US peer-to-peer traffic lower than world average

But the majority of content traded via the BitTorrent protocol is under copyright protection, according to Envisional

The U.S. has one of the lowest relative rates of use of P-to-P (peer-to-peer) networks compared to the rest of the world, according to a new study.

The study was done by Envisional, a U.K.-based company, for NBC Universal. It assesses how much Internet traffic is composed of content being traded without the permission of the copyright owners.

Curiously, the U.S. used P-to-P networks less than other countries.

For its study, Envisional also looked at studies of Internet traffic from other vendors. Sandvine, a Canadian company that makes networking software and equipment, measured upstream P-to-P traffic at 18.5 per cent for North America and downstream traffic at 14.6 per cent. Most of that traffic came from BitTorrent, a popular P-to-P file-sharing protocol.

In another study, Cisco Systems estimated global P-to-P usage at 31.7 per cent. Cisco estimated P-to-P traffic in the U.S at 23.9 per cent.

Envisional also looked at Internet traffic as a whole and how much of that is likely to consist of content under copyright that was being traded illegally. It determined that 23.76 per cent was infringing, excluding pornography, which it said was difficult to determine if it was being shared improperly.

Overall, BitTorrent traffic accounted for 17.9 per cent of overall Internet traffic. So-called "cyberlocker" websites, such as MegaUpload and RapidShare, which allow users to store and share content with other users, made up seven per cent of all Internet traffic.

As part of its study, Envisional analyzed a prominent BitTorrent tracker called PublicBT, which coordinates the distribution of content using the BitTorrent protocol.

Of the 2.7 million torrent files -- which are the small files that enable the downloading of content on the P-to-P network -- it analyzed two-thirds were for content under copyright protection.

Of the 10,000 most popular files indexed by PublicBT, Envisional claimed that only one was not under copyright.

"There is no evidence to support the idea that the transfer of non-copyrighted content such as Linux distributions makes up a significant amount of BitTorrent traffic," the report said. "Analysis strongly indicates that private BitTorrent sites (which would not usually make use of PublicBT) are overwhelmingly used for the purposes of illegitimately sharing copyrighted data."

Among its other findings, Envisional said 35.8 per cent of the files traded via BitTorrent on PublicBT was pornography.

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