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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 Tenek ( 738297 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @04:02PM (#33035700)
    Every few months when a WoW patch comes out and millions of computers torrent a few hundred MB. Hulk's got nothing on Night Elves.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26, 2010 @04:24PM (#33036030)

    ...really more a mob-rule popularity contest for grabbing the shiniest download.

    Right. What they said. It democratizes data. The data with the most popular support has the most popular support.

    That means that data people no longer cares about gets lost to time. Of course, it only takes one person out there to keep that data alive. It may be slow, a little harder to find, and the connection to it may be less robust, but it's still there.

    It also means if you get a community of people who don't want to see old TV and movies die, then everyone only has to host one or two shows and everything is available (with maybe a short wait...kinda like Netflix). And all it takes is a few megabytes of hard drive space and a not-unreasonably slow internet connection and you are now a contributor of equal status to everyone else, which I think is what they really mean by democratizing data. You don't have to have the bandwidth/storage infrastructure of RapidShare to ensure that the data you want to be available to the world is available to the world.

  • Re:Honestly... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @04:56PM (#33036570)

    The thing that surprises me is that - given the facts which your already pointed out - someone would actually bother to fake the data. I always figured that 90%+ of torrents were illegal, so why would anyone conduct a fraudulent study and run the risk of being exposed, just so they could get a few extra percentage points? It makes me question my basic premise - maybe there ARE more legitimate torrents than I'm aware of.

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

    by CarpetShark ( 865376 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:00PM (#33036662)

    Does this really surprise anyone?

    No, because most tech people instinctually know that filesharing is ethically right, and the rest don't care for facts either way.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:21PM (#33036948)

    Some country's laws may flag a torrent as illegal while other countries consider it as legal. As an example, someone could be downloading a copyrighted song for backup purposes while owning a legitimate copy and these fools will automatically classify this kind of download an infringement.

    And let me provide an anecdote to show that this isn't just academic. Just the other day, I got a hankering to play Diablo II and didn't have it installed on the computer I was using. I own the game, but the discs are packed away in boxes somewhere (I just moved). So I downloaded a copy off BitTorrent, installed it using the CD key from my legit copy (which I had recorded among my digital documents), and was happily playing Act I that same day. Blizzard didn't lose one cent of revenue, but had some biased researcher been watching, they probably would have concluded that I had just snatched away a $20 sale of a new retail copy of Diablo II.

    So yeah, this "torrent as backup" argument isn't just some rhetorical tactic that presupposes the existence of lazy idiots who would rather download MP3s than rip them from the CD sitting on their desk. How easily can you get to the physical copies of all the data you've paid for over the years? Isn't it nice knowing that there are people out there seeding copies for you?

    Posting AC because I'm a dirty, dirty coward who's too afraid to admit that he downloaded Diablo II over BitTorrent—sorry.

  • Re:Honestly... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ldobehardcore ( 1738858 ) <steven,dubois&gmail,com> on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:27PM (#33037026)
    Haha, Man, how do you measure whether a Torrent is "Legal" anyway? The torrent itself carries no copyrighted data period. The transfer between peers is illegal. It's not illegal to make a hash of copyrighted data, It's not Illegal in many countries to torrent either.
  • by Reziac ( 43301 ) * on Monday July 26, 2010 @08:01PM (#33038496) Homepage Journal

    Been doing the same with my old vinyl, as being a lot less trouble than acquiring the hardware to rip it myself (tho sometimes they're damned hard to find). The end result is the same -- I have MP3s of vinyl that I've already paid money for.

  • by Ghostgate ( 800445 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @09:57PM (#33039460)

    They checked sites which could contain infringing data. You suggest that check sites where they are guaranteed not to find infringing data. Which is data set is going to be more biased?

    That would be fine if they framed it as follows: "Although numerous sites exist for the legitimate exchange of legal software and other data via torrents, sites which allow the option of both infringing and non-infringing data are much more likely to contain infringing data."

    Here's how it is framed instead: "Only 0.3% of torrents are legal."

  • So what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by frozentier ( 1542099 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:12PM (#33040048)
    I'm honestly not trying to troll of flamebait, but what difference does the "study" make whether it's correct or not? Those who use torrents are going to use them, those who don't will continue not to, and those who think torrent sites are the root of all evil will continue to think THAT way, too. If the amount of illegal activity is 10%, 50%, or 95%, authorities aren't going to lower their guns as long as there is ANY illegal activity.
  • by PrecambrianRabbit ( 1834412 ) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:29PM (#33040158)

    I had the inverse of your problem - I've got the physical CD for Diablo, but the CD key is nowhere to be found. Was it in the original box or manual? Maybe it's at my parents' house (if it wasn't thrown out years ago)?

    I used a CD key from a list I found on the net. I don't think it's fair to have to buy the game again because I lost a stupid piece of paper. DRM sucks :-(.

  • This goes for games, too. I've used BitTorrent to download another copy of lots of games I payed for long ago.

    Another factor to consider is that a pirate isn't necessarily concerned with backing up what they've downloaded. I know I've downloaded some games numerous times because I don't really worry about backups anymore if I don't have the original copy. Therefor, the number of times a torrent has been downloaded may give an inflated estimate of the number of pirates.

Where it is a duty to worship the sun it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat. -- Christopher Morley