Peer-to-Peer (P2P) File Sharing


Illegal file-sharing of copyrighted material via Peer-to-Peer (P2P) applications or other means is a serious offense and can lead to university disciplinary actions as well as criminal and civil penalties.

In most cases, it is illegal to upload or download copyrighted material without the owner’s express permission. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) and others are actively tracking and seeking damages against these copyright infringements.

Using P2P software to violate copyright law carries a number of possible university sanctions, including a conduct violation being placed on an employee’s or a student’s university record, which may be disclosed through future employment or educational application processes. NC State seeks to deter the use of P2P file transfers for illegal purposes up to and including the implementation of technology-deterrent applications that could monitor traffic content.


The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) was signed into law on August 14, 2008 and regulations for implementing the Act have been issued by the Department of Education. NC State has been following an in-house process for dealing with Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notices in a timely manner, as well as producing and distributing a number of educational and informational articles to students, faculty and staff on the subject.

Several sections of the HEOA deal with unauthorized file sharing on campus networks, imposing three general requirements on all US colleges and universities:

  • A plan to “effectively combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials” by users of its network, including “the use of one or more technology-based deterrents,” and periodic reviews of the plan and its success (metrics) on the limiting of illegal copyrighted distribution.
  • A plan to “offer alternatives to illegal downloading.”
  • An annual disclosure to students describing copyright law and campus policies related to violating copyright law.

For further information on exactly what P2P transactions are, how they work and why they can cause illegal content to be transferred, please download and read this brief article: 7 Things You Should Know About P2P.

Legal Alternatives

The requirement to “offer alternatives to illegal downloading” specifies that each campus must review the legal alternatives and announce the results of that review to its students and faculty via the Web or other means. The Department of Education recognizes that individual institutions, associations and commercial entities will develop and maintain up-to-date lists of legal alternatives to illegal downloading. The Department of Education has stated that these external lists may be used as reference for compliance with this provision. NC State University will reference the information contained within the EDUCAUSE HEOA Homepage as the Legal Sources of Online Content.

Related Information and Resources

NC State HEOA Annual Report and Plan

More Information

Industry-specific internet anti-piracy information

NC State policies, procedures, and regulations

EDUCAUSE resources

Other external resources

  • Sony BMG v. Tenenbaum
    The decision affirms the lower court’s award of $675,000 in damages to recording companies under the Copyright Act and holds that the large amount of the award did not violate defendant’s right to due process. The court ruled that the defendant’s behaviors of knowingly and illegally downloading copyrighted music over a period of years, despite repeated warnings to cease, lying about his actions during discovery, and distributing over 5,000 illegally downloaded songs were precisely the behaviors Congress sought to deter with statutory damages under the Copyright Act. Therefore, the court held that the jury’s award did not violate due process.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education, downloading fine upheld by court