Birmingham University researchers admitted that they were "surprised" by the level of activity monitoring firms are engaging in to help organisations clamp down on online piracy.
The study found that a single download from a filesharing service would be logged within three hours, but organisations monitoring such activity do not distinguish between mass downloaders and first-time sharers.
"You don't have to be a mass downloader. Someone who downloads a single movie will be logged as well," said Birmingham University's Dr Tom Chothia.
"If the content was in the top 100 it was monitored within hours. Someone will notice and it will be recorded."
The researchers also noted that less popular content is constantly being tracked, but not as frequently, BBC News reports.
Many of the top level monitoring firms proved difficult to identify, while others are believed to be sitting on stacks of data, leading to accusations that they intend to sell the information to copyright holders.
"Many firms are simply sitting on the data. Such monitoring is easy to do and the data is out there so they think they may as well collect it as it may be valuable in future," Chothia added.
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The study, conducted over a three-year period, casts doubt over the effectiveness of so-called blocklists such as PeerBlock, with many monitoring organisations possessing the means to bypass this software.
Although copyright holders often seek the IP addresses of alleged offenders, Chothia expressed doubt over whether such evidence would be admissible in court.
"All the monitors observed during the study would connect to file-sharers and verify that they were running the BitTorrent software, but they would not actually collect any of the files being shared," he explained.
"It is questionable whether the monitors observed would actually have evidence of file-sharing that would stand up in court."
Earlier this month, UKNova, the 'ethical' torrent tracking website that ran for almost a decade, was shut down after being targeted by the Federation Against Copyright Theft.