Internet file-sharing

A new threat to copyright

Internet file-sharing is based on the technology of « peer to peer ».
Generally, a peer-to-peer (or P2P) computer network is any network that
does not have fixed clients and servers, but a number of peer nodes that
function as both clients and servers to the other nodes on the network.
Peer- to -peer technology itself does not appear to be illegal, because
it’s just in fact a certain type of network. The existence of the
network doesn’t make any infringement itself, but the circulation and
sharing of copyrighted works through the network is an act of
infringement of copyright when it is done without the consent of the
right holder.


This particular form of communication possesses the unique feature to
employ the resources of the user to facilitate the transfer of data.
Peer to peer is not used only for illegal sharing of protected works of
mind. There are also other important services that can be built on a
peer-to-peer framework which can be used for significant lawful uses.

But the utilization of peer to peer technology for transmitting
protected works is prohibited. Most of the time, peer to peer networks
are not used only to transfer a software which lies on the public
domain, but users from all over the world exchange and distribute easily
and quickly in digital form protected music, movies and software.

History of peer to peer

Napster was the first system to integrate the end user into the
distribution process. The reduction in the per-copy cost of pirated
content was so significant that the market for pirated music and video
content exploded.
Having failed to protect content on CDs, the recording industry attacked
the distribution channel, suing Napster. Though Napster’s centralized
infrastructure failed to survive legal attack, newer systems such as
Gnutella and Kazaa evolved. Indeed, since the appearance of the Napster
case, there has been an technological evolution in the way different
peer nodes act or are connected to each other. While Napster offered a
centralised list of all the files shared and the Internet addresses of
the users who offered the files, new generation of peer to peer software
doesn’t require a central server. The different nodes of the network are
directly connected to each other. Any node is able to initiate or
complete any supported transaction.
More recently, new sophisticated systems are based on a successful
combination of decentralisation and centralisation, as they use multiple
powerful computers of different users as servers (« super-nodes »). The
user’s request goes to a computer given an indexing capacity by the
software and designated as a « super-node ». The super-node searches its
own index and may communicate the user’s search request to other «
super-nodes ». If the file is found, the super node discloses its
location to the computer requesting the search.

Legal response to the Peer-to-Peer threat

Legal response to Internet music and moovie file sharing is not an
easy task. Even nobody doubts that file-sharing implies acts of
communication to the public and reproduction of copyrighted material,
the application of copyright law by various jurisdictions all over the
world didn’t conclude to uniform legal answers.
One way of legal attack to peer to peer piracy is legal attack against
peer to peer software developers and distributors. As it was really
difficult to trace the Internet users who upload and download the shared
files and bring legal action against them, rightholders firstly took
action against the companies who produced and distributed peer to peer
software.
The Napster case, the Kazaa case or the Grokster and Morpheus case are
typical examples of legal attack against peer to peer software
developers.
However, the lack of legal certainty caused by the diversity of court
decisions about the liability of software producers made the
rightholders reconsider their judicial strategy. Legal pursuits against
peer to peer software users inaugurate a second phase in the legal
battle against unauthorized upload and download of copyrighted material.
By 2002 the rightholders started to direct their legal pursuits against
the file-sharing users themselves.
The battle against the users is often combined with legal actions
against Internet providers who deny to disclose the IP addresses of
users who are accused for illegal upload and download. However, neither
the results of the legal attacts against users are uniform, as the
private copying exception has been in some cases accepted by the court
in favour of the user.
As legal uncertainty still prevails as far as concerns the protection of
copyright against peer to peer sharing, the use of technology appears to
be the most efficient measure in order to reduce peer-to-peer piracy. As
experience shows, the reduction or suppression of some security assets
in the peer to peer networks, such as confidentiality and integrity
could be an effective measure to reduce the popularity of these networks