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Major Flaws Found In Recent BitTorrent Study 167

Caledfwlch writes with a followup to news we discussed a couple days ago about a study that found only 0.3% of torrents to be legal. (A further 11% was described as "ambiguous.") TorrentFreak looked more deeply into the study and found a number of flaws, suggesting that the researchers' data may have been pulled from a bogus tracker. Quoting: "Here's where the researchers make total fools out of themselves. In their answer to the question they refer to a table of the top 10 most seeded torrents. ... the most seeded file was uploaded nearly two years ago (The Incredible Hulk) and has a massive 1,112,628 seeders. The torrent in 10th place is not doing bad either with 277,043 seeds. All false data. We're not sure where these numbers originate from but the best seeded torrent at the moment only has 13,739 seeders; that's 1% of what the study reports. Also, the fact that the release is nearly two years old should have sounded some alarm bells. It appears that the researchers have pulled data from a bogus tracker, and it wouldn't be a big surprise if all the torrents in their top 10 are actually fake." They also take a cursory look at isoHunt, finding that 1.5% of torrent files come from Jamendo alone, "a site that publishes only Creative Commons licensed music."
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Major Flaws Found In Recent BitTorrent Study

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  • by urdak ( 457938 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @04:25PM (#33036056)

    This is actually not true. I've often been downloading TV series and movies from the 60's, 70's and 80's, things I would never see on today's Television channels but bittorrent allows me to watch. Think of any tv show you liked as a child (or your father liked as a child), be it Star Trek (the original series), Little House on the Prairie or whatever - and you can watch it on bittorrent.

  • Re:Honestly... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Peach Rings ( 1782482 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @04:46PM (#33036396) Homepage

    The report gave the percentage of legal torrents as so low that some CC music site alone exceeds their entire sum of legal torrents on the entire internet. That doesn't mean that really only 98% of torrents are illegal, that means that their dataset is ludicrously inaccurate and the entire study is completely invalidated.

    Who modded this interesting?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26, 2010 @04:46PM (#33036402)

    I'm sorry but anyone with common sense can see this report is full of crap. I won't argue that a lot of torrents are illegal, however, stating that 99% or so of torrents are illegal is outrageous. I've read numerous articles on all types of businesses starting to embrace bittorrent for a variety of reasons and not to mention all the linux and free software torrents as well as other works released under the public license. Also, what if you own what you are downloading to say make a digital copy...is that still illegal? You might not like TorrentFreak, fine, but seriously, any tech-savy person should be able to view that report and see some red flags.

  • by Peach Rings ( 1782482 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @04:49PM (#33036440) Homepage

    Two peoples private machines sitting there serving only you unpopular content for free out of good will isn't enough for you? 2 seeders is plenty, especially with hard-to-find content.

  • Re:Honestly... (Score:4, Informative)

    by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:33PM (#33037140) Homepage

    For every torrent with a 1,000 seeds, there are 10 fake ones with 10,000 seeds each. Since fakes don't contain copyrighted information, they are not illegal. So for every 1,000 illegal seeds, there are 100,000 legal ones. Therefore less than 1% of torrent seeds is illegal. ;)

  • by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:48PM (#33037322)

    Blizzard uses torrents to distribute WOW patches.

    Ubuntu, Eclipse, MySql, and more use torrents for the distribution of open source software.

    For any widespread distribution of large files, bandwidth can become quite costly. Torrents are just about the best solution to reducing those costs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:54PM (#33037398)

    Ars technica [arstechnica.com] has actually asked the researchers about the issue. Here is the response from Paul Watters, one of the researchers:

    Thank you for your enquiry regarding our research report "Investigation into the extent of infringing content on BitTorrent networks". As researchers, we not only stand by the findings that we have arrived at, but - having made our methodology public - we are providing other bona fide researchers to replicate and/or dispute our findings. Their results can in turn be assessed through the peer review process; this is the process that normal research activity takes.

            You have raised some interesting points that are fundamental to the validitiy of any study in this area: the sampling strategy; verification of results and so on. We believe that our methodology was rigorously applied to the sample that we obtained. Over time, we will replicate the sampling process, so that we will gain better estimates of the population results. This is the fundamental tenet of statistical sampling.

  • by ernesto99 ( 952105 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @06:31PM (#33037612)
    Ernesto here from TorrentFreak. I do have an academic background and used to teach statistics and research methods to (PhD) students. Not that it matters much, the comments I've made are pretty straightforward.
  • by ernesto99 ( 952105 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @07:00PM (#33037818)
    I (TorrentFreak) got the same response, they're simply ignoring the criticism and questions that I've asked. If they want to stand by bogus data that's their choice.

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.