According to TorrentFreak, AT&T has recently patented a “Method and Apparatus for Automated End to End Content Tracking in Peer-to-Peer Environment,” a system consisting of a monitoring network that basically detects how often a certain material is downloaded.
Although the patent doesn’t reveal the intended purpose of the system, the ultimate goal is most likely to track and counter piracy by identifying what is most downloaded on P2P-networks. Focusing specifically on torrents gathered from search engines and through RSS feeds, the system collects the content in a database, downloads the torrent, and then records information on people who are downloading. In addition, a content analysis component verifies whether or not the downloaded files are what the title indicates.
On a side note, AT&T is a participant of the six-strikes copyright alert system, which is monitored by a third-party company that only tracks a list of titles given to them by the MPAA and RIAA.