Despite its iconic status in the eyes of the entertainment industry, BitTorrent has been surpassed as the most popular way to share files on the Internet. In fact, peer-to-peer networks no longer deserve their place in the bullseye of the anti-piracy target.

The Pirate Bay, which indexes torrents, and specialized search engine Torrentz are the only BitTorrent sites that ranked in the top ten of file-swapping sites, according to research by TorrentFreak. The majority of files are now swapped using cyberlockers, otherwise known as centralized file-hosting services. The most popular of these is 4share, the largest English language file-sharing site, which alone is serving 2.5 billion page views each month.

Most cyberlockers assert that they are protected by the safe harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which shields online sites and services from prosecution of they quickly respond to take-down notices alerting them of copyright infringement. Hotfile spells this out on its website and in the legal actions it’s currently embroiled in. Additionally, cyberlockers demonstrably have non-infringing uses.

This chart shows how quickly the technological landscape changes. As TorrentFreak pointed out,  just five years ago BitTorrent sites were the primary way to share files, led by the Pirate Bay, Torrentz, isoHunt and others.

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Photo by flickr user bizmac, used under Creative Commons license