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'U' to warn uploaders

BY KATHERINE MITCHELL
Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 25, 2007

To fight illegal peer-to-peer file-sharing, the University will launch an alert system on Tuesday informing network users if it detects file uploads.

BAYU - which stands for Be Aware You're Uploading - will send e-mail alerts to users in residence halls or Northwood Community Apartments who may be illegally uploading files. The service searches for uploads made on the network using peer-to-peer file sharing technology.

The new service comes after hundreds of University students have been notified by the Recording Industry Association of America that they could be guilty of illegally sharing copyrighted materials. The RIAA traces IP addresses it thinks are file sharing illegally on the University network. It then passes those addresses along to the University, which asks students to take the material off their computers.

The RIAA has threatened a few dozen University students with lawsuits. To settle, those students often have to pay fines that can amount to thousands of dollars per song. The new service won't share information with the RIAA

Assistant General Counsel Jack Bernard said the new service's purpose is to make people aware of uploading.

"It's designed to be a service to help computer users in our community," he said.

E-mail alerts are sent to users within 10 minutes of an upload occurring. It will only send one e-mail every 24 hours, though.

The e-mails contain information about what BAYU is and what peer-to-peer file-sharing is, along with several links to educational information about uploading and downloading files.

Recipients can learn how to turn off uploading capabilities on software programs, how to remove uploading software from their computers and how to upload lawfully.

"The sooner we do this, the fewer students that will run into problems," he said.

Bernard said there is no enforcement policy being administered with the program. The service is meant exclusively to help people avoid risks.

"Anytime you have peer-to-peer file sharing software on your computer, you're taking a risk," he said. "Uploading makes you vulnerable. We want people to be aware of that risk."

BAYU does not identify what is being uploaded, what software is being used or the contents of any files.

The service only identifies the user's IP address and uniqname. The information is saved for seven days, though aggregate data is saved longer amounts of time.

Bernard developed the idea for the service after handling copyright infringement problems for the University.

He said students accused of illegal file-sharing often don't understand the technology they're using or are unaware they're uploading.

Bernard said that from the University's perspective, the program is meant to help inform students and teach them to make more informed decisions about file sharing.

"Our hope is that the majority of people will see a benefit," he said.

The new service was developed by the University's Information Technology Central Services.

Students uploading lawfully can be issued alerts, too, because BAYU doesn't read what is being uploaded or what software is being used.

They may be uploading for academic reasons or playing online games that require software with uploading ability.

Bernard said peer-to-peer file sharing is lawful when you're uploading things that are yours or in the public domain.

Students have the option, though, to opt out of e-mail alerts by following a link in the notice to a cancellation site.

There will be a way to report falsely identified uploading if a student is sure he or she is file sharing legally, he said.

Bernard said the service is unique to the University of Michigan.

"We're the first that we know of to implement something like this," Bernard said.

Because of this, he said, the service will be refined over time based on its effectiveness, feedback and any problems encountered after its implementation.

Bernard said the program is aimed at residence halls because 72 percent of notices the University receives for alleged peer-to-peer file sharing on the University network come from computers in residence halls.

The Residence Hall Association is helping inform residents about the alert system. RHA voted earlier this month to endorse the program.


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