P2P on Campus: Who, What, and How Much

Date of Original Version

Winter 2012



Abstract or Description

This Article presents findings from a large-scale quantitative assessment of online exchanges of copy righted material on a college campus based on network data collected using deep packet inspection. Findings sh ow that use of Peer-to-Peer (P2P) to transfer copyrighted content is widespread on campus, although observed P2P is declining. In a month-long period in Spring 2008, 40% of students living on campus were observed engaging in P2P and 70% of those were detected attempting to transfer copyrighted content. Compared to Spring 2007, there was a 10% decrease in the daily percentage of detected P2P users and a 20% decrease in the daily percentage of P2P users detected attempting to transfer copyrighted content. P2P activity was detected across all genders, ages, classes and majors, and the observed decline was fairly uniform across demographics, except that P2P usage is high among freshmen in their first month on campus, and falls in subsequent semesters, indicating students became P2 P users prior to college. The effect of this widespread P2P usage on content sales is complex. While 22% of P2P users purchased content from the iTunes Store (iTS), each buying on average about as much content as iTS customers w ho didn’t use P2P, 10% of P2P users only sampled conte nt from the iTS, but did not buy. The fact that many students use both P2P and iTS shows that factors other than price and fear of lawsuits come to play in users’ decisions, and content sellers might take advantage of such factors to win back some of their potential customers from P2P. As for the content itself, P2P users transferred a diverse mix including music, video and software. Music and video transfer red over P2P show a heavy-tailed distribution of popularity, with less popular content accounting for a significant share of transfers. Moreover, for video, the importance o f less popular content is growing. This indicates that a legal seller may need a large inventory to compete with P2P


Published In

I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society.