"P2P sharing networks have been around for a long time. In fact, the internet was created as a way to share information, files and documents. Once the internet had become affordable for the home user, P2P file sharing sites grew.
For the most part, this was a harmless way for friends and family to share photos and for work colleagues to collaborate on work projects. However, the shadier side of P2P file sharing soon became apparent, particularly individuals uploading copyrighted material for distribution. Some file sharing sites had 72% of their content consisting of illegally shared movies, music and ebooks.
One of the first P2P sites to do this was Napster, created by Shawn Fanning in 1999. Through his system, songs were not stored on hosted websites but on local machines using the Napster service. Any Napster could then access the private library of any other Napster user and download the track.
One of the first legal challenges to the service provided by Napster was started by Metallica. This was quickly followed by other music artists and soon the site was shut down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Another classic example of illegal file sharing and the associated legal challenges was Pirate Bay. Unlike other file sharing sites, Pirate Bay made no attempt to hide that it was sharing files that were legally dubious.
A Following Trend
The removal of copyrighted material has long been a problem for P2P networks and copyright owners. In many cases it has become a heated argument. Recently, Madonna took the fight to those downloading her tracks on file sharing sites, by releasing several dummy tracks on the networks. When her fans downloaded the track, they were asked what they were doing pirating her music.
The fight against illegally shared files has also taken new twists. Instead of having to fight out the rights in court, copyright owners can request content be taken down online via a DMCA notice. The hosting company is then obliged to remove the file from its database or face prosecution.
This in itself has been questioned many times as the reduction of one file on a file sharing site will not achieve much. Yet with organisations like Sony, MGM and other large corporations issuing court orders against those owning file sharing sites: there does seem to be an end point for the P2P sharing networks.
Isn't File Sharing Good?
File sharing used to be essential if you wanted to pass on crucial information across the internet to various individuals simultaneously. In recent years, with the rise of private file sharing services like Dropbox, Google Drive, etc and the introduction of cloud technology - file sharing sites are finding it difficult to have any other use than to share illegally obtained files.
This puts them into conflict with numerous high profile, very rich copyright owners who are determined to protect their material. If previous examples are to be examined, it is clear to see that despite the file sharing organisations' insistence they are just offering a highly demanded service, there is little that can be done to prevent their demise. At the very least, sites will be created and then taken down in a matter of months.
As technology, including cloud infrastructure improves; there will be little need for P2P sharing software and sites. Previously these were useful tools, but they were overrun by individuals who wanted to distribute copyrighted material and other morally questionable content. This has resulted in numerous high profile cases of sites being taken down, bought out to become legal or disappearing altogether.
As such, the reliance should now be on the more legitimate methods of sharing files across peers, such as cloud and private file sharing networks.
Have you used a P2P file sharing network? Do you think there is a future in their use?"