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Share Files Online Safely & Legally

Understand The Risks Behind Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Applications

Peer-to-peer (P2P) software enables users to download and share content with other users in the same P2P network. They may even share your files without your knowledge. Often, this content is protected by copyright.

Under U.S. copyright law, downloading songs, movies, or software, even from legitimate sources, does not necessarily give you the right to alter them or share them with others. If the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) or any other copyright holder suspects you of illegally using content that they own, they may file a complaint against you. This may result in university sanctions, lawsuits, and other legal problems.

P2P software can also put your computer and your personal information at risk. Several P2P applications are known for installing adware or spyware on your computer, which threatens your privacy and may compromise your computer's security.

Control Access to Your Computer & Your Account Information

You are responsible for any activities that happen on the campus network that are associated with your IT Account NetID. Do not share your NetID and/or password with anyone. Do not install your own wireless routers or other network devices, or let others use your wired (Ethernet) jack without supervision.

You should also keep your computer up-to-date with the latest security patches and anti-virus definitions to prevent unauthorized network access to your files and to keep P2P programs from installing malware on your computer. If you chose to use P2P software, make sure that you check the developer's Web site often for the latest version and for security updates.

Disable P2P File-Sharing or Uninstall P2P Software

When using P2P applications, even if they are running in the background, you are actively sharing your files with anyone on the Internet who searches for them (including copyright holders and their agents). UMass Amherst IT recommends that you prevent P2P software from sharing (seeding) your files.

Common file-sharing programs include uTorrent, BitTorrent, Vuze, FrostWire and Ares. For a more complete list, see this Comparison of File Sharing Applications (Wikipedia). Most of these programs do not allow you to disable file-sharing. In this case, we strongly recommend that you uninstall these applications, especially if you don't use them often. Check your computer's Help documentation or your operating system's support Web site for information on how to uninstall software, including P2P applications.

Be Aware of What You Download

You should always assume that a piece of content is copyright-protected unless you created it or you have received the author’s explicit permission to use or distribute it. Do not download or share content if you are unsure whether it is legal or not to do so and only download content from legitimate sources (see below).

For more information about copyright & fair use, visit our Copyright Resources page.

Seek Legal Alternatives

There is a large number of legal entertainment services on the Web, some of which let you enjoy content free of charge. The following are the most common examples:

Note: UMass Amherst IT does not officially endorse or support these services.

  • Audiobooks: Audible, LibriVox
  • eBooks: Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Google Books/Google Editions, Kindle Store, Gutenberg-e
  • Movies & TV Shows: Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Hulu, Netflix
  • Music Downloads: Amazon MP3 Downloads, CD Baby, iTunes, eMusic
  • Music Streaming: Grooveshark, Pandora,, Shoutcast