THE UNITED STATES government shutting down filesharing websites might be a blunt tool that harms individuals more than it helps industry.
A report from Northeastern University in Boston first noticed by Torrentfreak found that while there was some copyrighted material on the filesharing websites, there were also a lot of legitimate files.
The report found that while there is only what looks like a small amount of legitimate material, it all adds up, and that becomes a particularly bad thing when other content is whipped away by the authorities and perhaps lost forever.
The study looked at six websites - Filefactory, Easy-share, Filesonic, Wupload, Megaupload and Undeadlink - and found a mix of content.
"In our most conservative scenario, around 4.3 percent of the ﬁles hosted on Megaupload were detected as legitimate," it said.
"We estimate that when Megaupload was forced to shut down, more than 10 million legitimate ﬁles were taken offline."
The report found that large files were likely to be copyright infringing, and that one click hosters (OCH) that enabled large uploads are a good source of such content.
"The ability to share very large ﬁles, which is speciﬁcally advertised by OCHs, is mainly used for infringing content," it added.
"They can be used to store personal backups, to send potentially large ﬁles to friends, and to distribute content to larger user bases - including the unauthorised distribution of copyrighted works. Some OCHs ﬁnancially reward the uploaders of popular content, which is controversial especially when those ﬁles infringe copyright."
For Megaupload the researchers found that 31 percent of all uploads were infringing, while 4.3 percent of uploads were clearly legitimate. This means that with an estimated 250 million uploads, 10.75 million uploads were non-infringing. For the remaining 65 percent of uploads the copyrighted status was either unknown or the raters couldn’t reach consensus.
Torrentfreak observed, "While unlikely, this means that in the most optimistic scenario 69.3 [percent] of the files uploaded to Megaupload could [have been] perfectly legal."
It worked out the number of legitimate files that were lost in the Megaupload raid could have been as many as 172,500,000, adding that Kim Dotcom has told it that the real figure is actually much higher.
"What I find most interesting about our results is that they support what many people were already suspecting before: That Megaupload was partially being used for 'illegal' file sharing, but that there were also millions of perfectly legitimate files stored on Megaupload," said Tobias Lauinger, one of the authors of the paper. µ
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