Companies are taking action to detect and shut down unauthorised peer-to-peer activities on their networks as the crackdown on illegal online music-sharing gathers pace.
So far, nearly all of the lawsuits have involved individuals on university networks or commercial ISP networks. But as early as October 2002, the Recording Industry Association of America RIAA informed CEOs at hundreds of large companies of the significant legal liability they face under federal copyright law if music, movies and other copyrighted works are pirated using their networks.
"We are concerned about the liability issues," said Steven Annese, IT manager at Sara Lee Coffee & Tea North America.
The company has installed software from Websense to help it detect and automatically shut down any P2P application that a user might attempt to launch on its corporate network. The software also allows Sara Lee to block employee access to P2P websites, including some of the newer ones that mask the origin of the IP address and encrypt the traffic.
Sara Lee made the move after discovering several employees running P2P software such as Kazaa and Morpheus on its networks.
Chicago-based financial services firm Terra Nova Trading is also using software to sniff out and stop P2P applications from launching on all trader and back-end systems. Terra Nova installed the software to protect itself against liability for copyright infringements and to stop the tremendous waste of network bandwidth, said Kevin Ott, vice president of technology at Terra Nova.
As a financial trader, "we live and die by the amount of bandwidth we have," he added.
The University of Wisconsin in Madison, meanwhile, is using "network shaping" technology to prioritise network traffic, with P2P sharing being given a lower priority than other types of traffic, thereby reducing the incentive to use it, said information security manager Kim Milford.
Since the RIAA's crackdown began, Ohio ISP First Internet has been sending notices to its customers warning them about the consequences of illegal file-sharing. Since then the company has been monitoring its networks "for any large and consistent increases in P2P activity", said Mike Tindor, the company's vice president of network operations.
"If we receive a copyright infringement warning, we typically provide the customer with the notification and a copy of our policy, and we provide them with suggested methods to reduce any risk to themselves," Tindor said. "If we receive any additional warnings that trace back to the same customer, we typically terminate service."
Jaikumar Vijayan writes for Computerworld