BitTorrent has plenty of practical and legal uses, but sadly, if you're one of the millions of people using it, you're probably breaking the law. A student at Princeton University by the name of Sauhard Sahi has conducted a study of more than 1,000 random files acquired using the trackerless Mainline DHT, and found that more than 99% of them infringe on copyrights. I somehow doubt this news will shock or amaze you, but at least one interesting discovery was made and it makes a pretty compelling argument against those who would try to claim that DRM helps prevent piracy.
According to Sahi's findings, movies and TV shows are among the most popular files being downloaded, and he argues that the onerous DRM which accompanies protected video could be to blame for this trend. This would also explain why music downloading is on the decline, and points out the sad reality that people who download video legally often have to deal with far more challenges than pirates operating over BitTorrent. It certainly makes an interesting hypothesis, but you could also argue that BitTorrent is a bit too much of a hassle just to track down a $0.99 song, but might be more worthwhile for those looking for a $20 DVD.
Sahi's results only reflect data collected from Mainline DHT, but its hard to argue with these numbers, even if they are off plus or minus a few percentage points. Do you think BitTorrent can continue to function as a viable medium with such a high percentage of abuse? It will certainly be interesting to see how things play out over the next few years, or if governments will ever get involved. What do you think?