I’ve you’ve ever downloaded an mp3, a movie of any kind, or maybe even an ebook, you are sure to have recognized the power and convenience that file sharing offers.
A Brief History Of… File Sharing
Filesharing probably came into the public eye when Napster was born in Early 2000. Napster’s file sharing model used a centralized network, meaning all shared files were essentially controlled and distributed by a central hub.
Napster’s brief and turbulent life as the premier way to share files, piled more ignomony on music sharers than any other single event in file sharing history. Whilst Napster is still running as an organization to this day, it will be forever remembered as the best way to build up your music collection for free; it will also be remembered as the first major ‘example’ that was made by the music labels and the authorities. Napster’s illustrious reign as king of the file sharing software was brought to an end in July 2001 as a result of the injunction brought in March of the same year.
Since Napster, many other file sharing models and networks have arisen. Many of the current crop of favorites — Ares being perhaps the largest and most prestigious — operate in a gray area of the law by avoiding anything to do with the actual files being shared. Yes, the p2p clients facilitate the transfer of material (some of it which is alleged to be under copyright law), but they do not provide, store or handle any of it at any time. This distinction seems to have allowed them to stay afloat so far, though the big music and film publishers are always looking for gaps in the seemingly impermeable armor.
To The Modern Day
Almost all attempts to resurrect the centralized model of filesharing have met with frustration (or worse), and all the currently popular methods for sharing files of all types involve a decentralized — or peer-2-peer (p2p)– network. The decentralization moves the legal onus to prevent sharing of copyrighted files away from the software provider as they have no control over what is shared and by whom. Further incentives to move towards a p2p model is that it is so much more difficult for network administrators to block with firewalls and filtering.
File sharing is being — and has been — attacked from a number of fronts. The instigators of the dislike towards file sharing are those people that would otherwise be profiting from the sale of shared material. Their calculations as to the revenue lost due to file sharing are critically flawed, but there is no doubt in their minds that they are losing out. Despite these attacks, file sharing persists.
This persistence has caused many large companies to start ‘moving with the times’ and embracing, rather than repulsing from, the method. Huge organizations like Sony have signed deals which allow controlled free distribution of their copyrighted materials. This change in business model is definitely risk, but making no changes and hoping the industry will go back to where it was 10 years ago is even more risky.
Like it or love it, file sharing has changed the music and film landscapes for good.