College Pirates? U.S. Universities Ranked by BitTorrent Usage

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For more than a decade universities have been battling a persistent piracy problem. While progress has been made over the past few years, there are still plenty of illicit file-sharers present on university networks. Today we look at the top universities in the United States ranked by BitTorrent usage. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology comes out on top, followed by Rutgers and New York University.

mitBitTorrent has plenty of legitimate uses but much of the traffic that passes through can be linked to copyright infringement.

This is true on all regular Internet providers but also on university networks. Unlike consumer ISPs, however, educational institutions are required by law to prevent copyright infringement to the best of their ability.

In 2010 the U.S. Government added a new requirement for colleges and universities to stop illicit file-sharing on their networks. This legislation puts a defiant school at risk of losing federal funding if it doesn’t do enough to stop illicit file-sharers on its campus.

Schools across the country responded appropriately to the new rules and some institutions have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to install anti-file-sharing systems on their networks. While these efforts may have been somewhat successful, college piracy hasn’t been completely eliminated.

With help from the BitTorrent monitoring outfit Scaneye we were able to see the presence of individual universities on the popular file-sharing protocol. Scaneye looks at the IP-addresses that are sharing files on BitTorrent, and records every encounter as a “hit.” More hits therefore means that BitTorrent usage is more prevalent on the network.

As can be seen on the table below, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology leads the list with 1809 “hits” since January 1 of this year. Rutgers University follows in second place with 986 hits.

The rest of the top five is made up by New York University, the University of Houston and Texas A&M University.

Compared to last year the University of Illinois made the biggest jump from the 41st place to 6th. Conversely, The University of California, San Diego, was in 19th place last year and has since dropped out of the top 50.

Since BitTorrent can be used for many legitimate purposes we took several samples of the content being downloaded on the university networks, and the majority is clearly infringing.

While students and staff are certainly pirating movies, software and music, it is certainly not rampant. Especially when you take into account that some universities have hundreds of thousands of students, and that a single student can generate several hits.

To put things in perspective, most residential ISPs have millions of hits every month, and even the Department of Homeland Security has hundreds of pirates in its organization.

Below is the full list of the top 50 universities ranked by (absolute) BitTorrent usage in 2013. The older 2012 ranking of universities based on the student population is available here.

Universities ranked by BitTorrent usage
# 2012 University Hits
1 (1) Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1935
2 (2) Rutgers University 1851
3 (3) New York University 1401
4 (4) University Of Houston 1088
5 (6) Texas A&M University 900
6 (41) University of Illinois 850
7 (12) Northeastern University 826
8 (…) Georgia Institute of Technology 741
9 (15) Columbia University 722
10 (13) Michigan State University 702
11 (39) University of Washington 699
12 (10) University of Maryland 689
13 (5) University of Southern California 679
14 (7) The George Washington University 671
15 (37) University of California at Berkeley 613
16 (8) University of Minnesota 613
17 (16) Boston University 591
18 (…) University of California, Los Angeles 580
19 (21) Ohio State University 561
20 (1) Ohio State University 558
21 (…) Rochester Institute of Technology 550
22 (30) Purdue University 522
23 (17) Vanderbilt University 521
24 (27) University of Colorado 518
25 (46) University of Utah 494
26 (…) University of Chicago 482
27 (…) Stanford University 434
28 (14) Wayne State University 411
29 (49) Duke University 410
30 (…) University of North Texas 405
31 (…) State University of New York at Stony Brook 398
32 (23) Case Western Reserve University 388
33 (11) Tennessee State University 378
34 (…) University Of South Florida 373
35 (42) Georgetown University 366
36 (…) University of Oklahoma 364
37 (33) Lindenwood University 364
38 (26) The Pennsylvania State University 359
39 (…) Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ. 359
40 (48) University of Pennsylvania 351
41 (45) University of Wisconsin Madison 343
42 (9) State University of New York at Buffalo 339
43 (22) University of Michigan 334
44 (…) Claremont University 334
45 (…) University of California, Santa Cruz 326
46 (…) Iowa State University 324
47 (40) Fordham University 320
48 (18) North Carolina Central University 318
49 (36) Grambling State University 318
50 (…) University of Texas at Arlington 309

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