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By: MarkJ - 25 January, 2011 (12:36 PM)
chart_sources_of_illegal_copyright_file_sharing.gifA scientific study has estimated that just 100 internet users are ultimately responsible for publishing most (almost 67%) of all the "illegal" (unlawful) copyright content (music, tv shows, movies, games and applications) on public P2P (BitTorrent) file sharing networks. The primary motivation appears to be money and the study identifies several broadband ISPs, including one UK provider ( Virgin Media ), as unwittingly playing a big part.

The study, which set out to examine the behaviour of the users who are responsible for publishing over 55,000 files on the two main portals (Mininova and The Pirate Bay), was carried out by Spain's Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M). The content they posted ultimately accounted for "75 percent of [all] the downloads" (i.e. by end-users).

In reality this study is actually quite old and has been available to the public since the middle of 2010, although the University has only now decided to publicise it. The study itself breaks the users down into three main groups: fake publishers, altruistic top publishers and profit-driven publishers. The primary two are defined as follows.
Sources of Alleged Copyright Files on P2P Networks

Group 1: Fake publishers are either antipiracy agencies or malicious users who are responsible for 30% of the content and 25% of the downloads. These publishers sustain a continuous poisoning-like index attack against BitTorrent portals that affects millions of downloaders.

Group 2: Profit-driven top publishers own fairly profitable web sites. They use major BitTorrent portals such as the Pirate Bay as a platform to advertise their web sites to millions of users. For this purpose they publish popular torrents where they attach the URL of their web sites in various manners. The publishers that pursue this approach are responsible for roughly 30% of the content and 40% of the downloads in BitTorrent.
For the past two or three years it's sometimes appeared as if Rights Holders have been waging a holy war against consumers. The new study suggests that their efforts might in fact be better targeted towards tackling the REAL source publishers of such content. By making money out of it these publishers are doing something that is truly illegal and not merely unlawful (civil offence).

Study Quote:

"On the one hand, antipiracy agencies and malicious publishers publish a large amount of fake files to protect copyrighted content and spread malware respectively. On the other hand, content publishing in BitTorrent is largely driven by companies with financial incentives. Therefore, if these companies lose their interest or are unable to publish content, BitTorrent traffic/portals may disappear or at least their associated traffic will be significantly reduced."

Professors Rubén Cuevas, co-author of the study, said:

"The success of BitTorrent is due to the fact that a few users make a large number of contents available in exchange for receiving economic benefits."

The study also sought to determine the broadband ISPs that hosts each major publisher and use that information to assess the type of service (and available resources) that a publisher is likely to have. The analysis found that the top 100 users were split between several world ISPs, including the cable operator Virgin Media UK (sorry for the small text below, that's just how it's presented).

copyright p2p broadband isp sources

The mn08 (Mininova 2008 - 20.8K Torrents), pb09 (Pirate Bay 2009 - 23.2K/10.4K Torrents) and pb10 (Pirate Bay 2010 - 38.4K/14.6K Torrents) references merely represent the different dated data sources that the study used. For example, mn08 shows that 2.42% of sample Mininova torrents came from a small number of prolific users on Virgin Media's network.

As a result of all this the best solution might actually be for advertising networks to pay more attention to which websites their banners are showing on and remove those that profit from such activity. However this could easily run the risk of being applied too aggressively. Imagine if Google couldn't advertise on its own YouTube service because of Rights Holder complaints.

Another proposed solution by the report might be to go after the worst link sharing sites with expensive fines, although this is also a legally difficult angle of attack (a link isn't the same as hosting the content itself) and could potentially catch perfectly legitimate websites too.
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