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Piracy blog puts Georgetown students among top BitTorrent users
As it turns out, Georgetown students are infamous for breaking laws other than the drinking age.
On Oct. 13, TorrentFreak, a blog about internet piracy, ranked Georgetown University 41st in the nation for BitTorrent usage. Topping the list of most downloaded files were an episode of Suits, the movie Sucker Punch, and the season finale of Pretty Little Liars. Among the top fifty files were classics like Avicii – Levels and the 2001 Ben Affleck masterpiece Pearl Harbor, a movie FilmStew called “not as painful as a blow to the head, but it will cost you up to $10, and it takes three hours.”
The data comes from little-known Polish company Kalasoft, whose ScanEye software tracks all peer-to-peer BitTorrent downloads in the United States and abroad. More unnerving, however, is their proprietary technology’s ability to pinpoint the exact geographic origin of your connection and the file being downloaded. Company representative Grzegorz Kaliński was loath to discuss the software any further: “I will not give You [sic] details about our technology, but it works pretty good.”
Georgetown’s top fifty ranking surprised few. “I thought we’d be at least in the top twenty,” lamented one Georgetown torrenter, who preferred to remain anonymous legal reasons. “Now that Blockbuster is gone and there aren’t any Redboxes around, I just stream movies online. If I need music, I’ll just go to The Pirate Bay. It’s really easy.”
University Information Services at Georgetown was quick to point out that regardless of how convenient it may be, piracy is illegal. “The University’s Acceptable Use Policy prohibits the use of University resources for those purposes” and “Piracy is dangerous, as these sites may contain malware that can infect your computer and damage your data,” said Lisa Davis, UIS Vice President for Information Technology/Chief Information Officer.
A common concern among students was anonymity with the transition to the SaxaNet wireless network, which requires users to log in their NetIDs. UIS, while insisting that the university “does not monitor the content of student internet traffic,” stressed that “you are never truly anonymous on the Internet. Your computer has a visible address that can be connected back to you. SaxaNet protects your data and the University network but it is no more or less visible to external groups than the older network or an ISP.”
The University receives a number of complaints about students downloading copyrighted material, and handles them “in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.”
Upon receiving a complaint, UIS forwards it to the Office of Student Conduct, which considers such actions “Category A” or “Category B” violations of university regulations, specifically the Computer Systems Acceptable Use Policy in the Code of Student Conduct. Any sanctions or punishment “would be based on the nature of the regulation violated,” according to Emily Peebles, Program Manager in the Office of Student Conduct.
Students remain undeterred in their file sharing. When informed of companies like Kalasoft monitoring BitTorrent activity, another torrenter explained, “I don’t really know how that stuff actually works, so ignorance is bliss I guess. I really like the entertainment, so it’s worth it. Then again, I’ve never been caught. That would probably change my tune.”
Others were more troubled by this news. “I had no idea it was that obvious,” another unnamed torrenter said. “Can they really see everything I download? Can I take something back?”
UIS recommends students “take advantage of and support popular and easy ways to appropriately acquire digital content,” whose “innovative new business models promote fairness for all and abandon sites that do not respect copyright.” In spite of their convenience, many of these pay-per-download services like iTunes and Amazon Instant Videos have failed to displace illegal streaming and downloading among Georgetown students.
“I love Netflix, but plenty of times when I get a craving for a movie, they don’t have it,” a torrenter said. “Some of these websites even have movies that just came out in theaters. They usually have subtitles and look like they were filmed in a Soviet prison but I don’t have to pay $12 for a movie ticket.”