San Francisco – America’s students are back to school, but it seems they have yet to learn their lesson about file sharing.
Despite the efforts of digital music services, record company litigation, “spoofing” technology and legitimate offerings at various universities, illegal file sharing on peer-to-peer networks has risen since college students returned to their high-speed Internet connections this fall.
According to Los Angeles-based P2P market research firm BigChampagne, the back-to-school months coincided with the typical spike of usage on file-swapping networks, with average simultaneous peak users totaling 5.7 million in the United States in October, edging up from 5.4 million in October 2003.
A recent study by the University of California at Riverside and the Cooperative Assn. for Internet Data Analysis also revealed that P2P traffic has not declined.
The Recording Industry Assn. of America, however, has been steadfast in its approach, recently issuing 750 lawsuits against music file sharers, bringing the total to 6,191 since September 2003.
As the landscape of illegal file sharing changes, the RIAA has been able to adapt its strategy.
“We routinely base lawsuits on multiple platforms and will evolve our strategies as circumstances change,” RIAA president Cary Sherman says.
File-trading service eDonkey has surpassed Kazaa as the P2P leader, according to BigChampagne and Los Gatos, Calif.-based BayTSP, which monitors P2P use on behalf of entertainment companies. This change is partially attributable to the effectiveness of interdiction companies flooding Kazaa with spoofed, or fake, files.
“We have directed more of the lawsuits to eDonkey users recently, and we’ll continue to go where the problem is worst,” says Sherman, who also is mindful of file sharing at smaller, under-the-radar networks that are harder to detect.
“Increasingly people are finding a way to bypass inefficiencies like hunting and pecking for songs (on P2P) in favor of instant (messaging), private chat rooms or ‘hot swapping’ hard drives,” says Eric Garland, CEO of BigChampagne. Hot swapping involves the direct transfer of music files from one hard drive to another.
Garland adds that such practices thrive in situations where young people live in “close communities,” such as college campuses.
Sherman sees an upside to this development.
“The more that you drive (activity) underground, the better off you are overall,” Sherman says. “That means that people are aware that this is illegal behavior.”
Mark Ishikawa, CEO of BayTSP, adds that the rise of closed networks “minimizes the damage because you’re not sharing files globally. We would like to stop the internal trafficking, but it’s more difficult to monitor.”
One major difference from a year ago is the growth of legal alternatives on college campuses. Napster, Rhapsody and Cdigix – which is powered by MusicNet – each have brokered deals with numerous universities across the nation to provide legitimate download and subscription services for students.
Napster and Rhapsody do not break out their numbers, but Cdigix reports that roughly 150,000 songs were downloaded in the first week the service was launched this semester at Purdue University. The service also reports 2,600 subscription sign-ups at the Indiana school.
“There has been enormous progress over the last year, and the university community has woken up to this issue; there has been a sea change in the university digital music landscape,” Sherman says.
At Penn State University, which offers legal streaming and tethered downloads through Napster, university president Graham Spanier reports that 20,000 students have signed up for the service.
“These students are collectively streaming or downloading 170,000 songs a day – more than 1 million per week. We expect several thousand additional students to sign up during the year as the service becomes even better known. Several professors are also using Napster in their courses in music, theater, popular culture and integrative arts,” Spanier says.
Spanier adds that “takedown notices have decreased significantly” at the school. Further, he says, “We have also installed a system of firewalls on campus, as part of a larger effort to manage viruses and other IT-related problems.”
Another major institution, UCLA, has begun discouraging piracy through technology, using Automated Copyright Notice System. The system sends notices of copyright infringement to students via e-mail and restricts their network access until the illegal file has been deleted.