Better broadband internet connections and compression technologies mean larger files can be downloaded more rapidly, creating as big a piracy headache for movie studios as for music labels.

   

Each day, the equivalent of roughly three billion songs or five million movies zip between computers, according to the study by Cambridge, England-based technology firm CacheLogic, published on Tuesday.

   

It estimates internet users around the globe freely exchange a staggering 10 petabytes - or 10 million gigabytes - of data, much of it in the form of copyright-protected songs, movies, software and video games.

 

Rogue exchanges

   

The rogue exchanges continue to dwarf the nascent market for legitimate music downloads ushered in by the likes of Apple Computer's iTunes.

 

Net users are likely to download
larger movies and game files

The popularity of file-sharing is costing the largest internet service providers $10m per year each in bandwidth and network maintenance costs, CacheLogic said.

   

In the light of its findings, the company also questioned the wisdom of the music industry's crackdown on file-sharers.

   

"One of the biggest myths put forth by the music industry - that they are winning the war on file-sharing - is simply wrong," said Andrew Parker, co-founder of CacheLogic.

   

"It's a case of displacement," he added. "Users are just moving to new networks."

 

Switch  

   

When the music industry began suing the most prolific song-swappers last September, a number of them switched from the most popular peer-to-peer (P2P) networks such as Kazaa to a host of upstarts to shake off the dragnet.

   

"Users are just moving
to new networks" 

Andrew Parker,
co-founder, CacheLogic

Today, the likes of Bit Torrent and eDonkey have become the P2P networks of choice, particularly for European and Asian file-sharers, CacheLogic said.

   

The face of file-sharing has changed, too. The vast majority of files passing through P2P networks now exceeds 100 megabytes, meaning internet users are as likely to download larger movie, software and game files as they are the smaller song files.

   

"It's all about video now," Parker said.

   

CacheLogic, which provides filtering technology for many of the world's largest ISPs, derived its results by monitoring daily traffic flow across its clients' networks.

  

On Monday, BigChampagne, a firm that tracks file-sharing networks, said that one billion songs were available for free trading on a variety of popular file-sharing networks in June - up from 820 million a year ago.