Tracking the Trackers

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As people increasingly rely on the Internet to deliver downloadable music, movies, and television, content producers are faced with the problem of increasing Internet piracy. To protect their content, copyright holders police the Internet, searching for unauthorized distribution of their work on websites like YouTube or peer-to-peer networks such as BitTorrent. When infringement is (allegedly) discovered, formal complaints are issued to network operators that may result in websites being taken down or home Internet connections being disabled.

Although the implications of being accused of copyright infringement are significant, very little is known about the methods used by enforcement agencies to detect it, particularly in P2P networks. We have conducted the first scientific, experimental study of monitoring and copyright enforcement on P2P networks and have made several discoveries which we find surprising.

While our experiments focus on BitTorrent only, our findings imply the need for increased transparency in the monitoring and enforcement process for all P2P networks to both address the known deficiencies we have exposed as well as to identify lurking unknown deficiencies.

More details about our findings and our experimental methodology are available in our online FAQ. A more thorough treatment is available in our paper.


Challenges and Directions for Monitoring P2P File Sharing Networks –or– Why My Printer Received a DMCA Takedown Notice [ pdf ]
HotSec 2008
(Previously appeared as UW TR#08-6-01)
Michael Piatek, Tadayoshi Kohno, Arvind Krishnamurthy


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Graduate student Faculty
Michael Piatek Tadayoshi Kohno
  Arvind Krishnamurthy


This work is supported by the NSF (CNS-0720589, 0722000, 0722004) and UW CSE.