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Free Broadband Apps Sap Corporate Bandwidth; Next Stop, Homes

12 Jun, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner

Even though household broadband penetration expanded to roughly 29 percent of North America by the end of 2002, many people are still downloading and playing entertainment files at work, sapping corporate bandwidth.

British company CacheLogic estimates as much as 60 percent of data on broadband Internet service provider networks is music, movies or software.

According to eMarketer, 86 percent of people who access the Internet at work have broadband access there. That can mean trouble for companies.

Internet filtering company N2H2 released a survey recently that listed peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing programs No. 1 among free downloads disrupting coroporate networks. Online games and desktop movie players ranked second and third, respectively.

Evidence abounds in workplaces all over the United States. Warner Music Group sent a memo to employees last week instructing them to uninstall file-sharing applications on all corporate computers.

“Downloading copyrighted music and burning CDs from peer-to-peer networks such as KaZaA, Morpheus, Gnutella or any other similar service is a violation of the law, and will not be tolerated among WMG employees,” the memo read in part. “If you have peer-to-peer software on your company computer, you must remove it immediately. Failure to do so and the failure to respect music copyrights may lead to disciplinary action, including termination.”

It finished by urging employees to remove P2P software from their home computers too.

Warner Music is far from alone, experts say.

“You would think the companies with the greatest images in the world would have the ability to keep that image clean. But there is no size company that is equipped to deal with this because it happens in the background,” said an executive at a company that tracks file-trading activities for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). “If you have outside contact, you can't manage it.”

Part of the problem, the executive said, is that existing and proposed laws target individuals rather than corporations. Existing laws reward corporate ignorance by giving companies a pass on liability as long as they are unaware that their employees are trading copyrighted material.

“There are hundreds of companies that are distributing information unknowingly,” the executive said, estimating that 25 percent to 30 percent of companies -- including the very media conglomerates that clamor to protect their digital content -- have employees who use their computers for illegal file trading.

“If the law says ‘what you don't know won't hurt you,' then there is no reason to investigate,” he said. “If the law were to be changed so corporations would be liable if they were found negligent, you would see a change.”

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