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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 Anonymous Coward on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:04AM (#34229748)

    Is this related to any forms? What about downloading cc music or shows and isos of linux?

  • by RogueyWon ( 735973 ) * on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:05AM (#34229752) Journal

    Ok, I'm no expert on the US legal situation, but what's to prevent a situation like this from happening:

    1) Student installs 100% legal copy of World of Warcraft, Starcraft 2 or any other game which uses a P2P updater system on their PC in their dorm room.

    2) Game does its P2P stuff to get its patches.

    3) College spots P2P activity and calls police.

    4) Police charge college administrators with wasting police time.

    5) Student sues college.

    Like it or not, P2P isn't just about illegal filesharing. Yes, I'd fully accept that most P2P traffic is illegal, but a blanket policy like this just seems doomed to (probably expensive) failure.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:07AM (#34229770)

    Can you point me to the appropriate police department to turn myself in as a possible arsonist?

  • So (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:09AM (#34229784)

    You're young, living on your own for the first time, and the place that's supposed to be teaching you stuff announces that at the first sign of a misstep they'll "discipline" you and then hand you over to the police for a second helping of same, with a permanent record attached to boot.

    What a wonderful way to grow up.

  • by Stargoat ( 658863 ) * <stargoat@gmail.com> on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:11AM (#34229800) Journal

    One would hope so. Recall that ATT did this during the Bush Administration with its warrantless wiretaps. The only difference is that ATT allowed access to everything, rather than a specific subset of everything.

    This is a clear breach of 4th Amendment rights. I wonder when the police will be sued.

    I would suggest the ACLU take this case, but with their late track record of kowtowing to the government (full body scanners anyone?), I wouldn't look for help from them.

  • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:13AM (#34229824)

    the student wins: the police will mostly ignore the pirating

    Until it turns out to be a student who runs a blog that criticizes the police department, or some politician wants to run on a "tough on crime" platform, or some police officer whose cousin works for the RIAA. Relying on the police to not prosecute people who are reported to them for breaking the law is not something I would do.

  • by captainpanic ( 1173915 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:16AM (#34229850)

    Students should just start downloading legal p2p software... at a massive scale.

    Make sure that the university and the police department are getting overworked from false claims of illegal downloading.

    It's a peaceful, harmless and non-violent way of teaching stupid people that p2p is not always illegal.

  • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:18AM (#34229864)

    Why should they go to all that hassle for something that'll have no negative effect on their district and only serve to push up the crime statistics and take officers off the streets?

    For the same reason that the police go after people who possess drugs: it keeps them employed.

  • by obarthelemy ( 160321 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:23AM (#34229902)

    yep, and they account for a whopping 0.001% of bittorrent traffic.

  • by Junior J. Junior III ( 192702 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:26AM (#34229922) Homepage

    End result: College bans games. Games aid terrorism by masking real illegal activity in a shroud of legitimate traffic; they are therefore illegitimate by proxy.

  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:27AM (#34229934)
    A problem, though - copyright infringement with p2p *is* a criminal offence in the US, has been since the NET act. The police can't be seen to simply ignore a reported crime - they have to do something, even if it's just a stern warning. But if they do that, then the copyright holders will have to get involved, in order to prevent copyright infringement from becoming something the police demonstrate as beneath their notice, like littering. If the police do severely punish infringers, they have to face a public backlash... it doesn't matter what the police do, they are in for a hard time either way. So is the college, and so are the students.
  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:30AM (#34229950)
    Because parents tend to believe their kids are perfect little angels who would never do anything illegal.
  • by Lord Byron II ( 671689 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:32AM (#34229974)

    There's no 4th amendment problem here. You're a guest on a private network and the network administrator believes that you are committing a crime, so they report you to the police. There's no problem with that.

    The problem is that Valdosta is taking the proper steps to verify that the behavior is actually illegal and they are going to end up wasting police time as a result.

    But, if you're on a private network, you shouldn't have any real expectation of privacy, besides what state law may give you.

  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:47AM (#34230080)

    since MAC addresses usually are bound to the network card (pcmcia, usb, pci, even onboard) it might be 'fun' to have a nic-trading situations where people have a POOL of usb wifi dongles and they simply do what they want on the net, drop their usb dongle into the barrel and pick another. could EASILY be done on campus.

    keep switching the mac's around to make the whole process useless. ie, make one of their 'tools' worthless.

    next up, have linux os's on thumbdrives that can be recycled in a similar fashion (with some changes; full restores to known configs with some 'salt' to keep each system unique enough). but rotate them and the uniqueness is invalid.

    come on college kids: they're upping the ante. fight back in the creative ways you guys are known for.

  • by Albanach ( 527650 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @10:05AM (#34230208) Homepage

    If the schools internet policy bans p2p software, they're still going to discipline and possibly expel the student.

    Sure there may be little or no legal consequences, but screwing up your degree because you breach a contract you freely entered into might not be the smartest move.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 15, 2010 @10:34AM (#34230502)

    The administrator believes students using P2P are committing a crime, really?

    P2P can be used to download a large number of copyright-free files. Not to mention, P2P programs are legal.
    Suspecting someone of committing a crime just for downloading files through a P2P network is like suspecting your neighbor of having just murdered his wife before you saw him walking around his house with a hammer in his hand.

    Sure, the college can believe whatever they want, they can suspect P2P is used for illegal purposes if they want to. But if they report a crime when a student was downloading something legal, and if there are laws against idiotic reports of criminal activity, then the college will get in some trouble. They'll be fined at least.

    Another thing to think about: why the hell does a college care about students downloading copyrighted music? And don't tell me they're liable because it's their network that is being used, because I don't believe for a second that they would be convicted by a court. They would just tell the court that they can't know for sure what their students are downloading, maybe even argue a bit about the importance of allowing Internet access to students, and they'd be cleared of any charges. And lawsuits from students who were reported and as a consequence investigated but who did nothing illegal in the first place would be harder to fight.

    Perhaps they just want to look good to the public, send the message "we stand against illegal file sharing" but to me this would show that they don't understand what P2P file sharing is (since it can be used for legal purposes) and therefore I would conclude that this college isn't really up to date when it comes to knowledge of technology. I would then have trouble taking any of their science programs very seriously and would not apply there.

    Or maybe there is more going on in the background. Maybe someone somehow put pressure on the college (Music industry? Politician who fights file-sharing just to acquire popularity?) or maybe this someone has an important position in that college and just used their influence...
    I just don't buy the whole "P2P is evil and downloading copyrighted music is the worse crime ever!" argument. Not from a college.

  • by icebraining ( 1313345 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @10:43AM (#34230572) Homepage

    No, they're not guests, they're paying users of that network - that's part of what tuition pays for. Are you a "guest" of your ISP's network? Do they have the right to go through your data? Then why is it any different in this case?

  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) * on Monday November 15, 2010 @10:52AM (#34230650) Journal

    Referral to the police station is of very quesitonable legality.

    Uhh, referral to the police is foolish and a waste of time but it's not of "questionable legality". I can refer anything I want to the police. Doesn't mean they will investigate it or do anything but it's not a crime to tell the police about a civil affair.....

  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) * on Monday November 15, 2010 @10:54AM (#34230666) Journal

    I'm unaware of any 4th amendment legal precedent that the government is not allowed to monitor the traffic on its own network.

    I'm going to refer to your post the next time somebody suggests that we need a municipal owned last mile to "fix" our broken broadband market.....

  • by stinerman ( 812158 ) <nathan...stine@@@gmail...com> on Monday November 15, 2010 @11:01AM (#34230744) Homepage

    Copyright infringement can be a criminal matter. However, it is a *federal* criminal matter, not state.

    The local cops would have to call up the FBI. Unless Georgia has separate copyright laws on the books, the state police have nothing to charge the students with.

  • by burris ( 122191 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @11:11AM (#34230856)

    You don't have to make money. The No Electronic Theft Act of 1998 changed the definition of "financial gain." 17 USC 101 now reads:

    The term "financial gain" includes receipt, or expectation of receipt, of anything of value, including the receipt of other copyrighted works.

    In other words, now they can go after people trading. I don't doubt that a prosecutor could convince a jury that the ratio system on a Torrent site, for instance, shows that the defendant expected to receive other copyrighted works in exchange for continuing to seed whatever it is they downloaded.

  • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Monday November 15, 2010 @11:36AM (#34231122)

    Yes, it's a private network. My lab on campus...

    But we're not just talking about labs, we're talking about dorms -- i.e., the students' homes. There's a difference between a lab (i.e., work) Internet connection and a dorm Internet connection!

  • by Teancum ( 67324 ) <[ten.orezten] [ta] [gninroh_trebor]> on Monday November 15, 2010 @11:40AM (#34231146) Homepage Journal

    More properly, if you want to ban peer to peer software, you need to ban the use of TCP/IP on the network. There are networking protocols that won't permit peer to peer connections at all. Perhaps this college needs to consider some other network architecture for their internal network instead.

    Of course doing so would have some far reaching consequences including leaving their students unprepared for life outside of the university, but such things don't matter in higher education circles, do they?

  • by skywire ( 469351 ) * on Monday November 15, 2010 @12:08PM (#34231434)

    Despite the fact that the first sentence of the very short story clearly names Valdosta State University, and the fact that everyone learns as a child that significant words in headlines are capitalized, you still managed to confuse yourself into believing that the school in question is Georgia College? I don't buy it. You are feigning confusion as an excuse for posting. Behave yourself.

  • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 ) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Monday November 15, 2010 @02:12PM (#34233070)

    That might be a good "I am Spartacus" situation.

    If college students are good at any one thing (besides getting wasted and pulling all-nighters) is raising hell for a good cause. Why not teach a few hundred students how to use Bittorrent and have them download Linux ISOs and other legitimate, legal stuff nonstop to, in effect, flood the system and make something like that completely ineffective. Or better yet, maybe a student could create a DDOS software variant where a bunch of computers would connect peer-to-peer on the college's network and trade junk data between each other via Bittorrent, Gnutella, and other similar filesharing protocols.

  • by tompaulco ( 629533 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @02:53PM (#34233818) Homepage Journal
    You would be stupid to sign such a contract, however.
    Stupid or desperate, I agree. However, in almost every case where someone is signing such a contract, there is literally no alternative. Would you just not go to college, because all of the colleges have this phrasing in their IT contracts? Would you not buy a cell phone because all of the cell phone companies have this phrasing in their contracts? Would you not receive power from the electric company, not receive gas from the gas company, not work for almost any employer?
    At some point, the courts need to step up and realize that these contracts can not be binding when the agreeing party has no recourse other than to do without said service. In the case of IT at a university, they almost certainly REQUIRE you to have internet access, and if you are in the dorms, it MUST be provided by them, so it ought to be ILLEGAL to make you sign a ToS that they can change at any time.

I am more bored than you could ever possibly be. Go back to work.