A study which analysed the publishers of content on two major BitTorrent portals - Pirate Bay and MiniNova - has found that almost a third of all files on the two sites are fake.
The analysis - carried out by a mostly European group of researchers on a dataset made up to 55,000 files and 35 million IP addresses - showed that around 100 publishers are responsible for two thirds of the content on the sites and nearly three quarters of downloads generated by them.
The PDF report, which can be found here (opens in new tab), shows that 90 per cent of these publishers are driven by non-altruistic incentives, like trying to tempt users into downloading malware or visiting a particular website.
The document, entitled "Is Content Publishing In BitTorrent Altruistic or Profit-Driven?", shows that there are three types of major publishers; fake, altruistic and profit-driven ones.
Publishers of fake content include antipiracy groups, which try to pollute torrent websites with bogus files aimed at putting off those looking to download the latest movies or games. Interestingly, these still account for a quarter of all downloads on Pirate Bay and MiniNova, meaning that many users still fall for the trap.
More worrying are the profit-driven publishers. While some, for example, put their watermarks (URL or logo) in movies being seeded, others go well beyond that and try to infect computers with malware.
Overall, the research found out that more than half of all non-fake file downloads from Pirate Bay and MiniNova have some sort of financial aspects to them - and that includes spreading malware.
The paper dwells on the role played by the ad companies which finance websites of profit-driven BitTorrent content publishers because of their popularity, suggesting that they could therefore be held accountable for financing the site.
For-profit publishers have the financial clout to invest in resources - bandwidth, seeders - that will allow them to propagate either their own or pirated content, and the report's conclusion questions whether BitTorrent will survive if profit-driven publishers are eliminated altogether.