DMCA makes Internet Service Providers (ISPs) liable if they do not act to ensure removal of infringing materials when they receive notice of copyright infringement. UB is an ISP for many at the University who use campus network services such as ResNet or UB Wi-Fi.

The DMCA provides procedures that may be used by ISPs in dealing with claims of copyright infringement. A member of the UB community learns that s/he has been named in a notice of copyright infringement when UB IT account access is denied. The deactivation message contains instructions to contact the campus Computer Discipline Officer to discuss the copyright infringement. Access to a UB IT account is reinstated after the meeting with the Computer Discipline Officer has taken place and the allegedly infringing material has been removed. UB is sensitive to the academic calendar and academic deadlines of the campus community, realizing the impact to academic work that results from deactivating accounts in response to copyright infringement notices.

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