A regional university lab has produced a study on copyright infringing uses of BitTorrent that was partly financed by one of the film studios set to appeal a Federal Court judgement on the subject in just over a week.
The study, called Investigation into the extent of infringing content on BitTorrent networks [pdf], was created by the Internet Commerce Security Laboratory (ICSL) at the University of Ballarat.
A small portion of funding - said to be "about half of one percent" of the total cost of the research - was drawn from Village Roadshow, the first applicant in a Federal Court copyright case against Perth ISP iiNet.
Village Roadshow and other film studios lost a court battle last year to make iiNet and other ISPs responsible for the copyright infringing actions of internet users on their networks.
The rest of the funding came from ICSL's sponsors which include the Victorian Government, Australian Federal Police, IBM and Westpac.
ICSL head Paul Watters said the research came out of "discussions" with Village Roadshow and built on earlier work he had conducted in 2005.
"This is one aspect we agreed to do in collaboration with Village," he said.
The Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT), which is representing film studios such as Village Roadshow in the case, denied the release of the report was timed to coincide with the appeal process.
AFACT's executive director Neil Gane told iTnews the report had been prepared for a cybercrime and trustworthy computing conference, now in its second year, and not for the case.
He noted that new evidence could not be introduced at this stage of the case.
Gane said AFACT and the film industry would not seek to use ICSL as a local investigative arm to examine potential copyright infringement over Australian internet networks.
The researchers also said they had no immediate plans to commercialise their methodology.
Using data scraped from 19 BitTorrent trackers, the study found that "at least 89.9 percent" of a sample of 1,000 popular torrents infringed copyright.
The number excluded pornographic torrents, for which copyright infringement could not be verified.
Movies and TV shows reportedly made up about 72 percent of all torrents.
Only one torrent in the top 100 looked at proved legitimate- the open source VLC Player, which relied on BitTorrent for distribution.
However, the researchers urged some caution around interpretation of the findings.
"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," the researchers said.
"This includes building more robust tools for classifying pornographic content as infringing or not."