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MIT is the leading university for digital piracy and related copyright infringements within the U.S. for a second time in a row, according to a 2008 report from BayTSP (published May, 2009).

BayTSP, short for Bay-area “Track, Security, Protect,” is a California-based company specializing in analysis of online copyright infringement. BayTSP compiles data using through their piracy-network crawling software and databases of digital fingerprints of media.

According to spokesman Jim E. Graham, BayTSP collects its raw data for “nearly every motion picture studio, a good number of software companies, video game and publishing companies and an increasing number of sports and pay-per-view companies,” and compiles its data into an annual report available to the general public. See http://tech.mit.edu/V129/N28/piracy/.

“We have data centers in several places in the U.S., Europe, and Asia — all over the world,” says Graham.

Although MIT was not in the top ten worldwide, Graham said that in the U.S., MIT, University of Washington and Boston University topped the lists with the most infringements of BayTSP client materials.

Graham said the number of infringements being found at domestic universities has held relatively steady since BayTSP began collecting statistics in 2006.

According to the report, the University of Botswana was the worst infringer worldwide (at 9,027 infringements); MIT was measured at 2,593 infringements.

In an interview, Graham said that the data presented in the report was based on infringements of their customer’s media, tracked via software crawlers which record filesharers’ IP addresses.

Graham said that the software crawlers identify individuals who are making client’s content available for download, then capture their IP addresses and other identifying information, and store everything in a database which is then provided to [BayTSP’s customers].”

“The crawlers look like another user,” Graham said.

Similarly, Graham acknowledged that the company does not monitor all occurrences of Internet-based digital piracy, but only a small subset of piracy based on downloads of specific movies, software, television shows, videos, and eBooks whose surveillance is in the interest of the company’s clients.

According to Graham, the company collects terabytes of information each day which can be used by its clients at their own discretion (whether they want to directly monitor copyright infringement or gauge how popular a specific TV show or movie might be).

Graham noted that not all of it clients request take-down notices upon the company’s discovery of an infringer, which may account for a deceptively small rate of digital piracy among universities and other institutions.

“Clients can use this information to figure out things such as how popular a TV show is. It is not uncommon for popular TV shows [aired on the east coast] to appear on the west coast before they even air, via peer to peer sharing,” says Graham, referring to the 3-hour delay between east coast and west coast television scheduled airings.

In this way, clients can use digital piracy data to serve an alternative purpose — to gauge the popularity of their digital media product from a third-party source.

Based on this client-specific criteria for monitoring digital piracy, Graham noted that although BayTSP has “only been publishing these annual reports since 2006, MIT has been number one or near the top since going into business in 1996.”

Although BayTSP suggests that digital piracy is a pressing issue on campus, Information Services & Technology Network Manager Jeffrey I. Schiller ’79 remains skeptical of the profit-based company’s report.

Schiller said that MIT believes that students should be in firm compliance with the law (as reflected by its student Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notification process and the MIT network rules of use).

“These companies are employed by the consumer industry to find people stealing content and are paid by how many offenders they find, not necessarily by how good of a job that they do,” Schiller said.

“If MIT is the worst university, then piracy is not a problem.” he added.

“We are not getting millions complaints a day; I can count the number of complaints [that we get] per day on my fingers.”