File Sharing and Peer-to-Peer Networking

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Today, computers and access to the Internet are a gateway to endless information. People can find just about anything on the Internet with the click of just a few buttons. File sharing was introduced in the late 70’s and since then, has continued to grow. It boomed in the 90’s with the introduction of mp3 files. There are millions of people who use file sharing in legal ways. However, that number is masked by the amount of people who abuse the concept of file sharing and downloaded copyrighted material such as music or movies. This topic is very controversial in today’s day and age due to copyright laws. A large portion of the world’s population can relate to this topic, especially college students and individuals in lower age groups. Over the past decade, file sharing has spread throughout the world and is used by all age groups both legally and illegally. Whether it’s for business, or simply personal reasons, it’s used in everyday life, such as entertainment and corporate communication. Many people use file sharing quite often and are still not completely familiar with the way it works. Understanding more in depth about how file sharing works and the legality behind the controversy, intrigues many people who use file sharing. The background of the software and programming that is involved in file sharing is something that really caught my attention and motivated me to write this paper.

File sharing has also had a strong impact on the economy within the past few years. It has been the basis of many legal controversies involving copyright infringement. Sharing files cannot only get you into trouble legally, but it can also have an affect on your computer’s security. Viruses can be attached to these downloaded files and steal your personal information from your computer. The complex systems involved in file sharing exist at multiple levels. They occur at large networking levels, corporate levels, and as low as individual computers within households. These topics will be further addressed later on in the paper.

A variety of topics regarding peer-to-peer networking and file sharing will be covered in this paper. Some primary analytical questions that will be answered in this paper are: Why has file sharing become so popular among users? Is file sharing considered a problem in the today’s era or is it acceptable? What risks are involved in using file sharing? How does peer-to-peer file sharing work? What types of programs can be used to access these peer-to-peer networks? This paper will first cover peer-to-peer networks explaining how users can utilize them. It then will cover a popular form of peer-to-peer networking called Bittorrents. Next it will cover file hosting and the different uses of it. Finally, the paper will cover the risks involved in file sharing, the impact it has on the economy, and the legal controversy it has created.

In today’s modern era of computing there are two main ways that users can share files among one another. They consist of: peer-to-peer networks and file hosting. Both of these categories perform their individual tasks in different ways, but in the end they all have the same result. That is, the user obtains the file they sought to download.

One of the most popular ways users share content on the Internet is through peer-to-peer networks. Peer-to-peer, commonly known as P2P, is an approach to content distribution in which files are transferred between “peer” computers over the Internet. Before peer-to-peer networks were introduced, servers were the main way to store content and when requested, send the content the user that requested it (Oram, 2001). In peer-to-peer networking, every user’s machine acts as a “peer” and they communicate with one another over a network. When a computer that is connected to this network request a specific file, any peer that has a copy of the file can send it to the user requesting it. The more users that have the...
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