99 per cent of files accessed through a Torrent network are unlicensed copyright material, according to a survey by an American undergraduate.
Only 10 of the 1021 files in the survey could be distributed over the Mainline network without infringing copyright. The ten works licensed for distribution included two Linux distros, game pack add-ons and trial software. Only 1 of the 145 pornographic files was considered non-infringing, student Sauhard Sahi found.
(That must have been a chore to research. Isn't it great when students can set their own work assignments?)
The only surprise is that it's so low - can 1 per cent of Torrent material really be non-infringing? But remember that the survey counted files, not bytes transferred: so the complete works of Led Zepp or a bonus DVD counts as one file, as does one 20kb eBook or a pack of Photoshop plug-ins.
14 per cent of the files were smut, 46 per cent were files were non-pornographic movies and TV, 14 per cent were games and other software applications, and 10 per cent was music.
Unlike other P2P applications, Bittorrent was not designed with copyright infringement in mind - it was written in 2002 as a method of distributing large popular files rapidly and efficiently. It's a pretty inefficient way of distributing less popular works and made no attempt to disguise the seeder or downloader from snoopers. Read our interview with Bram Cohen here. ®