Ballarat's BitTorrent study 'horribly wrong': TorrentFreak

Study's conclusions "are drawn based on painfully inaccurate data and methodologies"

Global BitTorrent news source TorrentFreak has ridiculed the veracity of a study on the legality of BitTorrent usage published by the University of Ballarat last week, labelling some of its claims “horribly wrong” and that “mistake after mistake” was made during its preparation.

In the report, the university's Internet Commerce Security Laboratory (ICSL) claimed that 89 percent of BitTorrent files it studied during a certain period, using the Torrentz.com search engine – were confirmed to infringe copyright. The research was publicised to the press last week by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft as a victory in its ongoing war against file sharing.

But TorrentFreak – one of the globe's most well-known sources of BitTorrent news, with 190,000 RSS followers, said in its own analysis of the report that its “conclusions are drawn based on painfully inaccurate data and methodologies”.

TorrentFreak editor in chief Ernesto claimed that ICSL was wrong about:

  • Its claim that there was more than one million torrent files to be found online (Ernesto claimed some sites – such as isoHunt – indexed more than 5 million)
  • Its claim that there were about 117 million BitTorrent seeds (Ernesto estimated this number at between 10 and 20 million)
  • Its claim that the most seeded file, The Incredible Hulk film, had 1.1 million seeds (Ernesto said the best-seeded torrent at the moment only had 13,738 seeders)

And finally, Ernesto slammed ICSL's overall conclusion that almost all files on BitTorrent infringed copyright, with only a small percentage confirmed legal. “This statistic is grossly inaccurate, because it's based on the most popular files, of which many are fake,” they wrote. “Bottom line is that this ‘Academic’ paper is one of the most inaccurate reports we’ve seen thus far.”

University of Ballarat associate professor Paul Watters – who, along with research student Robert Layton, authored the report – has not yet responded to a request for comment about TorrentFreak's claims.

The news comes as the court struggle continues between AFACT and iiNet over whether and to what extent the ISP is responsible for its customers infringing copyright by downloading content through BitTorrent. This morning, the AustralianIT reported that the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance had asked to be heard in the case as a friend of the court.

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