It added that a country's economy plays a major role in internet file-sharing patterns. Researchers reported that BitTorrent users in countries with a small gross domestic product (GDP) per capita were more likely to share large files such as movies than users in countries with a large GDP per capita, where small files such as music were shared.

Armed with an unprecedented amount of data on users of BitTorrent, a popular file-sharing system, a Northwestern University research team discovered two interesting behaviour patterns.

First, most BitTorrent users are content specialists - sharing music but not movies and second, users in countries with similar economies tend to download similar types of content.

"Looking into this world of internet traffic, we see a close interaction between computing systems and our everyday lives," said Luis A. Nunes Amaral, a professor in the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at the Northwestern University in the US.

For the study, researchers analysed 10,000 anonymous BitTorrent users from around the world. File content types shared by users included small files, music, TV shows, movies and books.

"People in a given country display preferences for certain content - content that might not be readily available because of an authoritarian government or inferior communication infrastructure. This study can provide a great deal of insight into how things are working in a country," added co-author Fabian E. Bustamante, professor of electrical engineering and computer science.