A study conducted by researchers from Birmingham University has shown that most people who are used to downloading pirated content using the BitTorrent network service are under surveillance and are monitored by a number of agencies, including groups dealing with copyright protection.
From the information gathered over a period of 3 years, it shows that most people who download very popular pirated material as new released cinema films, are taken in sight by these agencies even after only 3 hours of activity on the file sharing network.
Downloading any top 100 torrents, such as the new The Dark Knight Rises movie, is rapidly observed by monitoring agencies and the user’s IP address is copied in a database that can be used later to prove evidence in court. However, the system does not distinguish between occasional users and very active BitTorrent users who regularly download pirated content.
The researchers found that currently about 10 companies are actively monitoring pirated data, but only a small fraction of them are copyright groups. While some have been identified as security companies and research laboratories, 6 of them operate behind some independent hosting company and could not be accurately identified.
According to the study director, Dr. Tom Chothia, many companies simply choose to keep the data collected, hoping it will prove valuable in the future. However, despite intensive monitoring activities, researchers believe the information collected can at most constitute evidence for the use of file-sharing networks, without giving details regarding the files downloaded and distributed by users.