Benefits of P2P and File Sharing
File sharing started with tapes in the 1970’s and CD’s in the 1980’s but file sharing did not gain mainstream attention until Napster was invented by Shawn Fanning in 1999. Napster, the first large scale illegal file sharing program, was a peer to peer (P2P) program which allows users to trade files from one computer to another through a central program. Once Napster was released, it immediately gained widespread popularity. Napster was shut down in 2001 after the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sued Napster and won on the grounds of copyright infringement (Janssens, Vandaele, and Vander Beken 77). Since Napster was shut down, there have been many programs that have arisen to take its place that do the job faster and more efficiently such as LimeWire and BitTorrent (Jones 289). This has caused a major problem in global CD sales; According to criminology doctor Richard Jones, CD sales have dropped from 2.5 billion sales in 2000 to 1.8 billion sales in 2006, this has cost the record industry billions. Although this does not sound good, this information can be taken two ways: first, P2P programs should be done away with completely because they are harming the traditional way the music industry distributes music. Another way to look at this information is that technology is changing and in order to keep up, both record labels and artists need to embrace advances in technology to make changes to create a new, more profitable music industry. Although file sharing has been attacked in the recent past, there is much solid evidence that file sharing should not be done away with completely. There are many ways that P2P can be beneficial, we should not be so quick to criticize file sharing, but instead, look at the benefits of file sharing and how it can be used to aid music distribution.
MP3, short for MPEG-1 Audio Layer-3, was invented in 1987 as a way to make high quality copies of music files that use considerably less space than traditional CD’s and is now the most used music file type. Where a song on a CD would take up 30-40 Mb, a MP3 of the same son would only take 3 Mb. The MP3 file is used by file sharing programs because it is able to be copied quickly and efficiently (Janssens, Vandaele, and Vander Beken 90). There are several different types of P2P file sharing software; one type is a File Transfer Protocol (FTP). An FTP is a central server where users can upload their own files and the location of the files are stored so others can download the file. The problem with this type of software is if the central server is unavailable for some reason, then no one is able to download any files because the locations are gone (Jones 289).
Another type of P2P software is the Gnutella system which is more decentralized than the traditional FTP. When the Gnutella system is installed, the program looks for other computers (about 6) that are also running the program. When a search is performed, the user’s computer asks other computers for the file and the file could either be downloaded or the request can forwarded to other computers using the program. Some applications that use this system include LimeWire, BearShare, Poisoned, and AcquisitionX. One of the newest, most popular file sharing programs is BitTorrent. BitTorrent is similar to the Gnutella system but it is superior in some ways; first of all, BitTorrent allows the user to download large amounts of files in a relatively short period of time. The software breaks down the file in small chunks and the users does not have to download the file in order. It rewards those who upload more and also allows others to start downloading parts of the file that are already downloaded by one user even if the whole file is not yet downloaded. This makes BitTorrent a very fast and efficient way of transferring files (Jones 290).
Although illegal file sharing has hurt record...