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The Daily Tar Heel

ATN E-mail Targets File-Sharing Applications

Assistant University Editor

Downloaded music files are a common sound resonating from students' computers, but Academic Technology & Networks officials are ready to turn the volume down.

About 100 students have received e-mail messages from ATN in the past few days warning them to stop using popular file-sharing applications. The e-mail was sent to students that ATN officials had determined were using one of several applications that are most commonly used to download MP3 audio files and other media files.

In the e-mails, students are advised that using these programs through the UNC network is a violation of federal law and University policy.

The University is particularly concerned about this issue because it might put UNC as well as the students at legal risk. The University procedure for dealing with possible infringement of intellectual property rights states, "Violations of copyright law that occur on or over the University's networks or other computer resources may create liability for the University as well as the computer user."

But at the moment ATN is focusing on the network complications caused by file sharing. "We have had network problems that would strongly indicate that (file sharing) is a contributing factor," said Jeanne Smythe, ATN computing policy director. "I think some of these programs are written to use more network bandwidth -- therefore they're more damaging to us."

Although recent court decisions have made the popular music-swapping program Napster less prominent than it was at this time last year, Smythe said the rise of about 90 similar programs is making network monitoring much more difficult.

And programs such as LimeWire and Morpheus not only allow music to be shared, they also make bulkier files such as movies available.

Smythe said downloading such large files depletes vital network resources and jeopardizes the University's computing tools. "We have accelerated and updated the equipment to try and meet needs," she said.

Network problems hit immediately after students began to move in this semester, Smythe said, and ATN is attributing the situation to excessive file-sharing.

To pinpoint exactly where the problems are, ATN is using an intrusion detection system that indicates which parts of the network are most congested and can see if the traffic is a result of file sharing.

"Basically (ATN) can monitor for heavy demand," said Bruce Egan, assistant director for the ATN Information Technology Response Center. "They're looking for something that swamps the network."

If the students who receive the warnings do not comply, Smythe said action will have to be taken. "I do want to say students do get caught and go to the Honor Court for both network problems and copyright laws," she said. "I think there's a perception that that's not the case."

But the cautions do not seem to faze students.

Luke Selden, a sophomore music composition major who uses BearShare to download MP3s, said he probably won't stop using the program, despite the warnings.

"That just means I'll make it so that I can download stuff and no one can (upload) my stuff," he said.

And senior child development major Jessica Samonds doesn't plan to stop sharing her music files with others.

"If it was one of the campus computers, that would be one thing," she said. "But it's your computer and your room."

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