According to Slate.com, a three-year research by computer experts from the University of Birmingham in England led them to a conclusion that specific groups have been set up to monitor the downloads of copyrighted materials from popular BitTorrent sites such as Demonoid and Pirate Bay.
The researchers employed a "monitoring client," developed in-house by University of Birmingham computer scientists, that allowed them to detect about 1139 IP addresses, which they believe were out there in the Web to trace global users that regularly visit BitTorrent sites.
These Web sites host torrent files that act as direct links to electronic files located on computers owned by many users around the world, thereby creating a global network that serves as forum for many to freely download digital contents.
Owners of these sites have constantly argued that users were merely sharing personal files and not copyrighted materials but governments, especially the U.S. government, were far from convinced, hence the recent crackdowns in BitTorrent sites and other file-sharing sites.
Demonoid has been shutdown in early August while co-founders of Pirate Bay were sentenced to serve prison terms and pay millions in fines earlier this year. Megaupload was also shuttered by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in January and its owner, Kim Dotcom, arrested and detained.
Yet copyright owners or groups that they tasked to safeguard their intellectual properties were relentless in their campaign track down violators - both hosts and users who download digital files, the new report said.
From the more than a thousand IP addresses identified by the researchers, significant numbers were traced on groups or companies that were either Internet security consultants or fronts for U.S. content producers, the report said.
The university report has opted not to disclose the names of the monitoring groups for now but it stressed that its findings somehow confirmed earlier claims that torrent downloads were traceable by authorities and where/when violations were deemed committed, prosecution could soon follow.
The new report also underscored that monitoring agents seemed unlikely to differentiate if specific IP addresses that they were watching have downloaded heavily or lightly, suggesting that if charges could be established cases will not stand on how much or less digital files were obtained illegally.
Or, the charges would not stand on any court at all, Slate.com said, as the report claimed too that while BitTorrent monitoring could pinpoint IP addresses of users that frequent torrent file sharing sites, it would be hard for agents to prove that downloads of electronic files actually occurred.
The monitoring by itself "falls short of providing conclusive evidence of copyright infringement," the report said.
However, researchers said the report's findings should serve as warning for users that their habit could bring them legal troubles in the near future and it's best to heed the advisory of one BitTorrent site that goes like this: "Downloading copyrighted materials is illegal . . . proceed at your own risk."
To contact the editor, e-mail: