Can you be arrested for what's on your computer?

Whether your aware of it or now, copyrighted or pornographic material on your work or personal computer can land you in jail or in the poor house.

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Management may see some value in alerting you and other employees to the consequences of your actions, but the agreements are really for their protection, not yours. If the copyright holder wants to pursue the issue, the company wants it to be you, not them, that gets named in the suit.

Most downloading of copyrighted material, as through file sharing (peer-to-peer) software and sites is illegal whether it involves movies, music or images. If you have copyrighted material along with a peer-to-peer file sharing application such as BitTorrent, you may be "facilitating the distribution of copyrighted material" -- another violation of copyright law, whether you intended to share the material or not.

In recent years, the big copyright holders such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), have become considerably more aggressive about pursuing copyright infringers. As a system administrator, you should be alert to the possibility of copyright infringement whenever you review the contents of systems that you administer or manage.

In supplements to this posting, we'll review some of the laws that pertain to how we use our computers and what we store on them and tools that might help you gain insights into the files on your systems.

Read more of Sandra Henry-Stocker's Unix as a Second Language blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld, Twitter and Facebook.

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