Torrents and Plunder: Piracy Rife In Cambridge

INVESTIGATION: We reveal over 250 reported cases of piracy since 2010, and there's evidence of more going unpunished.

Cambridge students may be some of the brightest in the country, but they’re not above stealing.

An investigation by The Tab has revealed students have been caught illegally downloading copyrighted material over 250 times in the past two years, while many more are downloading without being caught.

A Freedom of Information request revealed the University was sent 259 copyright violation notices between August 2010 and January 2012. Every college had at least one case apart from Clare.

St John’s has the most cyber-pirates, with 22 reported incidents. Queens’ was close behind with 19 cases, followed by King’s and Wolfson, both with 16, and Trinity Hall with 15.

Piracy wasn’t just confined to college networks though. Four cases were tracked to the Chemistry department, while Architecture, Biochemistry and Chemical Engineering each had three incidents.

Even the University Computing Service (UCS) were caught stealing cyber-booty on one occasion.

Copyrighted material typically includes music, films and games, and is most often downloaded via torrent programs like Vuze or BitTorrent.

Copyright holders send complaints to the University when they discover their material being torrented on the University network. It’s then up to the University to track down the offender who is dealt with by their college.

George Lamb, a third year at St John’s who was caught, told The Tab: “I downloaded Shutter Island using µTorrent. They took my internet connection and said the reason they had taken me off was because Paramount Pictures had noticed me illegally downloading one of their films.

“I was instructed to delete µTorrent and the film and told my internet would be given back as it was my first offence. They said if I was caught again things would be more serious and I’d have to see the dean.”

Uni regulations give colleges the power to suspend access to the internet and fine people up to £175. Colleges can also force students to pay the value of what they downloaded.

Lewis Tan, a Trinity second year, told The Tab: “Trinity crack down instantly so no one does it. My friend got caught and within an hour of torrenting they had shut down his internet.”

But despite punishment, piracy in Cambridge shows no sign of slowing down. Forty of the total 259 cases occured in the last four months. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there are also many students downloading without getting caught.

An anonymous John’s third year told us: “I download stuff all the time, I’ve never been caught. I download 2 to 3 albums a week. I’ve stopped downloading films because they’re such big files it makes it so obvious with your usage.”

A third year engineer who’s received a warning, told us he’s “torrented again since” without any problems.

A Selwyn third year also told The Tab: “I downloaded a few albums, a film and some classic PS1 games I used to own. I’ve never been caught, but I only did it on the odd occasion so it probably never looked really bad. I’m sure lots of people do it.”

Have you downloaded music, films, TV or games illegally while at Cambridge?

  • CamDC


    • First rule

      What is the first rule?

  • pirate

    if we're all pirates…LADS TRIP TO MOGADISHU

  • Pirate

    I only download Arr and B

    • Hmmm…

      Then you're not a pirate, you're a gangsta.

    • B2's Lu

      Worst pun ever.

  • lol


  • Helper

    Hint Friends. DO NOT upload…
    Engineer, elucidate will you.

    • Engineer

      Is this someone I know? Also yeah I managed to keep an upload going the other day in excess of 50GB external traffic by accident, didn't get any complaints from college. Private tracker FTMFW!

  • James

    1: For the author: Downloading the files you have described is copyright infringement, but not theft (no one is deprived of the use of a an object through the act of downloading) and certainly not a criminal offence unless you are silly enough to distribute files further (that's why you shouldn't use torrents…).

    2: For those caught: ever heard of VPN or TOR? Quite cheap/free, and simple to use. Maybe slightly slower, but without searching your pc (and that would require a court order) no one can prove that you are infringing copyright — all the college knows about is your higher data usage (which they could complain about) — and record companies / websites don't know your true IPs. (Ps. don't use BT over TOR — doesn't work.)

  • Clare

    …clearly we just didn't get caught.

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