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|
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!