Researchers: No-One Knows Where Torrent Porn Comes From

The University of Ballarat's research into the legality of files swapped via BitTorrent contains some fascinating data. But there's one question which the good folk at the Internet Commerce Security Laboratory found themselves unqualified to answer: are the reams of porn flying across BitTorrent also a violation of copyright law?

Of the 1,000 torrents studied in the research (which Nick has already covered here), 91 included porn. However, working out whether these were copyrighted glossy studio porn or I-want-the-world-to-see-me-and-the-missus-going-at-it amateur show-offs proved a bit difficult:

Cases in this category [pornography]were not classified further, as the provenance of many files was unclear. For example, many files were tagged as amateur (suggesting no copyright infringement) but further inspection revealed that they were in fact infringing.

If I was asked to make an educated guess (based on many years observing and writing about the adult industry), I'd suggest that all 91 cases likely involved copyrighted material. Amateurs who want to show off have plenty of other ways to do so. In any case, spotting the difference between Cyril and Beryl's home frottage material shot on a cheap handicam and HD DP is not that difficult, to be honest.

The other potential use for torrents is illegal pornographic content, but this was less of an issue: none was detected and such content isn't going to be freely promoted on a torrent search engine.

Luckily for the team at the labs, they're going to get a lot more opportunities to check out porn of all stripes and make those difficult determinations in the future:

Further research into the disambiguation of pornographic torrent metadata is required to verify if the pornographic material has a similar distribution of infringing material . . . We note that these results may vary from sample to sample, and from time to time, and the ICSL is in the process of continuously updating its database and tools. This includes building more robust tools for classifying pornographic content as infringing or not.

This presumably means more academic research featuring explications of the acronym MILF, so it's a win all round, really.

Investigation into the extent of infringing content on BitTorrent networks [PDF link]