Stanford University Embraces BitTorrent

While some universities restrict the use of BitTorrent clients, others embrace the popular flilesharing protocol and use it to spread knowledge. Stanford University is one of the few to realize that BitTorrent does not equal piracy. They use BitTorrent to give away some of their engineering courses, with some success.

stanfordAlways wanted to learn more about Robotics, Linear Dynamical Systems or Programming Paradigms? Now you can, for free, thanks to Stanford Engineering’s online courses.

The University not only gives away videos of lectures, but also syllabi, handouts, homework and exams. In addition to offering torrents, the courses are also available on YouTube, via iTunes and Vyew. With the project Stanford aims to spread knowledge on technology worldwide.

Thus far, the online courses have been a great success. Over 200,000 people from all over the world have visited the site already. Most foreign visitors come from Canada, according to a recent news release, followed by Brazil, China, Italy and the UK.

For now, only the 10 most popular computer science and electrical engineering courses are published online, but additional courses will be added later. All course materials are published under a Creative Commons license, which allows others to adapt, remix and share them as long as it is for noncommercial use, and if they link back to the university.

As P2P-blog points out, there is one downside to the torrents Stanford is offering. They do not use regular trackers, but only Vuze’s DHT tracker. This means that people who use BitTorrent clients that do not support DHT, such as Transmission, BitLord and BitTornado, are not able to download the files. Of course, uTorrent and Azureus users will have no problems.

While Stanford recognizes the benefits of BitTorrent, it is also cracking down on students who use it to download copyrighted material. Students who get caught for the first time have to pay a $100 fine, the second offense costs $500, and those who get caught three times will have to pay $1000 to regain access to the university network.

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