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The University’s P2P plan

Students living on campus may find their peer-to-peer file sharing programs rendered inoperable this fall as administrators look into a technology designed to eliminate such programs on the University network.

Looking to limit network users’ ability to use applications such as Limewire and Soulseek to download copyrighted materials, USF has entered talks with Red Lambda, Inc., whose cGRID::Integrity is billed as a non-evasive anti-piracy technology.

However, a cost of $70,000 and the necessity of creating a paid position to manage the program coupled with recent budget cuts and concerns as to how it might effect research, has some questioning the plausibility of such a system.

In the wake of a campaign launched by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which has targeted 81 USF network users, administrators say USF will shift its policy in dealing with the trafficking from education to prevention.

USF Associate General Counsel Colin Mailloux said the University’s previous policy had been prevention through education and enforcement rather than limiting network users’ access to file sharing programs.

When deciding what program to use, University officials were careful to choose one that limited any potential violations of privacy, Interim Chief Technology Officer Kathleen Moore said.

Red Lambda focuses on behavior of protocol, not the individual files being transferred, which, according to a press release, limits any violations of privacy.

However, of chief concern to many faculty members is Red Lambda’s impact on file sharing related to research, said faculty union president Sherman Dorn.

Though he doesn’t know anyone personally that uses such a program for research, he said peer-to-peer programs could be legitimate teaching and researching tools.”Peer-to-peer technology has spread so far because of its excellent efficiency in information flow,” he said.

However, Mailloux said administrators took this into account and are restricting the application to network users in residence halls – limiting its effect on research and education.

A continuing campaign The RIAA first targeted USF network users in February, when it sent 31 pre-litigation letters offering them the opportunity to settle out of court for a reduced fee, without having their names associated with the theft of copyrighted materials.

In June, USF received 50 more letters, totaling 81 to date, with more rumored to come. This ranks USF third in terms of instances of pre-litigation letters received, behind Ohio University and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Those schools have received 100 and 94 of the letters, respectively.

Then in June, the RIAA announced it was filing 40 John Doe lawsuits against the network users who hadn’t settled. The group – armed only with the IP addresses of those accused – files the Doe lawsuits to gain subpoenas they then use to force universities to release student information.

The RIAA can then seek from $750 to $150,000 per copyrighted work in open court. However, according to an RIAA spokesperson, the group has never made it to open court.

Despite this, the administration feels it must employ preventative measures to save its students money.

“We’re stuck between the recording industry and the people they want to get to,” Mailloux said. “I think this may help alleviate this kind of problem by protecting students from themselves.”