Who uploads films to BitTorrent?

25 January 2011

What started life as a casual pub conversation has since become the subject of a university study that has attempted to pinpoint the Internet users responsible for posting content on P2P networks, the most popular on-line platforms for downloading films. “These networks are not as altruistic as we might have first believed and they do not uphold the P2P philosophy, meaning the mutual sharing of files between peers,” explains the head of the project, Rubén Cuevas. The eight-month study revealed that 75% of content is uploaded by a mere 100 people.

The study was conducted by Rubén Cuevas, head of the Telematic Engineering Department at the Carlos III University, and his fellow researchers Carmen Guerrero and Ángel Cuevas, all acting in collaboration with Michal Kryzcka of Institute IMDEA Networks, Sebastian Kaune of Technische Universität Darmstadt (Germany) and Reza Rejaie of the University of Oregon (USA).

The study explored the behavior of Internet users who uploaded over 55,000 files to two of the most popular file-sharing sites, namely Mininova and The Pirate Bay. The study used the BitTorrent program to compile and monitor the samples. Although the researchers are aware of the publishers’ IP address (Internet protocol, i.e. the number assigned to each point on the Internet), there is no way of discovering the actual identifies of the people behind the number. “An ADSL provider might well know this, but not us on the grounds of privacy”, explains Professor Cuevas, whose team developed a tool for monitoring IPs for the purposes of the study.

These hundred or so Internet users who uploaded 75% of the content shared a very specific profile. “These 100 primary sources earn a profit from their business. When they upload files to The Pirate Bay, they include links to their websites, which include links and advertising through which they make their money”. The study also reveals the average amount they earn from their link pages: 300 dollars per day. “Some may even rake in 4,000 dollars a day. It is certainly a major business, seeing as though maintenance is low while profit margins are high”, explains the project head, who goes on to share his thoughts on the proposed Spanish ‘Sinde’ Act. “I’m surprised they’re trying cage what cannot be caged. Studies such as this demonstrate that technology knows no limits and that there is a whole new business model to be explored. These platforms provide an ideal opportunity”.

In his opinion, the proposed law is useless because “the content is going to be located outside Spain”. No matter how hard they try to limit entry, Internet users can always use programs to disguise their IP address and access these services. Before ushering in ill-suited laws, legislators would be better advised to analyze the issue and actually consult with experts”.

The study, which was partly funded by the IMDEA (Instituto Madrileño de Estudios Avanzados – Madrid Institute for Advanced Studies), also reveals that buying a cinema ticket and secretly filming with a camcorder is no longer the most common technique for obtaining the latest releases. This led to the emergence of the so-called “screeners”. Yet increased surveillance in cinema halls has led to an increasing trend among pirates of downloading films in another language and then going to the cinema equipped with a voice recorder. The soundtrack is then edited to replace the original version with the Spanish voice recording. “It’s relatively small-scale”, explains the professor, “but it is used”. Another technique, particularly for classics and series, involves converting DVD contents into an exportable format. This technique is commonly known as ripping.

Among the Internet users who upload on-line content, we have a number of other profiles: those who name files with titles that don’t correspond with the actual content, or contain only the start of what the users wanted to download. The head of the study is not sure, but has an inkling of the underlying reasons: “We believe that it’s carried out by the audiovisual industry to protect their own content. Seeing a looped extract repeated over and over or something you don’t expect is ultimately frustrating and helps to prevent unrestricted downloads. These files certainly affect the system, seeing as though the percentage of fake content rests somewhere between 25% and 30%.

Almost invariably, these fake files contain content other than the film the downloader actually wants to watch, but in certain cases the results can be worse. “We came across malicious software (malware or spyware), meaning files that act as decoy before then infecting the computer”.

The study offers the following conclusion: although P2P networks were essentially conceived as a non-profit means of sharing files between peers, only 11% of the content is original or created by the users themselves, who may, for example, wish to make and share their own short film or song.


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News – El.País.com/Tecnología (in Spanish)



Source(s): El País.com
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