Secure Computing

Illegal file sharing

Top 3 ways to ensure compliance with the law
How can you be identified as illegally sharing files?
What are the consequences of sharing copyrighted materials?
File sharing - Frequently-asked questions
Legal alternatives for online music & media

Collaboration Tools

Please see our Secure Transfer page for instructions on sending legitimate files and confidential data.

Peer-to-peer file sharing

Peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing technology allows users to make files available for other users to download and use. The hosts store files on their computers and the file-sharing software enables other users to download the files onto their computers. Examples of P2P file sharing networks include KaZaA, Gnutella, and FreeNet, among others.

How you use P2P software may violate federal copyright law and University Policy. If you use P2P software, you may receive notices of copyright infringement and or be subject to other legal action.

P2P file sharing can violate University policy

University Policy prohibits the use of the Yale computer network to violate copyright law (visit this page ). Additionally, University policy 1610 forbids activity that threatens the security of the Yale University network and computing environment. P2P software can undermine network security and expose your computer to threats, such as viruses, malwarepassword and identity theftspyware, and other threats that can incapacitate computers. P2P file-sharing software can also impede legitimate Yale network traffic at busy times of the day.

University policy covering use of the Yale network extends to any computers you connect to the Yale network, whether at home or elsewhere off campus. If you've registered your wireless router using your NetID, any activity that occurs on the router can be tracked back to you. If you use VPN connections from home, your home network becomes visible as part of the Yale network.

P2P file sharing can be illegal

Using P2P file-sharing software that copies and distributes music, videos, software, games, or other copyrighted works without permission of the copyright holder is a violation of US copyright law. If you have P2P file-sharing applications installed on your computer, you may be sharing copyrighted works illegally without even realizing it. Even if you do not intend to engage in infringing activity, installing P2P software on a computer can easily end up sharing unintended files (copyrighted music or even sensitive documents) with other P2P users, and you may then be personally responsible for the legal and financial consequences of illegal file sharing on your computer.

Content owners, such as the recording industry, movie studios, and game and software companies, are specifically targeting illegal file sharing on university networks. The RIAA has employed aggressive legal strategies to address illegal file sharing, such as forwarding the University "early settlement letters" for alleged infringers and filing infringement lawsuits. Since September 2003, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has filed suits against more than 20,000 individuals using P2P software worldwide, and Yale students have been among those threatened with lawsuits.

Top 3 ways to ensure compliance with the law

1. Do not install P2P file-sharing software on your computer

  • By default, P2P applications will search for and share content on your computer with others. P2P applications usually run as soon as you turn on your computer and continue to run in the background. Even if you disable uploading, copyrighted content in a "shared" folder can be seen by others using the same P2P network and many P2P programs may reset preferences to resume uploading.
  • Content owners use the same P2P software that file sharers do! Their aim is to catch file sharers sharing their protected content with others. If you're running a P2P program, chances are that the content owner is running the same software. In fact, the person downloading a song from you may be working for the content owner and may be compiling evidence to sue you. It has happened to thousands of P2P users, and it can happen to you.

2. Do not use a University network for file sharing

  • File sharers at universities are specifically targeted by the recording industry, movie studios, game, and software companies. University networks service fewer people than your local Internet service provider, so it is easier to locate you on a university network.

3. Always be sure to secure your wireless router in your dorm suite or home

  • If you've registered your wireless router using your NetID, any activity that occurs on the router can be tracked back to you. This means that if your suitemate is sharing copyrighted works using the wireless connection that you set up in your dorm, you can be held personally responsible, and be sued by the content owner.
  • If you use VPN connections from home, your home network becomes visible as part of the Yale network.

What are the consequences of sharing copyrighted materials?

Yale University regularly receives infringement notices. Most of the infringement notices that the University receives are 'takedown' notices. The University procedure for handling these notices is to forward the notice to the alleged infringers. If you are a recipient of a takedown notice, Yale requires that you certify that you have ceased any such infringing activity and that you will refrain from any such activities in the future. Also, you must sign a copy of the IT Appropriate Use Policy. If you receive multiple infringement notices, you may be referred to the Yale College Dean's Office Executive Committee.

If you receive a copyright infringement notice or other correspondence from the University in connection with alleged infringing activity, please read the notice carefully and comply with University requests as soon as possible. Failure to do so may result in having your network access disabled.

In addition to any action required by Yale, illegal file sharing may result in legal action by the content owners.

Legal alternatives to P2P file sharing

File sharing may be tempting because you love music but you are on a budget. Perhaps you want to check out a song, album or movie before you purchase it. However, the consequences to illegal file sharing are very real and potentially severe. Luckily, there are some free legal alternatives. Check out the list of resources below: the social music revolution

An Internet radio and music community website, including a music recommendation system which learns what kind of music you like.

Pandora: the Music Genome Project

An Internet radio and music recommendation service created by the Music Genome Project that allows you to search for a song or artist that you like and plays similar music.


Started by NBC Universal and News Corp, Hulu is a website where you can stream free, high-quality video of TV shows, movies, and video clips. This service offers videos from NBC, Fox, Comedy Central, PBS, USA Network, Bravo, Fuel TV, FX, Sci Fi, Style, Sundance, G4, and Oxygen… and the selection is growing!


An collection of online radio stations.


An Internet radio network where you can create your own radio station or search for stations that play a particular song or artist.

Recording Industry Association of America

The trade group that represents the U.S. recording industry. Visit this site to learn where to get music online without breaking the law.

Do you want to add to this list? Email with suggestions!