Saturday, December 8, 2007

Is illegal file sharing on college campuses really as high as they say it is?

Again I need to remind everyone the content of this blog is solely my own and does not represent the University of Pennsylvania. I am not authorized to speak on behalf of the University of Pennsylvania and will not do so. I am, however, an employee of a University and am personally concerned about my university as well as other universities out there. I'm hoping this blog may stir up a little discussion on what the real numbers are when it comes to students illegally sharing files.

I also want to state that I am not for the illegal sharing of files. I am absolutely against it. I just want to make sure that the numbers presented in the media are fair numbers. I have a feeling they aren't fair at all.

I'm sure we all remember when emails were leaked from a company called MediaDefender. The news Spread fast and a lot of people started looking to see what MediaDefender was up to. MediaDefender claims to be an anti-piracy solution that stops the trade of illegally traded copyrighted material. A site called Mediadefender-defenders received a copy of the leaked emails and published them online for the whole world to see. In those emails a few threads show that one of their customers wants to see what number of EDU (Education) addresses are showing up in the Gnutella network. MediaDefender generates some reports from the data they have and provides a few updates to their customer.

The data contained in the section below can be found by using the following Google search:

site:mediadefender-defenders.com "edu ips" intitle:edu

When you see numbers published in the media about the huge number of college students sharing illegal files and then take a look at the numbers below there just seems to be a huge gap. I realize some of the EDU IP addresses may be from a private NAT (Network Address Translation) which enables multiple hosts on a private network to access the Internet using a single public IP address. It is safe to say the numbers are probably a bit higher than the data shows but I wouldn't imagine it would be significantly higher. I don't have access to data that would show this, however.

In the data below the first column is the Date at which the numbers were gathered by MediaDefender. The second one (Uniq IPs) shows the count of unique IP addresses they saw on the Gnutella network. The third column (Uniq EDU IPs) shows the number of unique addresses that resolved to an EDU domain. The fourth column (% EDU IPs (MediaDefender) are the percentages of EDU IP addresses that were on the Gnutella network. The fifth column (Actual % EDU IPs) are the numbers I came up with from their data.

To make a long story short, MediaDefender's data shows that the average percentage of EDU IP addresses found to be on the Gnutella network during the time they sampled the data is 1.76%. That number alone seems to be fairly low.

Date Uniq Ips Uniq EDU Ips % EDU Ips (MediaDefender) Actual % EDU Ips
02/01/07 342854 8398 2.40% 2.45
04/12/07 291001 7175 2.50% 2.47
06/14/07 265504 2475 0.93% 0.93
07/14/07 199333 1303 0.65% 0.65
















1098692 19351
1.76


Now we have at least some numbers here. One thing to think about, however, is the numbers above do not necessarily reflect the number of people sharing files illegally. This just shows the numbers MediaDefender saw on the Gnutella network. I believe the most popular application for this network would be LimeWire. I was doing a bit of research on Limewire a few months back and was trying to find a file to download that was at least 4 MB in size. Of course I don't want to download anything that would be considered illegal so I kept searching and searching and searching. Well, after several hours I just could not find any content over 4 MB that I could feel comfortable to download and gave up due to lack of time I had to spend on it. So I guess I can raise my right eyebrow and give a "what are you doing on that network" look. Well, I was there researching so maybe others are as well.

There are other networks out there as well such as BitTorrent, Ares, FastTrack and many more. Some networks are used by various software vendors for pushing out a lot of legitimate content such as Open Source applications and operating systems as well as software patches.


"The MPAA estimates that about 44% of the movie industry's domestic losses to piracy -- over $500 million annually -- are attributed to college students illegally sharing files over peer-to-peer networks. "


Another article from Alternet says "But sticking with the MPAA's semi-bogus numbers, educational technology nonprofit Educause points out that "since less than 20 percent of college students live on campus and use the residence hall networks, this means that less than 4 percent of the infringers are using campus networks, and they are responsible for less than 9 percent of the losses. Over 91 percent of the claimed losses are on commercial networks." Get that: 4 out of every 100 infringers (even trusting the industry assessment of infringement, which usually is not too carefully defined) are on college networks"

Educause has a handy list of issues, links, and an action page here.

I don't have the technical skills nor the resources to really dive in and get actual numbers. If I did you can bet I would be diving into it with full force. If there are some of you out there that would like to start thinking of creating a project to find out what the real numbers of Student P2P users are it would be really valuable for the EDU community!

9 comments:

Volatar said...

You have been slashdotted, I am surprised there are no comments on here yet.

Micah said...

Hi from /. Interesting article, I'll have to do some more digging with the numbers for sure, but it's thought provoking if nothing else. Not that I would really trust someone that claims a $0.99 song is worth $700+ in damages.

caferace said...

Summer vacation, anyone?

Devin said...

I would just like to point out that of about the $300 million loss that the RIAA claims due to piracy, thats less than 1% of their annual gross income. So when they say piracy hurts, its shavings of a penny.

Kyrre said...

ha..ha.. 100% NO WAY!!!

David Taylor said...

caferace: Yes, this would be during a slower part of the academic year. I think any numbers that are out there now are mostly speculation. I'm hoping this sparks interest in people trying to find out what the actual numbers are. I think they may be lower than what the **AAs claim but then again, that is speculation.

Semad said...

You wrote:

"I also want to state that I am not for the illegal sharing of files. I am absolutely against it."

Without anything more to go on, this suggests that your position is that sharing of [digital or media] files is de facto illegal. In some countries, that is the case. In the U.S., the copyright industries would prefer that most citizens adopt that view.

The fact is, however, that the Copyright Act of 1976 includes both rights AND exceptions. Current U.S. copyright law has 16 exceptions to copyright; the same law has six copyright rights. Therefore, exceptions outnumber rights by a factor of more than 2-to-1.

"Sharing" of [digital or media] files may fall under at least one of the exceptions: fair use under Section 107.

So are you, in fact, saying that "sharing" is illegal? Or that making a file available on a network also is illegal? (This is another argument the copyright industries are making.)

This may seem like a rhetorical issue, and it is. Part of the problem in this copyright debate is the consistent use of rhetoric that has no clear meaning, or has a clear -- but propagandist -- meaning. "File sharing" is one example; "piracy" is another.

If we're concerned about balanced copyright, we must be as rhetorically precise as possible. Failing to do so allows the copyright industry to frame arguments in a unbalanced way. This includes the copyright industries' use of MediaDefender "data" before Congress to convince legislators to pass more restrictive copyright legislation.

David Taylor said...

"Without anything more to go on, this suggests that your position is that sharing of [digital or media] files is de facto illegal."

Semad, I think you know what I am trying to say here. Why does one have to break out a law book to just make a simple statement. I believe most people reading this blog understand what I am saying.

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