A couple of days ago Khan Academy announced a partnership with BitTorrent, up to now mostly known for being the place to get illegal copies of whatever you want. Sure, the technology itself is brilliant and in combination with a project like the Khan Academy it has the potential to bring video lessons even to places with low bandwidth connections.
The problem is that today Google blacklisted the service because of its reputation being a harbor for illegal activities.
When I first read about the partnership, I also had my doubts if this was such a splendid idea. Here in France we have some very strict laws for copyright infringement, probably the hardest in Europe. BitTorrent and other services are very high on that list and it might happen that your Internet provider will cut your line quickly when you get associated with such a service. Explaining that you were downloading free and legal material afterwards would take months, if not years I am sure.
Therefore this option of downloading Khan Academy videos would be very, very risky as great it as it might be. In other parts of the world where BitTorrent and other file sharing services are not under such a legal control, it is of course a great way to get the videos even with low bandwidth, e.g. where streaming via the Internet is not convenient.
The tricky part is that Google gave a $2 million USD grant to Khan Academy last year and now Sal Khan teamed up with a service that landed on Google’s blacklist. I believe that this can be sorted out but as Fast Company writes, this is an interesting example of how people like Sal Khan who provide content voluntarily and actively for free and with the best intentions to spread the knowledge can get in trouble with the old, outdated copyright laws and restrictions.
However, it is astonishing that it seems Sal Khan had no negative associations with BitTorrent whatsoever. I am not sure if this was just naive or if he just saw the huge potential for Khan Academy and its learners here, therefore ignoring the possible problems. But on the other hand that’s what leaders like Sal Khan need to do, challenge the status quo.