New UNC policy cracks down on file sharing, could save about $40,000 per year

A decision to crack down on students who use peer-to-peer file sharing for downloading music and other purposes is rooted in the University’s need to trim costs.

The new policy called “HallPass” will save the University about $40,000 a year in processing copyright holders’ complaints, according to Information Technology Services.

Stan Waddell, executive director for information security, said officials hope implementing the hall pass program, which requests that users uninstall peer-to-peer programs in order to access the UNC network, will decrease the number of complaints and save money.

“The biggest driver was the cost and the budget climate,” he said.

Jim Gogan, director of networking for ITS, said a portion of Network Access Control — a program that helps officials quarantine computers that put the security of the campus network at risk — scans computers for file sharing and other programs in residence halls.

Last year, more than 1,000 computers in residence halls used peer-to-peer file-sharing applications, Gogan said in an email.

Now, of more than 11,600 computers scanned in residence halls, less than 50 have a peer-to-peer program. And about half of the remaining 50 users have not opted into the HallPass program, making their computers unable to access the web.

Chris Williams, ResNET manager, said the program can’t scan a user’s files or see what programs are on a computer. It can only determine whether or not a computer has a specific program.

“From a residence hall perspective, privacy was a concern for us early on,” he said. “We’ve been perfectly comfortable with it from the beginning because we know it can only do good things for the customers.”

The University is required to take action against illegal file sharing because it is considered an Internet service provider, meaning it is legally obligated to follow through with the take-down notices from copyright holders or face losing its ability to provide Internet.

After receiving a notice, Waddell’s department examines network logs to determine the user and disables the user’s Onyen, he said.

That user must then go to the Dean of Students Office for disciplinary action.

Waddell said the Higher Education Opportunity Act requires institutions that receive federal funding to have policies that comply with take-down notices or could lose funding.

“All users of the campus network basically are agreeing to appropriate-use provisions,” Waddell said.

“In order for us to be able to enforce those provisions we do have to have some visibility into the computers that are on campus. Use of the network is not a right — it’s a privilege, and it’s a privilege that can be revoked if appropriate conditions aren’t met,” he said.

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