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Cracking Down on MP3s at the Office 419

jhaberman writes " has a story about how corporations are now starting to crack down on networked MP3's, not necessarily for the reasons you might think." Talks about legal issues, as well as bandwidth issues, and the simple issue of employees wasting their employers time.
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Cracking Down on MP3s at the Office

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  • by Nijika ( 525558 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:34PM (#3784126) Homepage Journal
    There's no reason to have a fileserver full of MP3's on the company dime. These days it's tantamount to having porno on the corporate fileserver.
    • These days it's tantamount to having porno on the corporate fileserver.
      so, what if you work for a porn distribution corporation? are mp3s okay then?
    • No reason? Well, I better remove the two servers I just installed that record the broadcast signals of three radio stations in MP3 form and make them network available by web browser. And maybe all the sound effects and music used by production.

      Sometimes there is a reason to keep MP3's on the server.

    • by Yorrike ( 322502 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @11:28PM (#3784383) Homepage Journal
      I've got a little "secret" (ie, everyone knows about it unofficially), mp3 server sitting under my desk next to my workstation. It's a terribly low spec pentium that was going to be slide into storage.

      The reason? We're a pretty easy going company and having a dedicated server saves HDD space on everyone's machines. It also makes it ten times easier to wipe a machine and set it up again, without people complaining that you lost their gigs of MP3s.

      I'd say that listening to music allows for greater efficientcy in the workplace too. I know I work better with some funky beats being pumped into my ears.

      • Actually music playing by all studies decreases your ability to work. It does on the other hand raise morale, and allow people to be more motivated to actually do work, even if it's a tiny bit less efficient.

        Companies unfortunatly cannot condone the mp3 server as it's patently illegal. When workers have mp3s on their machines, companies can claim unknowing, and then only the employee gets in trouble.
    • No shit!
      This sort of thing is just a small scale example of the corruption of values that brought Enron down, and will shortly end Worldcom.
      'MEMEMEMEME!' bullshit. Let's slap those puppies down. They're no better than spammers.
      Otherwise this great place that we know as 'the Net' is gonna go away. The commons! We can't afford to lose that!
      Police your buds. Be relentless.
      I pray that made sense, as I have a buzz on...

    • Yeah you're right!

      It's much beter that each user has their own stash of MP3s on their hard-drives - that's a much more efficient use of resources!!!
  • by chennes ( 263526 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:38PM (#3784148) Homepage
    "Some of these corporations, we are told, have their own little networks--that is very clearly illegal."
    --RIAA President Cary Sherman

    Man, I hope this one was taken out of context!!
  • Where I work we're not allowed to download them but they don't care if we have them especially if we show they came from CDs we own.

    I can understand it, legal issues, bandwidth and a time waster. Makes sense to me.
  • uh, taco? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    from the but-i-need-those-tunes-to-live dept.

    CmdrTaco - I think you'll be fine. Last I checked, you're not a blonde female, and your mp3's arent repititions of "Breathe in .... Breathe out .... Breathe in .... Breathe out ...."
  • by cheinonen ( 318646 ) <cheinonen&hotmail,com> on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:40PM (#3784158)
    I have mp3's at work on my computer because I keep all my CD's at home in a 300 disc changer, and have ripped them all to my mp3 server at home. If I want to listen to an album, I'll download it from my FTP then listen to it for a few weeks before I delete it. It takes me no more time to queue up an album in Winamp than to swap between CD's like other people do at work for music. If I'm not pirating or sharing files, why can't I listen to mp3's?
    • Networked MP3s is the key here. If you're sharng your collection with people who don't own those CDs, that's illegal. Whether or not it's unethical is an exercise left to the reader, but I don't think anybody can logically debate the legality.

      I know the kneejerk reaction is to scream "But MP3 is just a file format!" If what you say is true, that you're not allowing others to access your music, then you have nothing to worry about - you're covered under fair use.
      • So it's illegal for me to lend someone a CD? After all, they don't own said CD and I'm sharing said CD. If I do that, can I expect an RIAA agent coming in on a silent black helicopter landing on my rooftop and prosecute me for the simple and genourous act of, god forbid, doing what I was tought was nice back in kindergarten, and SHARE?
        • So it's illegal for me to lend someone a CD?


          But if you make a copy of that CD so that you can listen to it and still lend it out to friends, that is not fair use, and is illegal. In the same fashion, if you pay $1 to legally download an MP3, you can lend your computer to a friend and he can listen to said MP3. You can also transfer the MP3 to him and remove it from your computer. What you can't do is set up a server so that others can take possession of that MP3 without the consent of the copyright holder.

          Make sense?

          • if you make a copy of that CD so that you can listen to it and still lend it out to friends

            but it's legal for me to make a copy of the CD for backup purposes. so is i just not legal for me to make a backup AND share? i have to pick between the two? or can i make a backup and share, as long as only one version of the CD is played at a time? what if a leave a copy in my car and a copy in my apartment, that should be fine, right? but what about someone borrowing my car and listening to that CD... it should be perfectly legal, until I start listening to the copy in at home? hogwash.

            it's perfectly legal for me to make a copy of a CD and lend it out to friends.

            What you can't do is set up a server so that others can take possession of that MP3 without the consent of the copyright holder.

            how is that legally different from lending my computer to others, who can then take possession of that MP3 without the consent of the copyright holder?

          • Way I understood it, the fair use laws stated[1] that you could give copies to friends and you could make as many backups as you liked... so long as you were making no profit from either action.

            1) I say "stated" because copying and/or reverse engineering anything now for any purpose is technically illegal.
      • If you're sharng your collection with people who don't own those CDs, that's illegal.

        Suppose I am with my roommate in my room and I play a CD on the boom box. My roommate does not own this CD; yet he is able to "share" in the listening of this CD as I play it. Is this illegal?

        Suppose my roommate is in another room and I run a speaker wire from my boom box in my room to the speakers in his room. I then play my CD on my boom box. I hear it on the boom box; he hears it on his speakers in his room. Is this illegal?

        Suppose I replace the boom box with a 300 disc CD changer that is capable of playing two discs simultaneously. I play one disc on my speakers and I play another disc on his speakers. Is this illegal?

        Suppose I replace the 300 disc CD changer with an mp3 server and the speaker wire with a network cable. I play one mp3 on my speakers and another mp3 on his speakers. Is this illegal?

        Where do you draw the line of legality? I don't think it's such an open and shut case that local area sharing of mp3s is illegal, especially in light of the provisions in the Audio Home Recording Act that permit noncommercial copying of recorded material in exchange for RIAA taxes on blank media.

        • If your roommate is listening to your music there's no illegality. If he makes a copy of it - or you make one for him then it's illegal. If you make one for yourself you're covered by fair use.

          Now making an mp3 and putting it on a networked server could be considered just making a copy for yourself. What then becomes the issue is contributory infringement - whether you in effect encouraged breaking of copyright. I am uncertain as to the precise legal test for contributory infringement - but based on precedent - Napster amongst others - putting mp3s on a network and advertising the fact could fall within that.

    • You are wasting the companies bandwidth by d/l them from home.

      Why not just reburn a couple of them and bring them in? CD's are only 10 to 20 cents right now. And it would be much nicer to the company network traffic.
      • And a CD can hold over 10 hours of MP3s, depending on bit rate. I've gotten into the habit of burning a new CD-R every couple of weeks with a newly tweaked assortment of tunes to listen to on the MP3 CD player that I keep on the car seat.

        Except recently I got a PDA capable of playing MP3, and now I'm trying to cram my J-pop onto a 256MB flash card, at least until I can afford something bigger. The PDA even uses the same power plug as the MP3 CD player. I didn't think much of bringing the MP3 CD in when I got to work, but the PDA is a different matter.

    • Webplay (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wirefarm ( 18470 )
      Check out Webplay [].
      You can set up variable-bitrate streams from your home to your office - then you have no incriminating files left on your office's disks.
      For instance, you can listen at 48k during the week during high net usage times or at native bitrates at night or on the weekends.
      Even with my iPod, it seems that the song I want to hear is always at home on my server - this solves it nicely.

      Jim in Tokyo

      • Erm, but then you have incriminating network logs which are not quite as easy to erase as a few MP3s and (at my workplace at least), will probably be noticed quicker by the admins...
  • Sigh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by buffer-overflowed ( 588867 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:41PM (#3784161) Journal
    When I read this, I didn't think it was news, pretty much anyone who has had a professional job can say, yea we aren't supposed to use our work computers for much besides work (Doesn't mean you do always use it for work, you always have some leeway.)

    Typically, the RIAA receives tips about alleged illegal file swapping through its anonymous tip line. It then threatens legal action and asks companies to stop. So far, the tactics may be working.

    That is what scared me... how BSA like the RIAA is. Anonymous file sharing tip line? So some disgruntled employee anonymously says they traded MP3s and they go after the company. That's just a new low for them.
  • My company takes a hardline view on anything to do with the computers. The IT guy who was running a pirate software and mp3 server was quickly dismissed. And even the few who have installed software have been fired. We don't have the MP3 problem because our computers sound drivers are disabled by admin. If someone was industrious enought to enable them it would be pretty obvious what you did and would quickly be without job.
    • The IT guy who was running a pirate software and mp3 server was quickly dismissed.

      The other stuff you mentioned may be a bit stronger than the average, but firing someone running a warez site on a company computer is hardly "hardline"...
    • our company has installed special "anti-fun" headsets on all employee units. We called them "shit-colored glasses" for a while until Helen lost her job for saying it at a staff meeting; now we just call them "productivity goggles".

      They are some pretty amazing technology- they filter out bright colors from your field of vision so you won't be distracted, and they give you a mild electrical shock (akin to the type of therapy used to treat homosexuality in the '50's) whenever you have a creative thought. It's pretty amazing, you can really focus on what you set out to do so long as it's mind-numbingly banal.

      But other than that working for the MPAA isn't too bad.

  • by Juhaa ( 588855 )
    And it's the two usual reasons again.

    1. Bandwidth Hogs

    2. RIAA on the arse.

    Where does it say it's some other reason?
  • by DigitalHammer ( 581235 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:46PM (#3784185) Journal
    At my workplace, the woman in the cubicle neighboring mine plays Hanson and Bette Midler mp3s off of her personal server on open-air earphones for 5 hours straight. Everyone within a 10 foot radius hates her because of that. Even the boss tells her it's reducing our performance-ever since she set up that server, our productivity and innovation has gone down dramatically. The boss decided to shut down the server to get us back on track, but the RIAA got to him before he had the chance.

    We're probably the only people glad that the RIAA is cracking down on businesses with mp3 filled servers. :)
    • Gong policy (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jcsehak ( 559709 ) on Friday June 28, 2002 @12:04AM (#3784521) Homepage
      I was the unofficial DJ at my last workplace. We all (12 people) sat in a large room, and I'd usually play whatever I was into at the time, trying to mix it up as much as possible, unless someone else brought in a CD for me to play, which took precendence. What made it work so well was that we had a gong policy. Anyone at any time could "gong" a song or album, for whatever reason. It could be a one-time gong (say you're simply not in the mood for it) or a permanent one (if you can't stand the song/CD ). For instance, I played a Johnny Cash CD once, and a coworker came back the next day and said he had "Tennesse Stud" stuck in his head the rest of the day and put a permanent gong on Johnny Cash. So I never played it anymore while he was around.

      Basically, music in the workplace can be a double-edged sword. A well-chosen CD can make a hour of hardcore coding at 9 pm go by like nothing. A CD like Hanson can prevent you from doing any work at all, for lack of any spare brain cycles (they're all used up saying "this sucks, this sucks, etc.).

      A little goddam common courtesy for your fellow workmates goes a long way. Failing that, "shut that crap off, woman" isn't such a bad idea. Or if you feel like being more polite, just suggest people take turns DJing. Not playing music at all is, IMHO, a poor and counter-productive solution.
      • Re:Gong policy (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tim C ( 15259 )
        I work in a large office that houses around 50 people, and noise can, at times, be a real problem.

        Don't get me wrong, I'm all for letting people chat, or listen to music, or whatever helps them get their work done and to stay happy. However, I am dead set against having music playing "over the air" as it were.

        I have two reasons for this, one purely selfish, the other more practical. The selfish reason is that I have a somewhat unusual taste in music, and so would almost be guaranteed to not like whatever was played, or to be very popular with regards to what I wanted to be played.

        The practical reason is that, as a programmer, there are times when I need peace and quiet in order to concentrate. I may be trying to track down a particularly elusive bug, or work out some convoluted piece of code, or just figure out the best solution to a customer's requirements (I do speccing and estimation, and team leading, as well as coding). Whatever the reason, if I need quiet, and there's music playing (or other noise), I can't have it. On the other hand, if I need music, and there isn't any, I have headphones. Same goes for everyone else - let them choose to have music.

        If the stereo thing works for your group, then fine - but one group we had here a while back that tried that almost came to blows over it (mostly because one guy took some sort of pleasure out of annoying another with the music he played)

        As for the original poster's problem, I agree with you - just ask the woman to please be a little more considerate. Failing that, her boss really should just *tell* her to cut it out - that's one of the things he's there for.


  • ridiculous (Score:3, Insightful)

    by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:49PM (#3784201)
    So the RIAA is intimidating companies into restricting mp3 traffic on their own networks and, at least in one case, paying them a handsome settlement. True, most companies have perfectly legitimate reasons for doing so (waste of time, bandwidth, etc.), and I wouldn't argue that they shouldn't restrict such traffic, but I don't like the RIAA sticking its nose into private businesses with legal threats. How long before they escalate to BSA-style tactics? Will they demand internal network audits or bandwidth usage reports from companies suspected of trading music? Will they ultimately demand the right to search hard drives for illegal copies of their precious new Eminem/Moby duet? Will they have offices raided in search of illegal data? And, finally, will they simply present suspected companies with a bill for each suspected download?

    Sigh. Why doesn't the RIAA just admit that they have found a new business model in the post-mp3 world: it's called extortion.

  • Ordered a server today - was told not to scrimp. It has about 700GB of diskspace and needs about 50GB.
  • by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @11:07PM (#3784296)

    About two years ago, my employer banned all music at work. I work in an automotive facility--not like where you get an oil change, but like where you get engine blocks bored and stuff. (To be more accurate, it's where prototypes of various machined parts are made for testing and stuff. Also, as a sort of side job, a lot of repair work is done, because there's big money in it. Think about it... make a hole a bit bigger and charge the poor shmoe $400 to do it.) You could say that prior to about two years ago, there were practically "no rules." This meant that in every corner of the facility, employees blasted their stereos with all their favorite music. In one corner of the shop, you heard Metallica, in another, Mozart, and in another yet, that stupid noise that some people call Pop. And there were about twenty other zones like this. At the various computers, which are all connected to the 'net through a LAN, employees downloaded countless songs through every system known to man, whether IRC or through web pages or whatever, and burned these on CDs to play everywhere in the shop. It was commonplace for someone with a computer-related request which takes one minute to fulfill to also ask for whatever songs, which would take about an hour of someone's paid time to find and download. People brought art projects into work--I am NOT kidding! The boss was always running around giving people instructions, because all the data was literally in his head and he didn't empower anybody to make decisions, so while one person had his attention (and twenty others were chasing him around for attention), everybody else was messing around. And somehow (don't even ask me how, because I can't explain this to this day), this company remained very profitable. Probably because a ton of work DID get done (though it was nearly all done in overtime, or by the boss in the middle of the night). The problem was that the company operated at perhaps 10% of the efficiency that it operates at now.

    Well, let me get to my story, yo. So the boss, one day, got pissed off because a bunch of jobs had been scrapped, due to errors made by his various employees (40 of them), so he got pissed and banned all music. It's been that way ever since. (Oh yeah, and about two years ago, around the same time as this ban, he brought in a professional management team that understands the business quite well, and this increased profits to nearly twenty times the original amounts. I won't say whether the lack of music had anything to do with it, but I'm trying to say that I can see where these bans on whatever in the workplace come from. Sometimes, you just gotta get shit done.)

  • by m_chan ( 95943 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @11:10PM (#3784312) Homepage
    When you pay close enough attention, it is possible to find many instances where an activity or behavior is not necessarily the most appropriate allocation of company resources. We could be facist about what activity we allow, though I think it would pollute/dilute the friendly attitude we want to encourage in our employees. I think that it comes down to the corporate environment those that hold purse strings are attempting to foster.

    We strictly deny music downloading/streaming/trading over the LAN. There is the legal perspective of licensing and outside pressure (we do pay ASCAP and BMI handsomely in our business) but the real reason is because of the impact it can have on our network and physical system resources (I can't afford to put CD-ROMs in everyone's box just for tunes). However, we encourage listening to whatever helps your specific style of working through a standalone deck so long as it doesn't distract your coworkers. I have some experience in the hospitality industry and I would relate an experience from our kitchens: we feed our employees from our overage in production. It is our experience that when we give to employees there have much less desire to take. Control your shrinkage proactively, so to say.

    We expect our employees to give their best effort for greater than one-third of their waking hours, and in return they deserve to be given our best effort to make their experience as positive as possible. I think that the same attitude can apply in many aspects of how you manage your staff, whether it "letting" them listen to music instead of the hum of an HVAC or any other corollary to their day that helps people feel better and accordingly, be better employees.
  • by Sc00ter ( 99550 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @11:11PM (#3784318) Homepage
    So are office workers in general.. Try a labor job.. some guy that digs ditches all day, a janitor, pipe layers, factory workers.. I see people posting "people are not robots, they need downtime". For years people were, and still are robots, they work from 8am to 10am, get 15mins for a break, then it's back to work, at noon they get an hour, then it's work again until 5pm.. and unless they're taking a shit then they're working.. usually without headphones because they have to hear the other people they're working with..

    Go do anything besides sitting in a cube and you'll be lucky if you get to do any of this..

    • I have worked in a wide variety of positions, only most recently IT. I have worked as a casual labourer, have dug ditches, hauled bricks etc. Yes you are right, it is hard work, but there are still comforts, still differences between foremen who work their people like robots and those who allow a little flexibility.

      How far do you think workplaces that prevent staff from using a welding rig on the weekend get? Or insist on telling you how many bricks per load you should be moving for optimum performance (OHS aside)? And while I did not wear earphones, it is a sad site that doesn't have a radio playing somewhere. The comparison you offer is not fair - different places have different perks and different managerial responses to them.

      At an office job, use of a few meg (or even gig) of memory is trivial and a nice way to say 'your work is appreciated' or even 'we trust you enough to believe that you will use your time efficiently'. If management do not have this level of trust in their staff then i think it a greater reflection on them than their employees.
    • I feel ya man.
      I work a labor job at a company called cintas.
      I roll mats all day, from 2:30pm to 11pm.
      I get a 15 minute break at 4:30 and 8:30 and lunch at 6:30. Before I started there they where aloud a stereo, and for about a week when I started we where. then the boss finally said no.
      We had to blare it to hear it over the machinery.
      people 20 feet away where pissed cause it was so loud, and people 100feet away where pissed cause it was to far away and to hard to hear.
      Then the women on the other side of the factory (and through a wall and set of doors) would get mad because they don't like our music (which I find redicoulas, they get A/C, chairs, and get to wear shorts, we don't). Then arguments would start about the station. Some people wanted WEBN, others wanted Hard rock, and don't get me started about the only black guy and his rap.

      I can see why companies are cracking down on this.
      • Some people wanted WEBN, others wanted Hard rock, and don't get me started about the only black guy and his rap.

        I see from your musical taste (WEBN, aka "The Frog") and overt racism (black guy and his rap) that you are from Cincinnati. Gosh, I miss my home...

    • by GeorgeH ( 5469 ) on Friday June 28, 2002 @12:54AM (#3784699) Homepage Journal
      I haven't worked real manual labor, but I've worked retail. Same thing only not as repetitive and without the exercise. As I sat in front of a computer at 2:00AM trying to fix a server I realized that I sure wish life were as simple as when I worked at a movie theater. All I needed to do was serve a queue of people or start the movies or clean a theater and I was done.

      No responsability, no 2:00AM pages. No 3 month self managed projects. Working in a non-cubicle environment breeds conversations, interactions. You set your body to a task and your mind is free to wander. In a cube job you need to keep your mind focused.

      People are not robots. They think, and sometimes they think better when they are listening to music (there are studies that show classical music to improve test scores).

      That all said, I've been in quite a few manufacturing shops and in every one the radio was on. Is that different from mp3s in terms of "music-comes-out-of-a-box-while-people-work"?
      • "That all said, I've been in quite a few manufacturing shops and in every one the radio was on. Is that different from mp3s in terms of "music-comes-out-of-a-box-while-people-work"?"

        The RIAA isn't threatening to sue sue over listening to the radio, so the employees of those manufacturing shops aren't putting the company in the postion of having to spend a lot of money defending itself. The Radio dosen't slow down the forklifts, or the other machinary in the shop, something that can't be said about the effect downloading MP3s can have on the company's internet connection.

        My Company has a simple answer, you can listen to regular Audio CDs or MP3s IF you bring them in with you and use headphones or play music that others in your work area don't object to, but NO DOWNLOADING MP3s with the company's bandwidth.

    • by krogoth ( 134320 ) <slashdot.garandnet@net> on Friday June 28, 2002 @03:13AM (#3785094) Homepage
      Ok, so we've established that IT workers are lucky. Should they now stop trying to improve their working conditions because of that?
    • Labor jobs are tough, no doubt. When I was younger, I worked a couple of summers for an electrical contractor. Much of the time I was actually digging the ditches you mention. In the summer. In south Georgia with nats and 90% humidity.

      Absolutely, it sucked. One thing about it, though, my brain never got so overwhelmed with mind numbing details that it wanted to climb out of my skull. When programming it often does.

      An article [] just this morning talks about how IT work sucks the soul right out of a person. At the end of a day digging ditches, you feel good. Tired, yes, but you have whole endorphin rush thing from the exercise, as well as a real feeling of acomplishment. The ditch is dug. You can see it is dug. Nobody is going to come along later and ask you can also make it an email sending ditch with instant messaging. It's a ditch. You know where you stand.

  • I work for PENNDOT. We are not allowed to browse for personal reasons, or listen to music, period. Why should I be allowed to? I'm at work to work, not to play. Jesus, I'm a teenager and I understand that.
    • Blockquoth the poster:

      We are not allowed to browse for personal reasons, or listen to music, period.

      These are not the same thing. The first consumes bandwidth and -- perhaps more importantly -- attention. The second does not. I'm a teacher at a boarding school and we just went the other way: After decades of prohibition, students are allowed to listen to music during Study Hall (on earphones, of course). Rather than the predicted precipitous drop in performance, we've actually seen real (albeit weak) improvement.
    • Better ban telephones for personal use, then. I understand employees waste billions of dollars of company money every day because they steal company resources for personal gain. "Honey, can you pick up a carton of milk on the way home?" is entirely responsible for our current economic slump.
  • Come on.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tranvisor ( 250175 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @11:11PM (#3784325) Homepage
    IT workers say the same thing--that the songs are already out of the proverbial jewel box. Like universities, companies may have to learn to live with a certain amount of media on their networks.

    For any but the biggest networks this is easy to stop. Institute a policy of NO filesharing programs and NO unauthorised MP3's and Movies's. Do random checks of company computers at night. If contraband is found write them up, and tell them that if found again, they will be fired. Check that employee's machine again after 2 weeks, and one month later. If they resumed doing it, they are an idiot and should be canned. I would imagine after the first employee got canned, this practice would have a tremendous effect. This isn't that hard of a problem to solve.

    You are dealing with a limited environment, in which you have physical access to all the machines involved. Every company should do it, if only to save money on bandwidth.
    • Oh yeah... that's a great way to encourage productivity and creativity from a software development team. At the last company I worked out, we would blast MP3s through the entire dev team area... it really helped creativity, especially during the 80 hour weeks required right before RTM.

      Smart companies should look at the potential situation of an RIAA raid as a simple cost of employing creative types. I personally wouldn't work in an environment where I couldn't have MP3s on my PC, and many of the better programmers I know feel the same way.

      • You can combine canning with long boring lectures about how times are tough and resources are limited and there isn't any room on the servers or the network for MP3s and other unnecessary stuff.

        And so long as management haven't just voted themselves a pay rise or purchased a yacht everything should be fine.

        (Disclaimer: I'm currently cleaning MP3s and other assorted unwanted files off a student network. The little buggers have managed to consume half a Gig of storage during a four week non-teaching period. Our monthly Internet traffic exceeds 20Gig.)

    • Now, I know that you were thinking specifically of p2p software, but there are plenty of other types that can be used to share files.

      Almost any client/server software pair can be used. Examples include HTTP clients & servers, ftp, Samba/nfs/etc.

      If you really, really want to ban sharing files, you'd have to go as far as removing the CD drives, possibly even the floppies.

      Besides which, employee/employer relationships, like any other, are about give and take. If I want to have mp3 copies of songs that I own saved to my hard drive so that I can listen to them while I work, I should be allowed to do so. Offices are not safe places to leave CD collections. If you want me to be happy, and to work well and not mind too much about yet another stint of unpaid overtime, you're going to have to make a few concessions, or I'll start thinking about finding an employer that will.A blanket ban on mp3s will almost certainly be counter-productive.


    • Re:Come on.. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Surak ( 18578 ) <surak AT mailblocks DOT com> on Friday June 28, 2002 @07:32AM (#3785623) Homepage Journal
      For any but the biggest networks this is easy to stop. Institute a policy of NO filesharing programs and NO unauthorised MP3's and Movies's. Do random checks of company computers at night.

      Yeah, but ssh with an HTTPS tunneling proxy (such as TransConnect [] or Corkscrew can be SUCH a wonderful thing. Set up a Linux or *BSD box on DSL or cable or satellite. Download and compile gtk-gnutella or similar program. Setup ssh to run on a port you can get to from the company's firewall (port 22 is often blocked) and voila! You can download and share files with people out on the Internet, download them to your work machine via scp, and delete them at the end of the day. :)

      In fact, it wouldn't be hard to write a program that grabs files from the home box on demand so you don't have to even think about it. :)

      Not that I've uhhh...done any of this, no not at all..
  • The number of "peer-to-peer" Web sites has increased fivefold in the past year, according to Websense, a company that makes software to monitor and block employee Web usage.
    Jeez, someone must've re-invented the web while I wasn't looking! I thought P2P networks were a different type of network than plain old HTTP. Well, *thank goodness* these Websense folks were around to let me know the error of my ways. Thanks, Websense!
  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @11:13PM (#3784335) Homepage Journal

    • [C]orporations are now starting to crack down on networked MP3's, not necessarily for the reasons you might think. [The article talks] about legal issues, as well as bandwidth issues, and the simple issue of employees wasting their employers time.

    Oh, well, I guess they would be cracking down for the reasons I might think.

  • It's unpatriotic. I'll never let them take away my MP3 of "Let the Eagle Soar".
  • Taken only slightly out of context:

    he said. "Some of these corporations, we are told, have their own little networks--that is very clearly illegal."

    I was told somewhere that some companys have their own big networks too. It's amazing how companies set up networks that allow users to share data and increase their productivity. Since there is a potential for them to share mp3 files accross those networks, they must be illegal.

    At what point did having a computer at your home or office with a networked connection suddenly make you suspect of illegal activites.

    My company already pays the RIAA in various capacitys untold 'royalties' (or whatever they are called) every time we buy CD-Rs for that oh so potentially illegal copying of important business related files for backup purposes. (The fact that we don't use work machines for mp3s has nothing to do with it.. we are suspect).

    Now, aparently, if somebody on our work network happens to download and distribute mp3s, we'll get charged again.

    Who gave these jokers that kind of power? And what can we do to take it away from them.

  • As an employee I have snatched my fair share of MP3's from the web while at work. Needed something to do waiting for the tech calls to come in and while on the calls :).

    The funny thing is that my boss at the time was a funny guy. The first day I went to work and was being processed thorugh HR yada yada, I was sent to the sysadmin(this was at an ISP). He sat me down and handed me what he cooled my toolkit. An employee manual for the techs and an IDE removable drive bay with a five gig drive in and mount brackets.

    The drive I was informed was so I could transfer large amounts of data between work and home with ease.

    After getting to know him he explained to me it was easier buying a five gigger for every tech to keep his leeched WaRez/Mp3,p0rN, collection on instead of on the company servers. We each had to sign a waiver that the use of the drive was only for business use.... It was an intresting work around. A pretty cool boss. He loved music.

    On the other hand as a sysadmin I agree with the legal issues. Keep it off my network. If you listen to music, you better have a job that doesn't recquire you to answer the phone or recquire any aural cues for your post.

    I had another boss that didnt mind us listening to music but we all had to pool the cds and vote on them and only listen to one. Good policy.

    But if anyone runs in an office with 200 workstations all with labtec speakers grunting out tinny tunes, Garth Brooks, Goo Dolls, Bare Naked, and a hodgepodge of others, is truly a virgin in an industry.

  • At my work we came up with a good way to stop this. We simply added a bunch of registry edits to the login script (one locks down the Netware client so you cannot bypass the scripts). One sets a corporate-accepted background for the desktop. One shuts down file access types for MP3, MPG, AVI, etc. One removes winamp, ICQ, AIM and Bonzai Buddy if found. Lastly, group policies don't allow non-admins to introduce new programs. It works fairly well -- problems arrise when a user attempts to load Acrobat Reader (which we now add as part of a default install) or some other needed software.

  • Complaining about being yelled at or fired for wasting the company's money and time is like complaining about having to say the pledge of alliegence when your public education is paid for by the government. If you want to listen to and download MP3s on the job, start your own business. While I agree that being able to listen to music while you're working is a good comfort, its not the end of the world if your company bans it. When I went to high school, it was perfectly all right for 20 students in a classroom to watch streaming rap videos in RM format, which choked our measly T3, but it wasn't alright for me to download MP3s and listen to them.
    • Blockquoth the poster:

      Complaining about being yelled at or fired for wasting the company's money and time is like complaining about having to say the pledge of alliegence when your public education is paid for by the government.

      Well, apparently [], you can win by complaining about the Pledge of Allegiance.

      And I'm no slash-and-burn libertarian, but isn't public education paid for by, well, the public ? It might be provided by the government but it's paid for through taxes... ie., by you and me.

    • <blockquote>...complaining about having to say the pledge of alliegence when your public education is paid for by the government</blockquote>

      Well, when the government (the people actually) pay for public education, the government also mandates that education take place. If they require me to be educated, it's hardly a favor that they pay for the education.
  • by smcavoy ( 114157 ) on Friday June 28, 2002 @12:12AM (#3784551)
    "What you really want to do is protect people from themselves," --Frank Gillman (Guy who works at company that makes web filters for adults at work).

    Bring on the straight jackets, and urine testing.
  • The job market's tight. Those who haven't been fired outright (like 16,000 WorldCommers were today) are looking at being replaced by H1Bs or having their jobs outsourced to India or China or God-only-knows where. So of course the PHBs are going to stick it to the workers.
  • There is no justification for loading a company PC with speakers, a web-cam, a ridiculously oversized drive and a 21" monitor.

    The software should all be on one server. The data files should all be on another. These are company assets. They should be treated as such.

    Files should be checked-out and only to the user that should be authorized to use/modify them, checked-in again, journaled stored for check-out again and backed up.

    What the hell are we doing with multi-media capable machines in an accounting department? Singing spread sheets announcing how deep you're in the red?

    What's with all these CD-ROM drives? The files should be on the company server. If they aren't, you don't need them. If you do have IT put 'em there.

    NOBODY needs diskette drives anymore.
    The PC should consist on one CPU, only enough RAM as required to run the permissible apps, a NIC, a sensible flat screen monitor so it doesn't eat up all the desk space.

    Printing, faxing, communication connection, storage are all shared corporate resources and should reside on networked servers.

    Who needs Windows with all the damn bells and whistles?

    A bare-bones geegaw-less Linux distro with OpenOffice or StarOffice and whatever specialized software tools the each user really needs to do their job, pulled off the LAN, should be all a business allows.

    The rest is expensive distractions and productivity sinks.
    • Hmmm. No. Productivity sinks when your employees are unhappy. It's all about finding the right balance. You do want to ban MP3 servers on your lans because you don't want to be sued out of existence by the RIAA & co. but banning (or making it technically impossible) the use of the work computer for a reasonably small amount of non-business related activity is simply stupid.

    • The companies know full well that the machines are multimedia capable: music/porn/jokes/trailers etc enhance productivity; people work better when they have a little fun. So long as its not officially endorsed, and lip service is given to cracking down from time to time, then everybody is happy.

      So whats the big deal?

  • by gerardrj ( 207690 ) on Friday June 28, 2002 @01:00AM (#3784721) Journal
    From the article:
    Some studies have estimated that as many as one in five work computers contains file-swapping software.

    Really the percentage is probably more like 99%. Any computer that has a web browser or FTP client has file-swapping software on it.

    Again from the article:
    RIAA President Cary Sherman.: "Some of these corporations, we are told, have their own little networks--that is very clearly illegal."

    And some corporations have large networks. I guess that is even more illegal. Everyone! Disconnect the Ethernet cable, and step away from the computer. Networking computers has been declared illegal by the RIAA.

    All that aside, they have a point. Most people do use the network at the office for personal use. This is of course the fault of the IT department. If they lay down a policy that the network is for company business, they should set up equipment and software that enforces those rules.
    At Bank One in AZ, they have such a policy (network and Internet acesss for company business only), but the restrictions are applied haphazardly. Joke sites are filtered by the proxy along with sites like Dilbert, The Onion, etc. Software downloads are disallowed, but they allow FTP connections and do not block sites like or *shrug*. Perhaps a few settlements/suits will cause companies like this to suddenly crack down and actuall impliment their stated policies. Until that time, I know the employees take the view that if the company where really serious about the policies that the IT department would limit/control the offending behaviour/sites.
  • I noticed an interesting quirk in Kazaa after using it for a couple of weeks. I turned off Kazaa so I could play Quake. After I connected, I noticed that my ping went from 150 to 230, and that my connection was getting intermittently lagged every few seconds.

    I did a little sniffing around and noticed that even though Kazaa was off, lots... and I mean LOTS of people were trying to talk to the port that Kazaa was using. It took about a day for that to calm down.

    I can't believe it, I was getting so many people trying to talk to Kazaa that it was affecting my connection! If that happened at work, the network manager would hunt me down. One thing that really sucks (at least where I work...) is that if the connection acts wacky, the bigwigs that sign my check think that it's a failure on my part. Go fig. For some reason I'm supposed to be able to fix the ISP's probs before they notice.

    I'm not endorsing music trading being banned, but I do understand why a sysadmin would like to avoid use of such programs. That's before getting into the legality of it. Execs act like not being able to get their email is worse than their car not starting.

    Piece of advice to those of you tempted to use Kazaa at work: There's a very good chance that the network admin will come to your desk and ask what you're doing. heh. :)

    I'm curious if anybody has any insight into what's happening here and if it happens on other P2P progs.
  • by edrugtrader ( 442064 ) on Friday June 28, 2002 @01:43AM (#3784873) Homepage
    by reading this article!

    back to work!

  • Is it just me or are they spending a ridiculous amount on these boxes that do the bandwidth limiting? Don't most of the Cisco boxes they're probably using already have most of those capabilities (e.g. limit traffic for this port) anyway.

    It seems like someone could whip up a linux box with the same capabilities for $3-5K (including some sort of smart NIC that could filter faster). Up to $49K seems ridiculous. On the other hand, maybe that's what they're doing.
  • I work with a consulting firm, but the office I'm in is down stairs in a suite of our own away from the suits.

    For many months we had all gotten used to having tunes playing on the speakers connected to my box (myself and two others split the cost of some cheap Altec Lansing speakers). At first I acquired some mp3s from a coworker upstairs, then later I ripped a bunch of our CDs to OGG and shuttled them to work on CD-RW...

    Recently we reorganized our seating arrangement and it left me and another coworker in a room to ourselves. I took the speakers with me since they were connected to the box I was using...

    Well, no more than two weeks and my supervisor was franticly trying to come up with a way that he and the ladies in his area could have some music again!

    I told him to simply buy some cheap speakers, but he didn't want to at first... Two days later, he gave me $20 to go to the local computer store [] and get some more cheap speakers for him!

    They're happy now! :)

  • Stream it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Little Dave ( 196090 )
    I've discovered that its far preferable to run a Shoutcast server from home and stream 128kbit MP3s to my station at work. With a little bit of SSH jiggery and pokery I can get over the blocked port and have access to my full collection of 300+ albums. No need to sully the corporate machines at all.

    On the time wasting issue - yesterday, for some unfathomable reason, I couldn't connect to the Stream. Rather than increasing productivity, I found that the absence of music in my working life caused me to become a jibbering wreck. I spent most of the morning frantically trying to debug the problem, and the afternoon planning how I would investigate it when I got home. Music helps me to shut out the monotony and concentrate on the work.

    In the immortal words of the Tavares - Don't Take Away The Music!
  • Integrated Information Systems (IIS) agreed to settle the case for $1 million.

    I said it at the time, and I'll say it again.

    The RIAA needed a forceful precedent, so they could scare companies everywhere into compliance.

    One tiny company putting their files in a common place does not merit this kind of settlement. Passing money under the table is a common corporate practice, and it's the only way this settlement thing would make sense. It must have gone something like this:

    RIAA gives IIS $1.5 million.
    IIS settles with RIAA and gives $1 million back.

    Result: A win/win deal for the companies.
  • My software Andromeda [] makes it easy to manage and stream MP3s via dynamic web pages, and is available in both PHP and ASP versions. I thought it worth mentioning in this thread...
  • I bring or transfer my own MP3's to work. I might waste sometime playing around with them, but it does not bother me one bit. You see, I am not a smoker, and until they stop taking a ten minute break every half hour, then no body has any right to complain to me about five miuntes of fooling around with some music.

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