BitTorrent traffic has fallen sharply over the last six months, and it now accounts for 7% of internet traffic, down from nearly 60% ten years ago, according to a study from broadband company Sandvine. BitTorrent traffic is actually up slightly in Europe, but that is overshadowed by the strong drop in the U.S. and elsewhere, the BBC reports.

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BitTorrent’s popularity was a failure of mainstream companies

BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file sharing protocol that is often used to pirate copyrighted materials such as movies, albums, and video games, and it is the latest boogeyman being used to justify harsh internet regulations like CISPA and SOPA (both of which failed to pass). But users have long argued that BitTorrent’s popularity was a failure of mainstream companies to provide quality online services, and this report backs them up.

The traffic share that BitTorrent once commanded has been replaced by YouTube and Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX), which together account for about half of all internet traffic. Some videos on YouTube violate copyright, an unavoidable issue when you allow user uploads, but there is a system in place to deal with the issue and in general the site’s content is aboveboard. Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) is completely legitimate, and requires a paid subscription.

Anyone who remembers the launch of the iTunes store shouldn’t be surprised by the report. At the time it was already possible to get every new album with programs like LimeWire and Gnutella, so Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s pitch was essentially “If you pay for something you can download for free, we’ll improve the whole experience,” and it worked. The absence of a similar service for TVs and movies (Netflix is the closest, but there are still large gaps in its library), is a big part of why people continue to use pirate services.

Study shows consumers will pay for quality service

For Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX), this study is great news. It means the company has created a quality service that can compete with P2P software by providing an intuitive interface, a diverse library, and eliminating all the annoyances of pirating (like spam and the occasional virus). Steam has had similar successes delivering video games on demand. The next time you hear about big media companies suing their customers, you should stop to wonder what they’re doing to improve legal access to their content.