File Sharing: Selected Universities Report Taking Action to Reduce Copyright Infringement

GAO-04-503 Published: May 28, 2004. Publicly Released: Jun 04, 2004.
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The emergence of peer-to-peer file-sharing applications that allow networks to share computer files among millions of users has changed the way copyrighted materials, including digital music, videos, software, and images can be distributed and has led to a dramatic increase in the incidence of copyright infringement (piracy) of these digital materials. These applications enable direct communication between users, allowing users to access each other's files and share digital music, videos, and software. According to a coalition of intellectual property owners in the entertainment industry, an increasing number of students are using the fast Internet connections offered by college and university networks to infringe copyrights by illegally downloading and sharing massive volumes of copyrighted materials on peer-to-peer networks. GAO was asked to describe (1) the views of major universities on the extent of problems experienced with student use of file-sharing applications as well as the actions that the universities are taking to deal with them and (2) the actions that federal enforcement agencies have taken to address the issue of copyright infringement on peer-to-peer networks as well as agency views on any legislative barriers to dealing with the problems.

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