College Students Still Power BitTorrent Users

Though ISPs and the entertainment industry have teamed up to continue to fight the battle against illegal file sharing, college students remain unphased and are still BitTorrent superusers. The rising cost of tuition combined with the widespread availability of Wi-Fi and internet on college campuses could be contributing to the heavy number of BitTorrent users found in colleges across the U.S., though evolving technologies and tech savviness are also likely contributing to the steady use of BitTorrent technology amongst college students.

Since the days of Napster, college students have been some of the most frequent and heaviest file sharers. However, BitTorrent technology is much more complex than the peer-to-peer sharing that took place before heavier government enforcement on file sharing came about. The other difference with BitTorrent is that students can share more than just music – they can also share movies, TV shows, as well as expensive software. When looked at in this way, it makes sense that college students would be the ones getting the most benefit out of file sharing services.

Though many mistake the use of BitTorrent with illegal file sharing, it is not always so. BitTorrent technology can be used to transmit content legally, though it has caught a bad reputation as a tool used for illegal online activity. In 2010, the issue of illegal file sharing became such a problem for the government that they threatened to cut funding to schools that refused to discipline students who were found to be illegally sharing content via BitTorrent or other cloud-based file sharing services.

TorrentFreak, a company that tracks IP addresses and content shared via BitTorrent technology found that today’s university students are using the technology mostly to download entertainment related files such as feature films, video games, and music. However, they also found that Microsoft Office for Mac and other Microsoft Office products were among some of the most heavily downloaded files. Downloading these files saves students the $120 fee that Microsoft charges students for their programs. Thus in the case of software it’s likely more about students being strapped for cash than anything else.

Many of the top BitTorrent using schools are large universities that have economically diverse student populations and where simply more students attend, which increases the amount of BitTorrent hits per month. Even though BitTorrent use has not seen a decline at the university level, is it all such a bad thing?

The cost of college continues to rise as does the need for a college degree in order for young adults to find employment, so is it right that schools require specific programs that students have to pay additional monies in order to acquire? Students also need down time and if they choose to see a movie or play a video game, then rather than shell out the high costs of entertainment activities they are likely going to download it for free. If the entertainment and software industries want less students to download content illegally, then they need to work towards meeting the consumer demand of alternative, less expensive products.