Peer-to-peer file sharing and academic integrity in the internet age
The rise of fee-for-service assignment preparation services has led to the proliferation of file sharing sites where graded work, academic and institutional materials are shared, swapped, and traded over the Internet for no payment, or at greatly reduced costs compared to essay mills. File sharing sites operate under the guise of information repositories, student support communities and assistance centers tempting contributors and users to recycle and repurpose materials through exchange arrangements. The popularity of file sharing sites is growing in student communities. This is due to sites being fee-free or low cost, the ease of access, time saving opportunities and grade improvement potential related to assessment tasks and exams, all complemented by the seemingly low risk of detection of use. The information housed and shared may be "free" in terms of cost, but it does not mean that it is free from obligation, including the acknowledgement of the original authors, assessing the credibility of information and compliance with legal frameworks and institutional policies. This section reviews the blurred lines that exist between what is and is not appropriate to share, the motivation behind the use of fee-free materials, and the legal implications of sharing, swapping, and trading materials such as breaches in copyright, intellectual property, and institutional policies. Considerations for limiting or circumventing the ability of file sharing sites to facilitate academic dishonesty are also discussed.