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Piracy Rules the Web, Dominating 23.8% of Internet Traffic

Monday, 31 Jan 2011 | 3:55 PM ET

A new stat on copyright infringement released today is shocking: 23.8 percent of all global Internet traffic involves digital theft with BitTorrent accounting for 11.4 percent.

The numbers in the U.S. aren't much better. More than 17 percent of domestic Internet traffic infringes on copyrights, with BitTorrent responsible for 9 percent of that traffic.

Piracy bears a price not just for content creators (DIS, NWS, TWC, VIA), but also for broadband carriers (CMCSA, TWC). And that means consumers ultimately bear the cost in slower Internet speeds and higher costs.

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These numbers come from a company called Envisional, which monitors brand infringement and counterfeiting—it was hired by NBC Universal to investigate this very issue. These numbers were released today to coincide with a panel sponsored by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation.

Though it's important to remember that company that exists by monetizing content is behind the report, it does include some important numbers. Video streaming is the fastest growing segment of internet bandwidth, now representing a quarter of all bandwidth.

Envisional identified the content of nearly 10,000 "swarms" (a group of users connected to a particular file)—85.5% were video content of some kind while software was 4.2% and computer games 6.7%.

The MPAA, no surprise, used these striking numbers to call on the government to crack down.

Bob Pisano, Interim President of the MPAA released a statement saying: "Our society would not tolerate a situation where one quarter of all the traffic in and out of the bakeries, butcher shops and grocery stores involved stolen merchandise, and we cannot tolerate the vast explosion of digital theft on the Internet. With download speeds and server capacity increasing every day, the problem will only get worse if we don't do something about it. The time for governments and industries to act is now."

Here's a link to a presentation on today's report.

Comcast is the majority owner of NBC and CNBC.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.