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Piracy Education Networking Software The Internet Your Rights Online

Georgia College's New Policy — Reporting All P2P Users To the Police 421

An anonymous reader excerpts from an article at TorrentFreak: "Georgia's Valdosta State University has updated its network with software that can pinpoint students who use P2P software. The university is committed to stop file-sharing on its network even if that results in prison sentences for students. Offenders will be disciplined by the school and then handed over to the police, the university has announced." School policy is one thing ("don't use file-sharing software on our resource-constrained network, or we may kick you off"), but I suspect the police wouldn't appreciate the task of sorting out legal from illegal use of widespread, essentially neutral software tools. Update: 11/15 18:27 GMT by T : Reader (and VSU alumnus) Matt Baker contacted the school; he reports that the school's IT director Joe Newton in response flatly denied the claims in the TorrentFreak article, and says the school hasn't installed such P2P tracking software, and doesn't hand students over the police, and says instead "I cannot foresee that we would ever do so." Thanks, Matt.
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Georgia College's New Policy — Reporting All P2P Users To the Police

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  • by somaTh ( 1154199 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:27AM (#34229938) Journal
    I found the headline misleading. Georgia College [] is not doing this. North Georgia College [] isn't doing this. South Georgia College [] isn't doing this. East Georgia College [] isn't doing this. Not even Middle Georgia College [] is doing this. I'm just saying, if you're going to capitalize Georgia College, make sure that's actually in the name.
  • by RogueyWon ( 735973 ) * on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:32AM (#34229968) Journal

    Agreed, but a blanket policy of reporting all attempts at P2P filesharing (which may not be a crime) to the police as copyright infringement is going to result in a large number of false accusations. As I said in my OP, a large number of legal pieces of software, not least games, use P2P methods for their update systems. If I were running a police department, with limited resources, and suddenly began receiving a large number of false accusations from the local college, at the very least I would want to get the college's administration in for a polite but firm chat about the appropriate use of police resources.

  • by kamakazi ( 74641 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:35AM (#34229990)

    Managed switches don't help prevent MAC address spoofing unless you actually allow a MAC to only connect through the port it first connected on, which kinda gets in the way of people roaming on wifi. Yes there are actually wireless solutions that will approximate physical location by access point triangulation, but good luck in a busy spot. Actually identifying a specific computer on an untrusted network (which they all are these days) is extremely difficult. Knowing what port a particular machine is plugged into is easy, but knowing what machine it is is not. Some wireless solutions now also backhaul all traffic to a wireless controller, so when you roam your connection point to the network doesn't change, but like I said, specifically locating a wireless machine is also next to impossible in a busy public spot.

    The problem with MAC spoofing is the incredibly difficult time the person who gets spoofed will have proving their innocence. And of course the legal types on the plaintiffs side will attempt to tell a jury that a MAC address uniquely identifies a machine, and if the poor innocent spoofee gets a normal non tech-savvy lawyer they will probably succeed.

  • by bemenaker ( 852000 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:39AM (#34230010)
    It's a state funded "public" university. The lines on that get a little muddy. The phones in the dorm rooms have the same legal protection that your phone in your house does.
  • by kamakazi ( 74641 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:43AM (#34230044)

    "Most college networks require a login to use- even from your personal computer(s)."

    Actually, not a login, for the simple reason that that breaks all non-browser devices. They require registration of your device, but if they required a login then no Playstations, Xboxes, or iPhones would work, because you can't login with an email client or a video game. Once a machine is registered (Identified by the closest thing there is to unique, the MAC)then all the bad guy needs to do is check to make sure the target machine is not on at the moment, and spoof the MAC address. The traffic will be logged as belong to the poor innocent spoofee. And yeah, it may be less than 1% that know how to do it, but a single innocent person be persecuted or prosecuted is too many.

  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:46AM (#34230064)

    In Belgium all the police would do is send it to the court. They will then need to investigate if they have some time left. As it stands now as long as there is no financial gain, they will ignore it.

    However if there is financial gain, then they will investigate.

    Now try to file cases in large numbers and many where there isn't even anything illegal going on, will upset the court and those are not people you want to piss off.

    The police will act only on command of the court and I am sure the court will say: "Your network, your problem.". Now if they would kick people because of use of p2p and these people will want to sue their provider, they will have much more chance of being heard and even winning their case.

  • by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:47AM (#34230076) Homepage

    I dunno, there are a LOT of WoW and CoD players out there. Especially on a college network. With Cataclysm set to release in a month, and CoD just released (Hence needing to be patched most likely, games being what they are) it seems to me that there's probably a lot of legitimate P2P traffic on a university network right now. Gigs and gigs worth per client in WoW's case. I think my computer has downloaded something like 5 or 6 gigabytes worth of patches and preloads (They're making Cataclysm available for direct download rather than making you go to the store and buy a copy) in the last month or two with another 3-4 gigs expected before Dec 7. Then probably another 500MB to a gig in patches to fix the stuff that didn't scale like they thought it would.

  • by LambdaWolf ( 1561517 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @10:14AM (#34230310)

    You beat me to the punch on this reply, but since I had already typed up some back-of-the-envelope calculations, here they are.

    World of Warcraft has around 12 million subscribers according to Wikipedia. The past couple of months it's been pushing out updates in anticipation of the Cataclysm expansion. Let's round the size of those updates to 5GB (although they may well be closer to 6GB by now). Perhaps not every subscriber is actively playing and has downloaded those updates, but they'll be outweighed by the active players with two copies of the client software (desktop and laptop, or work and home), so let's underestimate the number of updated client programs as 12 million.

    You can divide World of Warcraft players roughly into two categories: the majority who let the game client automatically update itself using the BitTorrent protocol; and the minority who prefer to manage their patch downloads manually using BitTorrent. The set of players who pay enough attention to download their patches manually but choose FTP over the more convenient BitTorrent is minuscule. So we can safely estimate the portion of patch downloads that use a P2P protocol as 100%.

    12 million subscribers times 5GB per subscriber is 60 million gigabytes of legitimate P2P throughput. And that's just getting ready for Cataclysm this autumn. There must have been several hundred million gigabytes more with the last two expansions and over the life of the game, to say nothing of Starcraft II (huge pre-loads of the entire client!) or other game companies than Blizzard (gasp!).

    So, indeed, 60 million gigabytes != all but "almost every single byte of it". Even if piracy does account for a lot, even a majority, of P2P traffic, it does have a nontrivial legitimate usage that Internet users have a right to.

  • by Moryath ( 553296 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @10:33AM (#34230494)

    Yes, I'd fully accept that most P2P traffic is illegal,

    Then you're an idiot. You just pointed out one high-traffic area in which "p2p" protocols are used. But more and more companies are moving to "p2p"
      protocols for distribution every day. A lot of the "freeware" (as in "free to play, buy the items if you want") MMO's are distributing their client via p2p to keep the cost down.

    The false claim that even "most P2P traffic" is illegal is one way the MafiAA skunks try to skew the debate.

  • by kyrio ( 1091003 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @10:48AM (#34230610) Homepage
    If you already entered a contract and the other party decides to add a couple of new lines to the contract without your initials to approve the additions then the contract becomes void. At this point you sue the other party for damages.
  • by mr_mischief ( 456295 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @10:57AM (#34230684) Journal

    Actually, copyright infringement can be a criminal matter. It's just that you need to make money from it for it for it to be criminal.

    What is criminal is using the university's network against their authorization. They don't authorize anyone to access their network using P2P file transfer software. That's probably going to be a tricky legal situation, but they do have the right to set the terms of use for their own network.

    What's really funny, though, is that P2P swarm-style file sharing software isn't the only software that connects peer computers. To really ban peer-to-peer communications would block some games, communications software like VoIP and IM, IRC's DCC sessions (which can be used to transfer a file or just to chat), Windows workgroup networking, and probably a dozen other things not coming to mind at the moment. They need to be really clear in what peer-to-peer computer communications they allow and don't in their wording, and make sure they detection software enforces exactly what they say it does in their policy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 15, 2010 @11:05AM (#34230784)

    Yeah, it's not like students would ever want to say download large scientific datasets easily with torrents. Oh wait... []

  • by ATMosby ( 746034 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @11:16AM (#34230904) Journal
    Well, every time I shop at Target, I'm a guest there.
  • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Monday November 15, 2010 @11:31AM (#34231068)

    it's not a crime to tell the police about a civil affair.....

    Filing false police reports (especially over and over again, like the dumbasses in charge of Valdosta State intend to do) certainly is a crime! It's abusing police resources, preventing them from doing their real jobs.

    If I were a resident of Valdosta, I'd be incredibly pissed off right now...

  • by DurendalMac ( 736637 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @11:32AM (#34231080)
    Unless there was already a clause that policies may be subject to change with proper notification, in which case it is not void. The university would be retarded not to have that in the contract already.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 15, 2010 @12:37PM (#34231708)

    So, as an embarrassed alumnus of Valdosta State University, I emailed them with my concern. They immediately responded that the student paper had misquoted them, and they have no intention of turning information over to police and have not even settled on a P2P policy.

    Here is the quote from the reply:

    "The Spectator article was, unfortunately, factually in error. While our process is not yet defined, we currently do not hand over students to the Police nor have we purchased software to hunt them down and I cannot foresee that we would ever do so. I hope to have a correction made as soon as possible."

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant