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BitTorrent Inherently Illegal?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the what-a-misconception! dept.

The Internet 857

Nohbdy001 asks: "Today I received a letter from my university's network administration advising me that my network access would be terminated due to 'illegal P2P activity.' The P2P activity that the e-mail cited was BitTorrent and the file being transferred was an update to the Azureus BitTorrent client. The letter stated, 'Until the courts decide that student P2P activity is permitted we will continue to block this activity on our network,' implying that BitTorrent is inherently illegal. It seems such misunderstandings are common, but it is particularly frustrating when coming from people in the IT field. How can a student respond to such an accusation in order to defend the validity of BitTorrent and continue to benefit from its legitimate uses?"

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857 comments

It's unfortunate (5, Insightful)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049383)

I don't have any advice in particular. It's unfortunate because this really amounts to censorship and stifling academic freedom. Who's to say that the content you're accessing with a network tool - say, even a web browser - is appropriate? Sure, you can say that downloading pirated software or movies is inappropriate, but, in my opinion, academic institutions should have as hands-off an approach as possible. Illegal content can be accessed via the web, or email. Most would say it's absurd to suggest blocking port 80, or port 25. Why? Why is that any more absurd than blocking something such as BitTorrent, especially as BitTorrent's legitimate applications are increasing?

During the heyday of Napster, the University of Wisconsin - Madison had a difficult decision. As it watched the traffic for Napster consume over 70% of total inbound bandwidth at its peak, we asked ourselves: do we start blocking Napster? After all, it's mostly used for stealing music. Right?

Fortunately, the answer was a resounding "No," but not because we condoned illegally downloading copyrighted material. It was because the university didn't want to become de facto censors of information, in any form it may come. We decided that things like Napster were part of the cost of doing business as a major public research university. The solution was to add bandwidth, and deal with the technical aspects of the problem separate from any social aspects that may exist.

Granted, some smaller institutions might not have been able to afford - economically or legally - to take this stance. But the University of Wisconsin felt it important enough to allow academic freedom and freedom of exchange of information to trump any other potential concerns, real or imagined.

The university does respond on an individual basis to people clearly running warez servers, owned machines used for warez, specific C&D orders or other notices from copyright holders, etc., but we don't take a proactive approach. In fact, ironically, a proactive approach could be more dangerous, because it may mean that safe harbor provisions of some elements of copyright law (e.g. DMCA) won't apply: an ISP can't be held responsible for things it doesn't know about.

Re:It's unfortunate (3, Funny)

SECProto (790283) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049404)

How did you post this huge comment and still manage to get first post? im impressed.

Re:It's unfortunate (5, Funny)

IvanD (719006) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049493)

He has the "ultimate platinum" subscription, and so.. he can read it, ask his lawyer and post before us (the normal/cheap people)

Re:It's unfortunate (0, Redundant)

Curtman (556920) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049495)

He's a subscriber, he saw the story 20 minutes ago or whatever.

Re:It's unfortunate (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12049431)

*respect*
*respect*
*respect*
*respect*

I loved that story. Thank you.

Re:It's unfortunate (4, Interesting)

krumms (613921) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049518)

Isn't it great how the music and movie industries can scare universities into policing their laws for them with little more than a few spot searches?

Re:It's unfortunate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12049551)

Sure, you can say that downloading pirated software or movies is inappropriate, but, in my opinion, academic institutions should have as hands-off an approach as possible.

I agree with this stance, but it's not like it was even five years ago. Everybody uses P2P apps, and there's never enough bandwidth to go around. I'd argue that the admins are probably much more concerned about that than they are about legal issues, which happen to be a convenient way out.

Re:It's unfortunate (5, Interesting)

hendrix69 (683997) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049558)

Bandwidth considerations and legal issues are very different things. You can always limit the bandwidth that's allocated for p2p application in your network. But if RIAA decides to sue the university for huge sums of money it's in for a financial burn. The cost of the legal battle in itself is enough to deter almost any institution.
Of course I agree that universities should not censor information, especially not in such unclever ways as declaring a protocol illegal. But I can understand why some universities have to kneel before the commerical powers that be.

Legal Precedent (5, Informative)

NorbMan (829255) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049385)

There is already legal precedent that P2P file sharing technology in itself is indeed legal. The Federal Appeals court that ruled was talking about networks like Morpheus and Grokster, but I would think the precedent set also applies to Bittorrent.

Here's a quote from a news story back in August [wired.com] :

"History has shown that time and market forces often provide equilibrium in balancing interests, whether the new technology be a player piano, a copier, a tape recorder, a video recorder, a personal computer, a karaoke machine, or an MP3 player," Thomas wrote. "Thus, it is prudent for courts to exercise caution before restructuring liability theories for the purpose of addressing specific market abuses, despite their apparent present magnitude."

Here's The Reply to Give (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12049387)

"Go fuck yourself, jackass."

Good luck!

Re:Here's The Reply to Give (1)

brlancer (666140) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049539)

Damn, that so should have been modded "funny" instead of "flamebait". I guess some people just don't understand humor.

Let the NetAdmin scan your pc.... (3, Interesting)

Chop (211528) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049392)

Make sure you do not have any "warez" stored on you computer.

Re:Let the NetAdmin scan your pc.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12049492)

Yes, good idea. After all, you have nothing to hide...

Re:Let the NetAdmin scan your pc.... (4, Interesting)

mp3phish (747341) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049541)

He also has no reason to give up his rights to privacy. You don't let the cops in to search your house and thumb print you when you did nothing illegal. So why would it be any different if you get caught using your PC legally?

To the parent: whatever you do. DO NOT give up your rights to privacy to get your net connection back. No matter if you did nothing illegal. If you give up your privacy, then you justify it to the administration that it is ok for them to do the same thing to other students.

Re:Let the NetAdmin scan your pc.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12049577)

Oops, I forgot the sarcasm tags. Sorry!

Is BitTorrent inherently illegal? (1, Insightful)

LokieLizzy (858962) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049393)

No more than any other piece of open-source software out there.

But according to SCO... (2, Funny)

g2racer (258096) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049463)

Open-Source software is not only evil, but infringes on copyrights and patents ;)

You are fighting the University's lawyers. (0, Flamebait)

Neil Blender (555885) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049394)

You won't win. They are covering their collective asses.

Re:You are fighting the University's lawyers. (1)

shredluc (805905) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049573)

With an attitude like that, no You won't. If every one thought they couldn't win, we would have never have had a revolution. It is a university after all and graduating from one I know how easy it is to organize a demostration or protest. If he trully feels that the University is in the wrong, then he should have no problem organizing a demonstratration on campus grounds. He just has to know what to say and pick the right time to say it. There are campus papers and he can create posters. He has the means to change what goes around him and he should take the oportunity to do so.

I'm stuck also (2, Funny)

karn096 (807073) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049396)

My college does the same damn thing. I can't even do wnload from bittorrent. But my school is also using a stateful firewall, and a lot of those P2P programs break behind a firewall.

On another note, anyone know a way around that?

Re:I'm stuck also (2, Informative)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049457)

Try IRC. My college started throtling BT to hell, but we tried IRC and they weren't blocking it. It is a possiblity to try.

Re:I'm stuck also (2, Interesting)

karn096 (807073) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049533)

I've resorted to IRC, and Usenet...I love usenet...

Well... (4, Insightful)

cdrudge (68377) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049400)

Did you send a reply back stating, or better yet actually showing, legitimate uses? Game patches, legal multimedia distribution (Red vs. Blue for example), and so forth...

Re:Well... (2, Interesting)

terrygao (811237) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049430)

judy FYI, in Canada the biggest ISP, Shaw Cable also blocked BT traffic. Sad day for BT users out there.

Easy question: (5, Insightful)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049401)

Ask them what you were doing that was possibly illegal. If they can not name any possible source of infringment, you might be able to do something. As for all file sharing being illegal, point out to them that a webserver (such as the universities webserver) along with google does essentially the same thing.

They own the network.. (4, Insightful)

IonPanel (714617) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049405)

Although a P2P application may not be illegal, the department providing your computing services has decided they don't want to allow you to use a P2P application on their network.

Although their reasoning may be questioned - it is their network, and you are probably going to just have to put up with it.

Can something be proven legal (1)

MichaelJames (98391) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049407)

Aren't courts mostly interpretation -- there is nothing black and white --

Re:Can something be proven legal (1)

LordRPI (583454) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049569)

Well, in a sense, yes. When courts rule on something, they establish a precedent on which further decisions will be made upon. So really, what this means is, until the courts make a decision, it is not proven legal. When the courts prove BT legal, then all courts in all cases usually do decide that BT is legal, for example.

Re:Can something be proven legal (1)

micromoog (206608) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049576)

There's statutory law (explicitly written laws) and case law (it's that way because of these 11,000 related court cases). The first is subject to change only through new legislation; the 2nd is always subject to new interpretation.

It's not BitTorrent itself that's illegal... (0, Redundant)

Joey Patterson (547891) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049408)

It's what one does with BitTorrent that's illegal.

THIS TERRI SCHIAVO TERRORIST MUST BE STOPPED! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12049414)

GO USA!

You have no real alternative (5, Informative)

Hanashi (93356) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049418)

As long as you're using the school's network, you have to abide by the school's policies. If they ask you not to do it, you pretty much have to comply if you want to keep your net connection.

Still, it's probably worth a polite note to the network administrator to request "clarification". State your case concisely (they're usually busy) and politely, and you may get lucky.

Nah, it's all illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12049502)

It's all illegal. None of it's legal. It's P2P and the RIAA tells me that's illegal, so it must be illegal.

Tell the pirate to burn in Heck.

Damn thief.

Get a real ISP? (0, Flamebait)

katpurz (721210) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049421)

that daddy doesnt pay for?

Good luck with that...

educate them. (2, Interesting)

quiffhanger (639793) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049422)

Your best bet would surely be to explain it's role in reducing the load on servers, however the university probably has no interest in that given that it only results in them having to put up with more traffic...

Why even deal with incompeten admin? (1, Interesting)

physicsphairy (720718) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049424)

"How can a student respond to such an accusation in order to defend the validity of BitTorrent and continue to benefit from its legitimate uses?"

I don't know about defending it's validity, but as far as still enjoying the use of BitTorrent is concerned, netcat is your friend. ;)

Just tell them... (2, Interesting)

LokieLizzy (858962) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049425)

You were updating Azureus to give you faster access to the latest m...err, Mandrake distros.

Only a terrorist would be against Linux!

WoW (1)

Kragzakh (870842) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049426)

And how do you patch WoW, as it uses bittorrent for some patches.

Re:WoW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12049538)

I beleive it will fall back to a http or ftp method if bt doesn't work.

Univeristy determined that out after they shut it down around thanksgiving. What Blizzard was doing was mildly illegal because it was using the university's network resources for their fiscal gain(they turn a blind eye to downloading the update, but the uploading and its bandwidth usage was a pretty fast turn off for some people. After IT figured out exactly what was going on it turned those people back on, but blocked access to Blizzard's BT tracker.)

Re:WoW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12049570)

I believe wow's bt patcher uses blizzard ports, not the standard bittorrent ports, and a custom implementation

It's not without its problems, but I believe it does work in at least some schools that block bt ports

BitTorrent over GRE or VPN (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049428)

I think the next step will be to have bittorrent encapsulate itself and possibly even be encrypted...

Universities just don't want the big bandwidth bill. They know they don't want to put themselves on the hook for monitoring traffic and being responsible for illegal filesharing.. in the past, universities have almost always used the argument that they are not responsible for the content of their networks. This is a smart argument because it prevents them from being liable for sharing illegal files on p2p.. this kid's university is being stupid by admitting that it has a responsibility to filter illegal files. So, when an illegal file does get throgh, the **AA gestapo can now go after the Uni in addition to the student...

Who are you kidding ? (1, Flamebait)

silverbolt (578120) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049434)

Was the bit torrent client the only file you ever transferred ? The university did not shut you down just because of this one file. I wouldn't be taking a big chance if I guessed that you had music and/or movie files also being transferred on your bit torrent connection at other times. That would be copyright infringement, and that's illegal.

This is insane (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12049435)

From the post, "Until the courts decide that student P2P activity is permitted we will continue to block this activity on our network." What has happened to my country? I now have to wait for a court to decide if something is legal before I do it? I remember when the general idea was, "if it's not illegal, then it's legal."

"P2P" means "person to person". So now I need to wait for permission from a court before I can communicate with other people?

When will this end? When everyone is in jail? When everyone has left the US because it's not safe to live here anymore? When the US economy collapses because we need "opinion letters" and court rulings before we can communicate with our friends?

Not much you can do (3, Insightful)

flynt (248848) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049436)

Sorry, it's their network, and you signed up to use it. You have to play by their rules. In a university setting, the goal should be to promote academic research, and unless administrators see BitTorrent as helping (I don't know whether it does or not), they will probably regulate it. If you have a legitimate academic need for the client, it might be allowed. You'd also probably be surprised about how much p2p traffic there is (music/movies) on campuses, and what kind of cost this incurs on the university.

Best way to respond (1)

nukem996 (624036) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049438)

First of all make sure what your downloading is legal. Try trying an e-mail to the admin telling him or her what you were downloading and prove that what you were downloading was legal. Also put something in the e-mail that it was the only way you could get the file you needed(FTP server full, or there is no other way). If you can prove that you need it for your studies. If that fails goto other students and people that work at your college and have them complain that they need bittorrent.

Good news and bad news... (4, Interesting)

Shoten (260439) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049439)

Okay, first the good news. Proving that it's not illegal is relatively simple. If something isn't explicitly rendered illegal by an act of law, it's legal. Ask them to point out the law that states (and here's the key point) that use of this particular protocol is illegal for distribution of freeware that is also available for unfettered download via the web. They obviously won't be able to...problem solved?

Not exactly. This isn't just a matter of legal versus not legal, it's a question of whether it complies with their own Acceptable Use Policies. And depending on how those policies are written, Bittorrent may be a no-no anyways, "Because we say so." And I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts that when they say "illegal," they don't mean 'criminal,' they mean 'against our own policies.' Good luck to you, man (or woman, whichever).

legitimate uses (5, Interesting)

Darkon (206829) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049440)


Keep in mind that your definition of "legitimate use" may be quite different from theirs. University IT departments tend not to consider anything to be "legitimate" unless it has a valid academic application. Do you know of any academic uses for BitTorrent? Not trying to rain on your parade, but "I need it to download X" probably won't cut much ice.

Re:legitimate uses (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12049542)

How about this?

I am an IT student. I need to use BitTorrent to download the latest Linux distribution so as to keep my linux distro up-to-date as required by my "computer programming in linux" class at this very university. (Alternatively, "to research the differences among kernel distributions" so as to document changes, observe patches, and understand why they were necessary and how they were implemented).

I don't think you have much to worry about... (1)

yuriismaster (776296) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049441)

... and the file being transferred was an update to the Azureus BitTorrent client.


Especially since you were tranferring free/Free software. If you got caught distributing illegal movies, software, music, et al. then you really don't have much to defend yourself with.

Best solution to the problem: BitTorrent something really helpful, like the XPSP2 standalone installer (even though you may not like Windows). This shows how your individual connection can help release the burden of large files from servers. That's the whole point of BitTorrent. Prove that it works for good, not just for evil.

Couple things to check (2, Insightful)

jacksonai (604950) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049445)

I would suggest getting a copy of the Acceptible Use Policy and any network related documents. Being familar with your University's policies can come in handy when dealing with the IT staff. Also, is it absolutely necessary to use Bit Torrent? I know it's a good thing (I use it myself to download Linspire) but the ratio of legitimate / illegitimate ussage is probably tilted pretty far one way.

ummm.... (1)

JDizzy (85499) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049446)

One good way woudl be to not trade any type of audio/visual stuff... just fetchyou rlatest linux distro, or whatever software. For me torrents are only used when everybody is stressingthe download servers, and mirrors, so this is where bittorrent shines.

Letter to IT (4, Funny)

doublem (118724) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049450)

Dear IT Department,

The "P2P" traffic you refer to consisted of me downloading updates to legal software. I will also use P2P technology to download Linux ISO's and other legal products.

I am not using P2P to download Movies, music or any other content unless the copyright owners have, as is the case with GPL software, explictly authorized unrestricted digital transfer.

You might as well ban FTP and HTTP traffic, as the materials I download can be legally acquired through those protocols as well.

You have not banned any illegal or debated downloads, only the download of software and content that all parties involved agree is legal to transfer.

Sincerely,

The student seeking a transfer to a more competently run University.

Re:Letter to IT (5, Interesting)

LokieLizzy (858962) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049529)

Copping an attitude against the IT department is the quickest way to get yourself banned from the University's IP domain. If you speak to them reasonably, they're more likely to listen. But if you go about spouting arrogant gibberish like "you might as well ban HTTP traffic" or "the student seeking a transfer to a more competently run University", then you're just asking for it. Don't bite the hand that gives you free internet access. Believe me -- I speak from experience.

Re:Letter to IT (1)

doublem (118724) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049563)

I included the line "the student seeking a transfer to a more competently run University" as a hint as to one thing the poster might do.

Consider it the same thing as "your name here"

I don't think my crack about HTTP is out of line though. I think it's a reasonable comparison to make, if worded a bit harshly.

rise up! (1)

stickfigure (133284) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049453)

How can a student respond to such an accusation in order to defend the validity of BitTorrent and continue to benefit from its legitimate uses?


Whine. Loudly and often.

That's a matter between you and your ISP (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049455)

Your ISP (in this case, a university). Can put any restrictions on the network. You've basically agreed to the terms and conditions by going to that university (many uni's have you sign an agreement). If you don't like it, get a new ISP. My evil ISP still lets me download Debian and NetBSD ISOs using BitTorrent, and I'm just using Comcast which has a user agreement as long as your arm.

Re:That's a matter between you and your ISP (1)

micromoog (206608) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049545)

In other words, move off campus. Then once you do that, you'll discover that you can have keg parties and clambakes at your house, and BitTorrent access will suddenly seem a lot less important anyway.

Linux distros? (1)

Winckle (870180) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049460)

You could say that Bit torrent is the best method for getting the new versions of linux distros, which lets be honest, it is. If you are a computer science student, this is an extremely good excuse to use bit torrent

Picking packets? (1)

IvanD (719006) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049461)

I though it was declared "illegal" checking packets of traffic going through the routers. I guess P2P will have to pass a really long time before it can be considered as illegal.

It comes to a problem that the illegal issue is violating the copyright laws. (unfortunately, these P2P applications are mostly used for it, but it is unclear yet how to define that w/o "spying" your packets - which is illegal too)

answer: you can't fight this (1)

l33t-gu3lph1t3 (567059) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049462)

IT departments will *always* err on the side of caution. They don't care to differentiate between legal and illegal p2p activity, so they just port block or implement QoS.

There's really nothing you can do about this, other than perhaps setup a VPN connection to a machine outside the University network.

Kwityerbitchin! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12049466)

How can a student respond to such an accusation in order to defend the validity of BitTorrent and continue to benefit from its legitimate uses?"

Move off campus. You're probably paying a pittance for your network connection, and the University has to keep from being sued into oblivion, so they'll keep themselves covered and won't be bothered with your whining about "freedom."

Move (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12049469)

I go to a different university because obviously these IT people are ignorant.

Ahh! (0, Redundant)

numLocked (801188) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049479)

How will you get your WoW updates??

I would probably go into withdrawl and die in my dorm room.

Deal with it. (2, Insightful)

robpoe (578975) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049481)

It's their network. If they dont want you using BT, then dont use BT.

However, I'd send a letter back. State that while illegal files can and are downloaded using BitTorrent, you were just using it for legal purposes. There is no laws governing protocols at this time (as far as if they can or cannot be used).

Also put something in there like "However I do respect that this is your network and will abide by the rules. I apologize for any issues I might have caused."

But that's my 30something mind working.

Internet Agreement (1)

reuben04 (740293) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049482)

I would be willing to bet that by being enrolled in the college and connected to their network that you are inherently bound by some sort of acceptable use policy that usually includes wording that allows them to allow or disallow any type of activity. I don't think that you can do anything about it. You can however always try to "enlighten" them by emailing them articles, and news precendents like the one listed in an above reply, hoping to change their minds.

me thinks... (1)

zxnos (813588) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049483)

...you university is protecting itself for the off-chance that they could be held liable in some way, shape or form... ...or maybe they need to cut back on the amount of bandwidth used and this is an easy excuse?

World Of Warcraft (1)

aceofaces_ts (597539) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049484)

WoW is one great example of BitTorrent is a legal way. They use it to push out their game updates, and it usually works. You can also bing up the Linux Distro CD's.

Have you tried... (1)

LokieLizzy (858962) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049490)

"How can a student respond to such an accusation in order to defend the validity of BitTorrent and continue to benefit from its legitimate uses?"

Have you tried speaking to the IT department of your University? Because it sounds like you cut-and-pasted this from an email they sent you. Perhaps it was only a warning to get your attention. Speaking to them about your connection, in my opinion, would be the quickest (not to mention, most effective) means of ensuring that you're not cut off from the internet as a college student. Because believe me -- you never know just how many things you do online on a regular basis (legal things, for that matter), until you're stranded without the internet for a few days. You should really try to speak to them before they actually *do* disconnect you.

I think your options are limited (2, Informative)

InfiniteWisdom (530090) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049491)

Unfortunately the university network is a private network, and they can set nearly any policy they like. If that policy is that no applications that have explicitly been ruled legal are allowed, they can do that.

In my opinion the best you can do is to to publicise the fact in your school and/or community papers. It might help if you got it in writing that the school has a policy of banning all new applications till courts rule that they are legal. It ought to warn prospective students that far from encouraging creativity, the school has a policy of stifling it, and they ought to stay away.

I'm confused... (1)

realmolo (574068) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049496)

Are they blocking Bittorent at the firewall, or are they just logging BT activity, and then shutting off users based on that?

If they're shutting you off for "illegal activity", you could fight it. You'll lose, of course.

Sounds like they're idiots. If they don't want any P2P acitivity on their network, there are at least a few traffic-shaping appliances that can do it for them.

not really from IT (-1)

ClickWir (166927) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049497)

but it is particularly frustrating when coming from people in the IT field

If you trace it back, the message you got didn't really come from IT. It's coming from higher up. IT probably doesnt' care, it's the legal team above them that's worried.

Signature (1)

turtled (845180) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049498)

Something to possibly look at, wrather than arguing or finding a way around, is to see what papers you signed when starting school. You may have signed something saying you won't use certain programs or use the network for X reasons. Also somewhere in small tiny tiny letters is something stating, we have the right to refuse network traffic and/or the right to change our minds and use your signature as a way our of liability and troubles.

Blizzard uses it (1)

garylian (870843) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049501)

Right now, for World of Warcraft, Blizzard has been using a bittorrent to distribute updates/patches. Several university students have had problems not being able to get patches. Right now, for many of those customers, they have to wait until someone posts the file on a website so they can download it from there, as to the best of my knowledge, Blizzard never ponied up with an alternate distribution method. So, some people are using P2P legitimately.

Use the student newspaper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12049506)

I doubt there is anything you can do with the IT deptartment. You could try demanding which of their terms of service your violated but you might find that their terms of service ban all P2P traffic (you did read their Ts and Cs didn't you?).

If your college has a student newspaper (in Britain this is generally run by the student's union) see if you can get a bit of coverage in that.

Raise hell. (0)

brlancer (666140) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049507)

Nothing gets done if you don't speak up. Start with the IT department; go to the dean; go to the president. If the school won't listen to you (as many don't), get your parents involved. Explain to your parents your 100% legal behavior and that this is impeding your work.

Raise hell.

Get students together; you'd be surprised what 200 students outside a dean's office can do. Be respectful, be truthful, but make it clear that you are in the right and they are in the wrong and you won't lay down until they correct it.

I work at a University (5, Insightful)

oni (41625) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049508)

and I can tell you that the larger issue is the amount of bandwidth used by students. Universities pay by the bit and budgets are tight. The network has two purposes: first, it is there to help with your education. second, it is a recruiting tool - nobody would want to attend a school without network access.

But beyond that, it's an expensive utility and the school really can't afford to open it up 100%. So, they are always looking for some way to justify restricting its use. It's sad that they have basically called you a theif, but don't take it personally. They're just trying to save money. It's wrong and it sucks for you, but that's the bottom line.

Don't worry. college is only four years, and then you can get a good job and a real internet connection. For now, just concentrate on beer and girls

and grades of course.

Not a damn thing... (1)

mconeone (765767) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049509)

It is the University's network, and they can decide what goes over it and what doesn't, illegal or not. You could try petitioning IT for this, but I doubt you'll get anywhere.

Why not move off campus in protest?

Is it part of the corporate standard? (1)

dangermen (248354) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049510)

If the software is not part of the corporate standard I would say too bad. I'm a big Linux user at our office and I administer the network. We have a good amount of control on what apps users run. If they install something else, I see no reason not to tell them that we will block it.

University Appeal (1)

Telastyn (206146) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049511)

Most universities have an appeals process for such an action. That would be your best bet, because legally, they can do whatever they want with their network for any reason what-so-ever [as long as they don't prevent you from getting seperate internet access,in which case things get far more complex and in the student's favor].

Why bother waiting for a court decision? (1)

October_30th (531777) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049514)

I don't understand why your university would go through the trouble of waiting for a court decision. It's their network, isn't it? Doesn't it mean that they should be able to just tell the students and the staff what is allowed and what is not?

My university banned all P2P in its network. If you install an unauthorized P2P client (you can get a permission to run one if it's a part of an official research project) and get caught, you'll be expelled/fired after one warning. Why? In short, the reasons cited were: "It's eating up our bandwidth, it's mainly used for copyright infringement, some P2P programs are an unnecessary security risk and - most important of all - because we say so." Makes sense to me.

Downloading Linux Distributions? (2, Informative)

Paul Bristow (118584) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049515)

Mandrake Linux uses BitTorrent as it's main method for downloading for Mandrake Club members. To quote them directly from http://www.mandrakelinux.com/en/club/ "Early and privileged access is provided, before public release, to ISO images of the latest Mandrakelinux, using the fast BitTorrent technology." However I sould strongly suggest being able to substantiate the legal use before you start a discussion with your University.

And this is why... (1)

MXK (763030) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049523)

See, this is why I live at home with my mommy and daddy...

Oh wait... I shouldn't have said that.

Oh come on... (1)

isa-kuruption (317695) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049524)

Let's get real here and examine what the letter really says:
You're using up network bandwidth and we don't like it. Instead of telling you this, we're using the disguise of some law that does not yet exist to tell you to stop. What's so great about this disguise is that not only are we scaring you by threatened to turn off your network connection, but we can also insinuate that you can get arrested, thus creating an even bigger reason to stop.

Of course, they assume you're an ignorant fuck (afterall you're at a university) who will just go "OK yessir I'll stop"

Academic freedom... (1)

Homology (639438) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049525)

seems to have a hard time some places (USA in this case, I guess) when one need a court decision on whether P2P is legal :
The letter stated, 'Until the courts decide that student P2P activity is permitted we will continue to block this activity on our network,'

And why should student P2P be any less legal just because a student does it?

Now, if the letter had said something to the effect that P2P is consuming too much bandwidth, I could understand them.

WELLL (1)

WizardRahl (840191) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049530)

what are you planning to download with azureus?

option? (1)

Tsunam (815302) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049534)

Well, this all comes down to the fact that the uni is tracking usage of the network, without finding out exactly what its being used for. In this case you might have a foot to stand on. If you can pointedly prove that you were using it to support FOSS. If you have logs you can take it to them and show them without a doubt that you were not doing anything illegal, and far from it something that supports the growth of community. However depending on how hardline the university is deciding to be you can be out of luck entirely. That's about the only way i can think of that you might have a snowballs chance in hell to prove that you wern't using a "university deemed" illegal application for illegal purposes.

Similar Situation - Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12049535)

I ran into a similar situation about 3-4 months ago. I go to a private university who terminated my internet access because I was using BitTorrent to download a Phish concert. I wrote the IT manager with the taping and trading policy of Phish (they allow such downloading) as well as the terms of use of BT (stating that they do not allow illegal activity to be downloaded). I was reinstated immediately and my IP was flagged so it wouldn't happen again. Worth a shot.

Usage terms (1)

p7 (245321) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049536)

I would find any usage terms that were given to me and ask for a copy of the list of approved uses of the internet. If the rules they provide you don't appear to back up the admins statement, call them on it. Of course your case will be bolstered if you can demonstrate that your use is legitimate as it was in that case. If the rules are against it, look into seeing how to change the rules. You shouldn't have to put up with the restriction if you are using bittorrent for non-infringing downloads.

Also it couldn't hurt to make sure you don't suck to much bandwidth outgoing.

BT and Universities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12049537)

I work for a fairly large IT department at a state University. We have a much more hands off approach than most places, I think. Every student is rationed off their allotment of network bandwidth in their dorm or VPN connection. What they do with it is their own business. The only time our security office investigates is when a user is reported to us as breaking a law (DMCA or anything else). Then we take action, generally blocking the MAC address until the user is in compliance with the law.

Saying Bit torrent traffic is illegal is asinine. For example, World of Warcraft (not to mention The Broken, Slackware and various other quite legal files) uses BT to transfer updates rather than having a couple servers from which to get out updates and making everyone wait.

The legal onus is on YOU not the university. BT is as illegal as your actions you take with it. You can use a car to murder people at random, or you can use it to go to work. BT is the same, if no less drastic.

Common sense should be your best appeal to your system. I'd cite all the legal uses that their blanket approach precludes. Failing that, hopefully you have some sort of ombudsman you can report this to. But you *SHOULD* make as much noise as possible. No court is going to rule that Bit Torrent or Grokster is illegal, just like BetaMax was ruled legal many years ago.

I would try to get some CS profs involved (4, Insightful)

astrashe (7452) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049543)

It's getting to the point where it's hard to run open source software without using bittorrent.

I'm not saying it's impossible (that would clearly be overstating things) but more and more things are being distributed via torrents.

I think the reaction should be that you know they have a problem (traffic and piracy on their network), but that you have a problem (there is stuff that's legal that you need torrents to get), and see if you can come to a reasonable solution.

I would try to emphasize the direction of the trend, too. A couple of years ago, bittorrent didn't factor into downloading linux iso's very much at all. Now I think it's clearly the best way to get most things, although more traditional downloads are still available. But eventually, I wouldn't be surprised if people without torrent access have real trouble getting large legal files.

If your school doesn't want to hamstring its students' ability to participate in open source, they'll have to open up to torrents.

Fedora (1)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049546)

Take something big like Fedora Core. It is distributed via Bittorrent and is perfectly legal too. Also suggest to the school that they actively encourage Bittorrent use. As a student researcher, I often transfer HUGE files across the Internet; a p2p system could conceivably reduce the bandwidth costs for the school. Good luck!

It's the Bandwidth, Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12049550)

I'm not sure why a university would even want to get into debating or mentioning these issues. The legal issues are of concern, but they don't want to deal with the massive bandwidth of student downloads and uploads.

If you have to ask, it must really be tough (1)

Theologian (583625) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049552)

How can a student respond to such an accusation in order to defend the validity of BitTorrent and continue to benefit from its legitimate uses?" If you have to ask for ideas and excuses for legitimate uses, you must not have many. Leave it to those who really do have legitimate uses to come up with their reasoning behind continued usage. It just seems like you're looking for justification as opposed to a valid defense.

It's an issue of service (1)

alc6379 (832389) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049553)

When I was in college, we paid technology access fees to use their services. Even in the dorms, it didn't matter what we did, so long as we didn't degrade service.

It's an Internet connection you're paying for. IMNSHO, you should be able to do whatever you want to do with it.

Talk to the CS Department. (2, Interesting)

Citoahc (565108) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049559)

I went to a small school and got them to ease back on the bandwidth restrictions for Bit Torrent because I was doing my senior seminar paper on the program.

Getting a professor to talk to the Network Admin about the legal uses. If you can convince a professor to use it in a class you might actually stand a chance.

Citoahc

Not clear.... (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049561)

What Nohbody's situation is. Student, dorm resident, instructor, professor? Anyway, assuming he's a student: If you're at a big school the network IT department almost certainly doesn't actually have the authority to impose a punishment on you, though they have the power. The trick then is finding someone in the bureaucracy who can and will tell them to either back off or bring you before the disciplinary board.

There's no way to win without fighting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12049564)

You're not going to explain this to them logically and change their minds. It will never happen. You can show them legal precendents showing P2P is quite legal, you can invite them to scan your computer for illegal activity, and they still won't care. What they're doing is covering their asses.

You can choose to stop using BitTorrent on their network. You can choose to continue using BitTorrent and face whatever sort of consequences they threaten.

If they prevent you from accessing the university network, and you can PROVE (as in, to an actual judge) that you have not violated any of the service terms of that network, then you can probably sue them. They took your technology fee and did not provide the promised technology service. They owe you a refund.

Then again, check those appropriate use terms. Usually they are written foggily enough to basically translate into "appropriate use is what we say it is". In which case you're screwed.

Talk to a lawyer if you really want to fight this. It's your only option.

preemptive strike by the institution, (1)

museumpeace (735109) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049567)

because it sees some slight possibility of being sued, has succeeded in killing all the innocent bystanders before the enemy [*AA legal staff] fires a single cease-and-desist]

Become a transfer student (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12049571)

Make your tuition dollars work for you, and find educators who answer to you, not to the media corporations.

Fighting senseless stuff is not likely to work... (4, Interesting)

aedil (68993) | more than 9 years ago | (#12049581)

The quote from the letter shows that the university is clearly blowing smoke and either did not talk to their legal department, or if they did, they ought to fire their lawyers. Although you sometimes have to wonder about the sanity of the US legal system, there is still a basic principle that something is legal unless it is determined to be illegal. Therefore, courts do not have to rule P2P activity as legal before you can engage in that activity. Even pending litigations do not constitute that P2P activity is currently illegal (unless you break the law using the P2P stuff).

Also, it is very unlikely that any court would rule specifically on student P2P activity. Students are strange animals, but in general rulings like this would apply to everyone, not just to students.

They are obviously playing on threatening people, and hiding behind vague statements in an effort to simply avoid the entire risk of people potentially using P2P technology to download (or upload) illegal materials. I'd personally recommand replying back to the university, explaining your legal use of P2P, and explaining that their letter seems to be based on some flawed assumptions, both legally and factually.

But do not expect to win unless you really want to fight this desperately. It's their network and though you pay tuition and all that, it is still their network, and so they get to decide what goes, whether it makes sense or not.
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