The Concept of P2P File Sharing


Changes in technology and social orientation have caused a transformation in the music industry. Digital technology is especially guilty of this. There have erupted cheap high storage MP3 players and peer-to-peer file sharing otherwise known as P2P. The previously popular CDs have now become a tool for advertisement and promotion of tickets for concerts. There is still a lot of money going to waste for the music companies because of piracy and free downloads.

Peer-to-Peer piracy has been one of the biggest challenges that face the music industry. Napster is an online file-sharing service that was created by Shawn Fanning. This technology made it possible for people to copy and share MP3 files. The recognized market for the songs was sidestepped. For this reason, the music industry accused it of enormous violations of its copyrights.

Dubner says that the internet ‘has led to an explosion of creativity. Music amateurs compose and then share what they have created with internet users. Music professionals might also be able to make money through file sharing and specifically Peer to Peer downloads if they stop concentrating on legal battles with music downloaders. He argues that the internet is a way through which the circle of fans is built.

Peer to Peer downloading will be an integral part of moving files in the future for the creative industries such as music and movie industries. P2P file-sharing will allow files to be accessible 24 hours a day, provide storage room for millions of files, and reduce the load of servers that host popular content.

Peer to Peer downloading

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharing has become one of the convenient ways through which people share music, images, documents, videos, and software programs over the internet across the globe. P2P programs include Kazaa, LimeWire, Morpheus, and iMesh. Through these programs, one can store media files in their computer and share the same with computers using similar software. The program can however be misused and users need to be aware of the risks involved (The benefits and risks).

The future of Peer Peer downloading

In the future, P2P file sharing is not going to diminish. Instead, it is will be adopted by music companies for various reasons. P2P’s main goal is the provision of a range of resources to clients. These include big storage space, bandwidth, and computing power. Its nature also gives an increased vigor in the case of failures by reproducing data and enabling tracing of data.

In P2P file sharing, there is less server dependence. The users do not need personal central servers and hence there is no possibility of attacks for denial of service. In addition, simple software is used. These are provided by the P2P systems and this makes it easy to handle the operating system. The user has the freedom to choose the software that is easy to understand. On the other hand, though, a user is required to learn new software each time they change the type of P2P (Evslin).

P2P is a blessing in disguise for the music and movie companies. Consider the scalability that P2P provides. With every user of the program sharing the weight, there will be more demand and more capacity for more users to access the program. This is unlike if the server operates on a central host. In this case, the more the users, the more the required resources for the host. The result of not doing this is slow service or breakdown in addition to other problems (Cohen).

Another factor that will make P2P popular in the future is its survival ability. Without a central server, there is little possibility of vulnerability to central failure. In addition, terrorists cannot access a service that has widely dispersed elements. The internet does not have a central site.

P2P can make services free owing to its ability to attract a big number of users. There is no need for revenue for purchasing hardware as making connections and directory storage is done cooperatively on the computers used by the clients. By making the services free, the program is able to attract many users across the globe. The free services would mean big bills but P2P solves this through charging advertisements.

If internet services had to go through one main server, there would definitely be a lot of congestion. With P2P though, services go directly from one user to the other and are not a centralized resource. The users, therefore, provide the bandwidth necessary for connecting the services. This also facilitates free downloads (Evslin).

Critics would however argue that there are risks involved in the program. One of the risks is the ease of violation of copyright. The sharing of copyrighted material has always been illegal unless one has the permission of the holder of the copyright. Thus, one can face civic or criminal action.

On the other hand, there is too the users of P2P software are unquestionably giving a lot of implicit trust to hordes of people. These include those who write the software, file creators, and file sharers. For this reason, one has to trust the writers of the software to respect your rights, especially to passwords. The file creators might also copy viruses or malevolent software and the users might spread the same viruses. There happens to be no central power that has responsibility for the P2P network. This trust has already been abused though. Kazaa installed software that could track users and record their data without their permission (The benefits and risks of P2P file sharing).

The risk of unwanted software can be alleviated by installing anti-virus or anti-spyware on computers. The tools should however be updated often and kept active. On the other hand, users of P2P software should understand and distinguish between copyrighted material and public domain material and also share files in a responsible way. If a user is unsure about a particular file, they should avoid sharing or downloading it. All downloads should be treated with suspicion (The benefits and risks of P2P file sharing).

Legal controversies

The legal issues that are involved in file-sharing concern the abuse of copyright laws when digital copies of material are exchanged between internet users. P2P technology makes it possible for users to share material that includes data subject to copyright. P2Pcan however be used without violating the law in cases such as when it is used legitimately in sharing with permission or illegally in breach of copyright. It is reported that P2P accounts for about 18 to 35 percent of all internet traffic (Cohen).

In P2P networks that are unadulterated, there is usually no cost. Even so, in practice, they are a mixture. This is the reason that companies sue individual users. Napster was one such example. It lost for the reason that it was not a pure network Crouch).

Case study

The music industry sued Napster for this technology in 2001. The case was A&M Records v. Napster, 239 F.3d 1004 (9th Cir.2001) (Krasilovsky et al). Napster was charged with contributing to a breach of A&M Records’ copyrights. After Napster, other files distribution programs have come up and these have become hard to control because they are legal.

In Los Angeles, a federal judge ruled in favor of Grokster and Streamcast, providers of Morpheus P2P software, saying that the program was not responsible for violation of copyright laws by those who use it. The judge said that the company was similar to any other company selling video recorders or copy machines. The court believed that this software was ‘about technology’, in its words, and not piracy (EFF).

Legalizing P2P

Strumpf claims that instead of lamenting over the advent of digital media and the impact it has on the music industry, musicians and music companies should rejoice as the internet has expanded its circle of fans. Those music companies that have been able to recognize the potential on the internet are contributing to the successful establishment of this era of the internet. They have realized that real value in music will only be got if they make it easier to access music and therefore discourage music theft. This will be achievable if they help consumers find people who share the same interests and help the consumers to discover new sources of music of their taste (Dubner, Strumpf, and Drakoulias).

This implies that P2P has the major potential not just for fans but for artists as well. The potential will only be realized if the legal battles cease. P2P can be made legal in a number of ways (File sharing).

Voluntary collective licensing

Recording labels can earn from music by offering fair and just unbiased terms for the sale of their music. This is the method that has been used with radio for a long time now. While radio stations pay to play songs on air, the technique also protects these stations from potential lawsuits from musicians and music companies. There have been attempts to adopt the method but each time, it was proposed, it was rejected. No laws need changing in order to adopt the payment means. The solution has been available for a long time but it works only if copyright owners cooperate and go for the earning.

Making peer to peer pirates pay the music artists

If musicians and music companies realize that the distribution of music through the internet is not fading, they can take advantage of it to make a living. Though the new technology poses a challenge to the business the technology also lowers costs of distribution and increases the exposure given to music and the artists, not to mention consumers. The only thing that has not been put in place is a means through which the consumers of this product can pay artists for the product they enjoy using. While initially, artists made their money through the sale of CDs, the internet can also become a means through which the same is done, only differently. It could prove more worth the while. The solution is in establishing ways through which payment can be made to artists.

P2P subscriptions

The providers of the P2P service who do so through retailing P2P software could charge consumers for the same. Money can be earned by charging for downloaded songs or for the use of the software. A compulsory license or licensing agreements with record labels are what will ensure that artists get their dues. The service has previously been considered by Napster and Bertelsmann AG in 2001 and even more recently by iTunes and consumers show a willingness to pay for music they download. This could be just the right solution to the piracy


The internet might just be the solution in the provision of a way through which the music companies can distribute their music to consumers across the globe. The reality is that the biggest challenge for the music industry is meeting the demands of a changing market. It is their response to the changes that are taking place that matters. Their success depends on this and the development of the industry will be dictated by how well they can adapt. In the future, peer-to-peer file-sharing will be the most significant means through which the music and movie industry will distribute their files.


Cohen, B. Incentives build robustness in BitTorrent. 2003. Web.

Crouch, T. (2001). 100 careers in the music business. In Krasilovsky, M. W., Shemel, S., & Gross, J. M. (2000 Ed). New York: Barron’s Educational Series. Web.

Dubner, S. J., Strumpf, K., Rojas, P. and Drakoulias, G. ‘What’s the future of the music industry? A freakonomics quorum’. Web.

Electronic Frontier Foundation Media. “Win for makers of Morpheus peer-to-peer software.”

Evslin, Tom. “Advantages and disadvantages of P2P.” Web.

“File-sharing: Music to our ears.” Web.

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