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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 kamakazi ( 74641 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:13AM (#34229818)

    Did I miss something? Have the people coding Ares implemented a new protocol, or is this college 5 years behind? Of course, having actually been involved in writing software to track computers on a college campus I am also curious how the college is fingerprinting machines to detect MAC address spoofing, but since this is a press release I wouldn't expect any technically informative information.

  • by RogueyWon ( 735973 ) * on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:21AM (#34229890) Journal
    I don't see the police department as being in the wrong here; at least not yet. The college has announced an intention to report all uses of P2P software to the police. I don't see that the police have yet given any indication of how they will respond, not least when presented with a case relating to legal P2P traffic. If the police take no further action with the information provided to them, then they are surely in the clear.

    What does occur to me - and this is where I'd welcome input from somebody who does know the legal situation in the US better - is that here in the UK, and in many countries whose legal systems have historic links to ours, there is an offence of wasting police time []. If there is any equivalent law in the jurisdiction that covers this college, then I suspect they'd find themselves in breach of it, which could open their administrators to criminal prosecution.
  • by captainpanic ( 1173915 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:27AM (#34229928)

    I passed a free newspaper to someone else on the bus this morning. The police showed no interest when I told them.

  • by Lord Byron II ( 671689 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:30AM (#34229954)

    Yeah, I use my network connection in my lab to seed a few dozen different Linux distributions, uploading 10's of GB/day. If I was at Valdosta State, I'm sure I'd be one of the first to be contacted.

  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:34AM (#34229984) Homepage Journal

    Yep. Can see that all the dollars from tuition that haven't gone into their "resource constrained" network have gone into getting quality staff there! They've all had the highest quality lobotomies that money can buy!

  • Criminal vs. Civil (Score:4, Interesting)

    by watermark ( 913726 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:37AM (#34229998)

    I thought your run-o-the-mill copyright violation was a civil matter. Shouldn't they be reporting the students to the copyright holders?

  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @09:56AM (#34230156)

    the 'you must go to college' meme is slowly dying.

    actually, it should. not everyone should be in college. furthermore, the 'thinking arts' that america uses to be known for is fading (overseas). the notion of going to school, doing your time in studies and having it pay back is a BROKEN SOCIAL CONTRACT and those of us already at-age know this ;(

    if I had kids, I would not send them to college. I'd send them to a trade school where they work with their hands in some form (mechanic, plumber, electrician, capenter, etc). these are the outsource-immune jobs. they're less 'sexy' than IT work but IT work simply won't exist in this country when elementary school kids reach the workforce age. like I said, the social agreement of 'study hard and you will get a good job' is busted now and will be even more as time goes on. american 'thinkers' are something companies are now considering to be *too expensive*.

    universities are VERY expensive and often don't pay for themselves (again, lack of jobs can make school a pure expensive and not ever by worth what you paid for).

    and now you have universities being openly hostile to their students.

    I would simply drop out (in fact, I did, back in my day) and get my own education. work experience matters more than a paper degree for most jobs in IT once you get beyond entry level.

    the day where you assumed 'grow up and go to college' was for everyone just does not apply anymore. in fact, sending 'everyone' to college was a failure waiting to happen.

    if I was trained in construction or plumbing or auto repair, I'd still have a job. but being in software development means my country has sold me out to india/china/etc. I really wish I was in another field and I hope some of you software-thinking kids will reconsider this already saturated field and find something PHYSICAL that you can do for work. those things tend not to be outsourced.

  • lol (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @10:05AM (#34230210)
    Anyone that's gone to college knows that the university does it's very best to suspend every constitutional right they can while you're there. I've been to court over legal issues twice in my life and both times they were within a year of each other and while I was in college. In both cases I represented myself, challenged the counties evidence on constitutional grounds and won. Those weren't my only run-ins with the police either, just the ones that went to court. In one instance they searched my room while I was on Christmas break and charged me for having an empty wine bottle in my room. Unfortunately for them I was 23 at the time. In another instance a police officer asked if she could come into my dorm room. I refused, at which point she said if I didn't have anything to hide I'd let her in. I explained that rights were like muscles, they get weak if you don't use them. She came in anyway and despite a thorough sacking of my room found nothing.

    The universities play these games because the students let them. I eventually just moved off campus. My rent was 1/3rd what the dorms were and I didn't have any more trouble with the university police. I recomend the same for everyone living on campus at this university as well.
  • by rAiNsT0rm ( 877553 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @10:14AM (#34230302) Homepage

    I used to work for a university's network dept. at a fairly high level and it fell on my shoulders to handle the RIAA complaints, I pretty much refused because it was ridiculous. When I would be forced to turn info over, I would just give them IP's which were basically useless but they would never get back to me for more info. When the pressure really got strong, I decided the only way I would comply would be to install a device that did actual audio fingerprinting. This way it wasn't just a witch hunt or false positives based on someone simply using P2P or a filename but verified inspection and reporting. Even then, it had it's own way of handling it internally, after each offense it encountered it would email the user with the info and a warning, after 3 infractions it basically cut the port speed to 56k for that user so they could still do school work but little else, any additional infractions resulted in reporting.

    It put the onus on the student and was as reasonable as could be for the screwed up system in place. In the end the RIAA should never have as much power as it does and the fines should be at most $5-20 per song which is between a 500% and 2000% penalty which is quite enough without being so insane as the current system is. No matter how you slice it, it is B.S.

  • by seeker_1us ( 1203072 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @10:24AM (#34230414)
    According to TFA,, it is ALL file sharing

    The new system is undoubtedly going to cause collateral damage, since an effective P2P detection tool will be unable to make a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate use of P2P software. This means that booting up your BitTorrent client to download free films such as Snowblind will result in a referral to the police station.

    This is abolutely ridiculous. Furthermore, copyright infringement (even if it was real) is a civil matter. Referral to the police station is of very quesitonable legality.

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Monday November 15, 2010 @10:26AM (#34230432)

    It's not a private network. This is a state school. It's the government reporting these kids to another government entity, a clear. I smell a civil rights lawsuit just waiting to happen here (especially if the police start acting on these reports).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 15, 2010 @10:27AM (#34230446)

    it's not "most" p2p that is illegal filesharing, it is "almost every single byte of it"

  • by Lord Byron II ( 671689 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @10:48AM (#34230608)

    Wow, I got modded "flamebait". Amazing.

    To answer the replies I've gotten so far:

    -Yes, it's a private network. My lab on campus is funded by the NSF and the state, but that doesn't mean that you have any right to come in off the street and use my desk. Similarly, most public libraries require you to register (ie, get a library card) before you can use their networks and even then they tend to block a lot of services (including p2p).

    -The fourth amendment has typically only been applied to your own personal property (ie, your house, your car). I'm unaware of any 4th amendment legal precedent that the government is not allowed to monitor the traffic on its own network. Again, the 4th amendment works on the idea of the expectation of privacy and I don't think you can have that when you're using a state-funded Internet connection on a state-funded campus.

  • by yiantsbro ( 550957 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @11:06AM (#34230792)

    Thinking this through this is actually an excellent way to get the IP holders off the backs of University IT Departments. All Universities develop a blanket policy that each identified use is reported to the local police. The local police ignore the flood of accusations and write them off for lack of evidence. The University has take the most drastic step it can so what are the IP holders left to complain about. They can try to go against the local police forces but good luck with that.

  • by xnpu ( 963139 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @11:34AM (#34231102)

    I'm not disputing that torrents are useful. But do you need to get your WoW updates at school?

  • by KingMotley ( 944240 ) * on Monday November 15, 2010 @11:53AM (#34231276) Journal

    No, your tuition isn't for the network. The network is a benefit of being a student (in most cases). And yes, actually your ISP does have the right to go through your data if you broadcast it on their network. Perhaps you need to read your ISP agreement sometime.

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Monday November 15, 2010 @11:59AM (#34231344) Homepage Journal

    Too bad there's not a "-1, ignorant" mod, or you would have been spared the "troll". BitTorrent is P2P, and most of its traffic is legal; Linux distros and the like. Plus, there is ten times as much indie music as RIAA music on P2P, it's just that the indies, not having radio, rely on P2P, MySpace and Facebook, which is why the RIAA is against P2P; it isn't about piracy, it's about stifling the competetion.

  • by Wovel ( 964431 ) on Monday November 15, 2010 @12:39PM (#34231728) Homepage

    Or patching WoW... It is fun when the clueless come out of the closet..

God doesn't play dice. -- Albert Einstein