File sharing programs came to worldwide prominance with the release
of Napster in 1999. Napster was created by Shawn Parker. Napster
allowed people to share files over the Internet. Since then a host
of other file sharing programs have been released, which also allow
users to exchange files, such as images, media files and other data.
Napster was a small program that only allowed users to download
a selection of file types, with later programs such as audiogalaxy
and kazaa allowing users to exchange a larger variety of files.
One of the chief problems that users have experienced with file
sharing programs is adware/spyware. Some of the most notable file
sharing companies have secretly installed adware/spyware programs
with the installation of the main file sharing program. Viruses
are another problem area, with many downloaded files including them.
The developers of file sharing programs have taken note. Most promise
they are now adware/spyware free, and have facilities to scan every
downloaded file for viruses.
A controversial aspect of file sharing is piracy. There has been
a crackdown on illegal file sharing by media bodies such as the
'Recording Industry Association of America'. They have correctly
cited that downloading and uploading copyrighted materials without
permission, violates international copyright infringement laws.
Many users, especially in the US, have been take to court or have
settled out of court for fines of over $2000.
It should be highlighted that file sharing / peer to peer sharing
programs have a perfectly legel use. Sharing files which are not
copyrighted is within the law. It is only when copyrighted files
are uploaded and downloaded, without the express permission of the
owner, that the use of such programs becomes illegel.