A Birmingham University team studying the users of illegal file sharing websites such as BitTorrent has been ‘surprised’ by the scale of monitoring of their activities by copyright enforcement organisations and security firms.
It suggests that anyone downloading the latest movie or chart single is likely to have come to the attention of a monitoring firm within three hours – less popular content is less frequently monitored.
The researchers arrived at their conclusions following a three year study in which they created software which mimicked the actions of an illegal file sharing service, logging the connections made to it.
Lead researcher Dr Tom Chothia said: “You don't have to be a mass downloader. Someone who downloads a single movie will be logged as well.
“If the content was in the top 100 it was monitored within hours. Someone will notice and it will be recorded."
It is unclear why this information is being amassed but it is thought copyright holders may be keen to retain the data lest it prove valuable in future.
Some copyright holders have already used IP addresses harvested from such trawls to apply for court orders obliging internet providers to provide their physical address but legal experts cast doubt on whether such evidence would be admissible in court.