RIAA Anti-Piracy Partner Clueless About BitTorrent

The piracy tracking company DtecNet has made quite a name for itself in the past few months after partnering with the RIAA and several local governments to assist in the 'war on piracy'. One would think that these projects would require at least some basic knowledge of BitTorrent, but a recently published paper by DtecNet's business intelligence unit proves the opposite.

In January we introduced DtecNet as the RIAA’s new evidence collecting outfit, replacing MediaSentry whose evidence gathering techniques have been highly criticized by experts.

The Danish company is not limiting its services to the RIAA though. It is also working with an Irish ISP to support their “3 strikes” regime, and in Australia the company also conducted investigations against alleged pirates.

Apart from their pirate tracking activities, DtecNet also has a business intelligence unit to help their entertainment industry clients “Understand what’s happening and where, and to develop smarter strategies to guide their development, marketing, retailing, distribution and investment initiatives.” The intelligence unit utilizes its insights into the file-sharing community to help out, but unfortunately the unit is not that knowledgeable.

In fact, the whitepaper (pdf) that was published by the DtecNet unit and mirrored all around the web during the last 24 hours, clearly shows that they have no clue about BitTorrent.

In the paper that deals with the recent downtime of the Pirate Bay tracker and how this affects BitTorrent usage, they make several false claims, draw bogus conclusions and report inaccurate statistics. Bogus reports from anti-piracy companies are nothing new, but this is definitely one of the worst we’ve ever seen thus far, and it is already being cited by several respected news outlets.

Let’s take a look at some of the things DtecNet claims and why these claims are bogus, inaccurate or just plain stupid.

Claim: — “After Swedish authorities forced the Internet disconnection of The Pirate Bay, online piracy worldwide dropped substantially on BitTorrent networks as file traders scrambled to find replacement trackers.”

This claim is based on a graph presented by DtecNet (see below) which shows that the number of infringements recorded by the company dropped significantly. This is of course a direct effect of the Pirate Bay tracker downtime. Companies like DtecNet use the tracker to find and report pirates and if it goes down there are less recorded infringements. However, there is no evidence that piracy went down. Most BitTorrent transfers were working fine due to the wonders of DHT (trackerless torrents), including the ones that were using only the Pirate Bay tracker.

Claim: — “The impact of the shutdown is strongly obvious, [...] file trading on BitTorrent, easily the world’s most popular peer-to-peer protocol, dropped virtually overnight by nearly 80 percent.”

This second claim is even more absurd because it suggests that BitTorrent usage dropped by 80 percent based on a graph of recorded infringements. Remember, DtecNet doesn’t track any BitTorrent traffic data. The only thing that their data proves is that, because of the tracker downtime, DtecNet was unable to connect to some of the trackers listed in their database of torrents. Again, the torrents might have worked just fine for users because of DHT.

Recorded infringements per P2P network

dtecnet

Claim: — “Over time, infringements through that network [BitTorrent] began to rise again as new trackers became available.”

This seems to suggest that after the Pirate Bay trackers went down several new trackers have appeared, which is simply not true. In fact, DtecNet uses OpenBitTorrent and the Denis Stalker tracker as an example in their paper, two trackers that are hosted on the same network as The Pirate Bay tracker. The only reason the number of recorded infringements began to rise is that these trackers also suffered downtime from which they recovered. DtecNet however seems to be unaware of the relation between the three trackers.

Claim: — DtecNet has created a nice graph (below) that “illustrates the chaos the shutdown caused among various BitTorrent tracker networks, and how more recently the situation appears to be clarifying itself as users find new favorite sites.”

The only confusion we see here is at the DtecNet offices. The company apparently fails to understand that a tracker is something different than a site. There is absolutely no indication that BitTorrent users were looking for new sites (note that The Pirate Bay site was still up), but even if they were this does not mean that there will be any changes in the usage of the various trackers.

Relative recorded infringements per BitTorrent tracker

dtecnet

Claim: — “About two weeks after the Pirate Bay shutdown, two of the successor trackers – OpenBitTorrent and DenisStalker – temporarily shut down, possibly because they could not handle rising demand.”

This claim is almost hilarious. As pointed out earlier, OpenBitTorrent and DenisStalker are hosted on the same network as The Pirate Bay. It takes no genius to figure this out, and this should be especially obvious for an outfit that deals with BitTorrent trackers on a daily basis, trying to catch pirates. So, the two successor trackers did not collapse under the increased load at all, they went down together with The Pirate Bay.

We could go on for hours refuting pretty much every sentence in the report and we are not the only ones who dispute the know-how of DtecNet’s self-proclaimed business intelligence unit. P2P expert Dr. Pouwelse of the Tribler team at Delft University of Technology looked into the report as well and told TorrentFreak: “They are completely technically incompetent, they are just trying to get sensational press coverage, or both.”

“Mixing up terms like trackers versus website and failure to do basic homework like DNS lookups means they would fail our master course in P2P. Their work suffers from a fundamental methodological error: what our company can’t see does not exist, thus we can make wild absolute claims on a complex global phenomena,” Pouwelse said.

Companies such as DtecNet are earning millions of dollars from the entertainment industry thanks to their piracy tracking activities and the business intelligence they claim to offer. Considering this position it is striking to see how little they actually know about what’s going on, and we fear that this amateurish white paper might actually lose @DtecNetBI some customers, instead of adding new clients to their portfolio.

Chances are, DtecNet will be responsible for gathering evidence against British file-sharers so that Peter Mandelson can have them kicked off the Internet in 2011. Nice to know that important job will be in safe hands.

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