Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing technology enables multiple users to access and share digital files without having those files stored in a central database. While P2P technology makes sharing digital files simple and seamless, many services using P2P have, over the past decade, become the primary way people have shared popular music, movies and TV shows in violation of copyright law and have engaged in other illegal file-sharing activity. Much of this sharing may be unintentional, but if you have any of these services on internet-connected devices in your home, you are at risk of getting a Copyright Alert, being held liable for copyright infringement or getting caught engaging in other illegal activity.
P2P technology itself is not unlawful, but the common P2P file sharing clients – like BitTorrent, uTorrent, Deluge, iLivid and Tixati to name a few – have been found to enable many instances of copyright infringement everyday. Because these programs often operate automatically or “passively” without any action on the part of the user, if you have a P2P file-sharing program on a device that connects to your network, you may be sharing copyrighted works with others and be held liable for copyright infringement and other illegal behavior just by opening your device and connecting it to the Internet. As federal government websites have made clear, if you are not careful you might expose yourself to unwanted malware, or allow strangers to access and share your personal files.
What does this mean for you and members of your household? If anyone is going to use a P2P program, do so carefully and fully research the programs and how they operate. Because P2P programs are designed to share files, they do so easily and constantly. And, once installed on your device, may automatically or “passively” share files in folders and sub-folders you intend to keep private and those you are not authorized to share, like copyrighted entertainment content. Indeed, a careless setting on which folder you are making public through the “shared” folder could expose information on your hard drive – like your tax returns, email messages, medical records, photos, or other personal documents. In addition, security holes in a P2P program can open the door to attacks from hackers. In fact, some malware is designed to change which folders you have designated for sharing, so hackers can access your personal information.
So what can you do?
If you want to stop sharing or uploading files automatically, there are a few easy steps you can take:
If you are not using P2P software for legitimate purposes, the easiest and most effective step is to completely remove all P2P programs from your device. Follow the easy steps below for Windows and Mac computers:
Use the Programs and Features window in the Control Panel to remove (uninstall) the P2P programs – just as you would remove any program from your Windows system.
- Quit all file-sharing programs (if you are unsure of the names of programs that might be on devices in your home, look for common names like BitTorrent, uTorrent, Deluge, iLivid, and Tixati to name a few.)
- Go to your computer’s Control Panel which you can access from your computer’s Start menu.
- Double click on the Programs and Features icon.
- Locate the P2P software that you would like to remove on the list of installed programs. Make sure that you look to see if there are multiple P2P programs on your device and delete them all.
- Click once to highlight the software.
- At the top of the list of programs, select Uninstall. Follow the prompts on the screen to completely remove the software and its components. Some P2P programs have companion programs that will not be automatically removed. If you have more than one program to remove, click No if prompted to reboot your computer. Then repeat these steps until you have removed all P2P file sharing programs.
- Make sure you reboot your computer when you are finished.
Apple Mac Computers
- Quit all P2P programs. (if you are unsure of the names of programs that might be on devices in your home, look for these common names BitTorrent, uTorrent, Deluge, iLivid and Tixati)
- Locate the folder containing the P2P software that you want to remove. It is usually in the Applications folder.
- Double-click the P2P program’s folder to examine its contents. Make sure you look to see if there are multiple programs on your device and delete them all.
- Some Mac-compatible P2P programs come with an “uninstall” program. If you see an “Uninstall” or “Uninstaller” program, run it to remove the P2P software. If you do not see such a program, go back to the Applications folder, and move the P2P program’s folder into the trash.
- Empty your computer’s trash folder.
- Go to the Apple menu and select Restart to reboot your computer.
If you want to keep the P2P software, take the following precautionary steps:
- Identify all P2P programs you have on any device attached to your wireline or wireless Internet connection. (If you are unsure of the names of programs that might be on devices in your home, look for common names like BitTorrent, uTorrent, Deluge, iLivid and Tixati to name a few.)
- Each of those programs will enable users to choose personal settings, including what files can be shared from your computer or other connected device. Revise the default settings in each P2P program to ensure that only material you intend to share is available to others on the network. Copyrighted music, movies and TV show files that you don’t have specific authorization to share should be removed. You may also want to make sure that personal documents you don’t want to share are removed as well. Please note that if your device allows automatic updates to programs, any P2P software you leave on your device may reset and, even files you don’t think are in your share folder may reappear and be available to others on the network.
- Make sure the software or device stays off when you are not using it. In many cases simply closing a P2P program while you are using your device, while not exiting it completely, does not prevent other P2P users you do not know from accessing your shared folder.