Media piracy at universities cannot be stopped

The music, film and television industries have tried for years to stop the illegal sharing of copyrighted material over the Internet, which has become increasingly popular among students thanks to the proliferation of file-sharing Web sites.

Media companies must accept piracy as a permanent problem with no feasible solutions. For the next generation of leaders and workers, copyright violation has become an acceptable practice, despite its illegality.

A study by a California-based copyright tracking company Bay-TSP revealed that infringements are still rampant even at the most prestigious U.S. colleges and universities.

Bay-TSP found that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had more instances of digital piracy than any other U.S. university in 2008.

According to the company’s annual report, MIT came in first for the second year in a row with 2,593 infringements. The University of Washington came second with 1,888 violations and third was Boston University with 1,408 violations.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Bay-TSP monitors all violations of media content owned by their clients — which include movie, software and pay-per-view companies — and notifies universities of violations.

USF also monitors such activities. Academic Computing has software that monitors students’ file sharing on campus.

Even with the help of tracking companies, there is little media industries can do, as most violations occur at universities outside the U.S., making the violations at MIT and other American schools pale in comparison. The University of Botswana in Africa and Uppsala University in Sweden topped the list with 9,027 and 8,032 infringements, respectively.

Media companies cannot stop students from stealing their content and should follow the example of the music industry. In December, the Recording Industry Association of America announced that it would stop suing individual people for sharing music. This decision ended the futile attempt to stop piracy one person at a time that led to more than 30,000 suits since 2003, according to the Associated Press.

It is an unfortunate trend that students receiving some of the best educations the U.S. has to offer have no moral qualms over digital theft, but the trend is unlikely to reverse. Media industries must think smarter in order to discourage piracy among students, but they must also learn to accept it.