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File Sharing

FAQ - File Sharing

File Sharing

Are P2P networks illegal?

Sharing work or media through a peer-to-peer (P2P) network is legal if you own the copyright, thus you own the right to determine if and how that work is distributed. For example, you can write and produce an original song and make it available for others to download for free through a P2P file sharing program. However, it is illegal for you to download or share copyrighted works without permission from the copyright owner.

Are there risks to running P2P software on my computer?

Yes, you not only put your computer at risk by running P2P software, you put the entire College of Western Idaho network at risk. P2P software is designed to maintain an open door between your computer, the Internet and anyone who wants access to the files you have available to share. You make your computer vulnerable to viruses, and you provide criminals with an opportunity to use your computer to attack other machines on the network.

How are sanctions determined?

Every time you are detected sharing copyrighted works you earn points toward a sanction. The number of points earned depends on the type of content and whether or not we were able to positively identify the content as being shared. The device CWI uses to monitor for copyright violations uses signature files, much like an anti-virus program, to compare the content being downloaded against a database of known copyrighted works. If the device gets a positive match on a signature file a higher number of points are awarded than if the device can only match a file name of a particular work. Points are awarded for downloading or sharing the following types of content: Movies, Music, TV Shows, eBooks, Computer software and games. You also earn points for using an encrypted P2P client regardless of content.

How do I know what is or is not protected by copyright laws?

Copyrighted materials need not bear the copyright symbol in order to be protected. Since 1978, all works created are automatically protected, regardless of whether the owner/author submits a copyright request; all works originally created before 1978 (whether registered or not) are also protected by copyright law. It is better to always assume a work is copyrighted and that you must obtain permission to use it (i.e. download it or share it). To learn more or search for specific works, visit the U.S. Copyright Office.

How do I obtain this type of content legally?

EduCause has a list of websites available that will let you know legal sources to obtain copyrighted content online. You can visit their website and view the list here: http://www.educause.edu/legalcontent

I don’t always see the Anti-Piracy web page when downloading or sharing files using P2P does this mean that I wasn’t detected?

No, you will only receive the Anti-Piracy warning page when you are sanctioned. If you continue to download or share files between sanctions you will still be generating points toward the next level of sanction.

I had no idea that I was downloading or sharing copyrighted content. How do I determine if I have a P2P application installed on my computer and how do I remove or restrict it?

In order to protect yourself from copyright violations, we recommend that you remove all P2P software from your computer. This will eliminate the possibility of having any copyrighted material, which you own, being distributed to the public Internet. To remove any software on a Windows based machine, you should open your Control Panel and choose "Add Remove Programs" or on Vista/Windows 7 "Programs and Features" and select each software title that you want to uninstall. Usually a simple Google search will let you know if the title is related to P2P software or not. If you need assistance or have a question about the titles that you see, please contact the IT helpdesk at 208-562-3444.

Many users choose to configure their P2P software for downloading files, but they disable the feature to allow their files to be uploaded to the public. Many of the popular P2P applications have options that allow you to disable the uploading of files. If you choose to turn off the uploading of files in your P2P software please consult the help file specific to your application for directions.

I received an Anti-Piracy Warning webpage, is this valid?

Yes, you have been detected sharing or downloading copyrighted content. This page will give you information on what content was detected; the length of your sanction (If any) and sources for legally downloading copyrighted content. The site looks like this:


I received the anti-piracy warning webpage but it doesn’t tell me what I was sharing or downloading. Why is this?

Most likely you are using a P2P client that encrypts the data that it is being shared or downloaded making it more difficult to detect the actual file names of the content being shared. Use of an encrypted P2P client is not allowed, under any circumstances, on the colleges’ network and will still earn points toward sanctions even if the content that was shared cannot be determined.

What are the consequences if I am discovered sharing illegal content on CWI’s network?

On first warning, your computer’s web browser will be redirected to an Anti-Piracy warning page informing you of the violation. On the warning page you will be able to see links to how to obtain music, movies, TV shows, etc. legally. You must click on the “I will comply” button signifying that you agree to comply with CWI’s Electronic Technology Usage Policy prior to being allowed to access the internet.

On the second warning, your computer’s web browser will be redirected to the same Anti-Piracy warning page mentioned above however your internet access will be restricted for 4 hours. During this time you will not be able to access internet resources like news websites, social media, etc. Once again you must signify your willingness to comply by clicking on the “I will comply” button.  The restriction will not affect your access to myCWI or to blackboard. You may contact the IT Help Desk at 208-562-3444 or [email protected] if you believe that you have been sanctioned in error and the help desk staff can remove the sanction early, if warranted.

On the third warning, your computers web browser will be redirected and internet access will be restricted for a full day (24 Hours). During this time you will not be able to access internet resources. The restriction will not affect your access to myCWI or to blackboard. You may contact the IT help desk if you believe that you have been sanctioned a third time in error, however, be aware that the help desk staff will not be able to lift your sanction early. They will create a ticket and submit it to CWI IT security. It is up to the discretion of IT security to lift the sanction early.

On the fourth warning, your computers web browser will be redirected and internet access will be restricted for the remainder of the semester. You will be required to meet with the Director of Student Enrichment or Human Resources (Faculty / Staff) and sign a letter saying that you will stop sharing illegal content on CWI’s network prior to restoration of internet access.

On subsequent offences your access to the internet will be terminated permanently.

What are the penalties if CWI doesn’t comply with the DMCA and HEOA?


Noncompliance with the DMCA could cause the institution to lose its protection under the DMCA Safe Harbor provision for internet service providers and subject the college to significant monetary fines and potential legal action.


Because the reporting and disclosure requirements of the HEOA are linked to an institution’s participation in the Title IV federal student financial aid programs, the Secretary of Education is authorized to take administrative action, including the imposition of fines, against institutions that do not comply. The most severe penalty the Department of Education could impose for failure to comply, however, is a limitation or termination of the institution’s participation in the Title IV financial aid programs.

What else may happen if I am found to be sharing copyrighted content?

Violating the rights of a copyright owner can result in fines in the form of settlements or statutory damages. The courts determine the fines associated with copyright infringement, and fines can range from $200 per violation to $150,000 per violation. In addition to the statutory damages, if you are found guilty of copyright infringement, you can be held accountable to pay costs and attorney’s fees related to litigation.

What is an online service provider?

An online service provider (OSP) is an entity which offers the transmission, routing, or providing of connections for digital online communications. In simple terms, an OSP is a provider of online services or network access. College of Western Idaho is considered an OSP.

What is copyright infringement?

Copyright infringement occurs when you download or share copyrighted materials —including music, movies, games, and software —from the Internet without consent from the author.