File Sharing Programs


Introduction

File sharing (peer-to-peer) programs came to worldwide prominence with the release of Napster in 1999. Napster was created by Shawn Parker. Napster allowed people to share files over the Internet; although it primarily shared audio files encoded in the MP3 format. Since Napster, a host of other file sharing programs/networks 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/upload/share a selection of file types; with subsequent programs - such as Audiogalaxy and Kazaa - allowing users to exchange a larger variety of file types.

The technology behind file sharing varies from program to program, and network to network. To circumvent copyright laws, file sharing networks have devised various structures in which users can share files. BitTorrent - and Torrent files - are a recently new "type" of file sharing technology; which use metafiles to link to copyrighted content, making the direct link between file downloaders and uploaders less obvious. Websites which publish metafiles, like Pirate Bay, have come under "fierce" legal scrutiny, and legal challenges to shut the website down.

Issues

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; typically when the "main" file sharing program was installed. Viruses have been another problem "area": with early versions of file sharing programs not including a function to scan files for viruses - before they were downloaded. The developers of file sharing programs took note: most eventually promised they are adware/spyware free, and have facilities to scan downloaded files for viruses.

Legality

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 taken to court, or, have settled out of court for fines of over $2000.

Due to the illegality of facilitating the transfer of copyrighted material, many file sharing programs/networks have been shutdown due to lawsuits and legal challenges. Napster, for example, in 2001, was ordered to stop the trading of copyrighted material. Similar scenario's have effected: eDonkey, LimeWire, Grokster, and the Madster network. LimeWire, for example, in 2010, was ruled to have committed copyright infringement in a United States District Court.

It should be highlighted that file sharing / peer to peer sharing programs have a perfectly legal 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 illegal.

 

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