The Birth of Napster to the Death of Privacy

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The Birth of Napster
The Death of Privacy

One of the most debated issues before our society is the issue of internet privacy. Privacy is such a valued concept that in today's world we pay good money in order to keep intruders out of our computer systems and out of our lives. Peer-to-Peer downloading is a major factor to the internet privacy issue. Peer-to-Peer downloading (also known as "file sharing") is considered by Microsoft to be "the act of making files on one computer accessible to others on a network." The original use of file sharing was simply meant for users to send files to one another. It has now become one of the biggest dilemmas of our modern society. Does the government have the right to search your private files on your computer and sue you if they have been illegally obtained? Is the government right to shut down sites that aid peer-to-peer downloading, yet do not share the files themselves? In order to understand the issue of peer-to-peer downloading, we must first understand the programs that were and are still being used. Going back to the 1970's we see the first program created to exchange information between two or more users. The CBBS (Computerized Bulletin Board System) was created by Ward Christensen to be able to transfer computer files through an internet connection. Because of the primitive computer technology available at the time, the CBBS had its limitations but was still considered very useful. Next in line in the file sharing timeline is a program called File Transfer Protocol (FTP). Being created in 1985, it was a simple file-sharing program. The most important program throughout peer-to-peer programs history was the project that began in 1999 by a young 19-year old; it started what has turned into one of the biggest headaches for the US government. The infamous Napster was the first and the original peer-to-peer program. The way Napster worked is by searching other peers "shared" files. Let's say that someone was searching for any song by the band Metallica, the search would report back what is available to be downloaded. Once you double-click on that first mp3 that you would like to download, you officially become "fair game" for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). After the birth of Napster, there was an explosion of programs that tried to leech off their fame. The next big thing comes when a new and more efficient program to share files emerges. During 2002, a program called BitTorrent arises. This program revolutionized peer-to-peer downloading for many reasons. First and foremost, because of the percentage of broadband users, downloading a music file has become an extremely quick and painless task. Using Napster with a phone-line connection, it would take an average of half an hour to download one song. With BitTorrent and the increase of broadband users, it takes a matter of minutes (if even) to download the entire album. But why is BitTorrent so successful? BitTorrent's successfulness is attributed to the method users share their files. Instead of downloading the file from one user, BitTorrent breaks up the file into thousands of pieces and takes a part of the file from each user that is willing to share it. For example, let's say that there are 10 other peers downloading the T.V. show Lost, 11 including myself. As an alternative to downloading the file from one user at an average speed of 20 KB/s (Kilobits per second), BitTorrent downloads the file from 10 different users at an average speed of 15 KB/s. In essence, 150 KB/s is a lot more efficient than 20 KB/s. Now that we are clear on some of the programs being used, why is it such a terrible thing to download? The common perception that the public has about file sharing is that it is destroying Hollywood and is giving people access to programs that can cost thousands of dollars for free. We hear about negative effects of file sharing but never have we heard about the...
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