File Sharing, Break It Down!
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For all the Internet has done to benefit both business and the individual, there are some corporations that would have you think the Internet has been the biggest burden to capitalism since Karl Marx. They think of it as a world that caters to thieves and ne'erdowells, while they, being oh so chaste, are forced to survive without rules or protection of any kind. It's time we see how dangerous this “Internet” really is when it comes to intellectual property rights.
One of the most popular activities done exclusively via the Internet is “peer to peer” file sharing, where a user's personal computer can both upload and download individual files, although some P2P networks do not require uploading. As high-speed Internet connections became more widely available, the popularity of file sharing in general grew exponentially. Add this to smaller file sizes and higher-quality MP3 formats, and it's no wonder file sharing has taken on revolutionary status.
Oh wait! I think I'm forgetting something. What could it be? Oh yeah, IT'S FREE! Free downloads of copyrighted material, looks like we finally beat the bastards. Not so fast, my friend. Without authorization from the copyright holder, file sharing can indeed be called a crime committed by the file sharer. But seeing as file sharing is such a wide-ranging issue, ambiguities are popping up all over the place with regards to the interpretation of copyright laws.
As the Internet grows, so do the challenges faced by copyright holders. It is becoming harder for them to find evidence of illegal file sharing, especially since files are now being segmented before they are transferred, which technically doesn't amount to a copyright issue. New techniques, like encryption and darknets (private networks where users connect only to people they trust), can hide identities and the actual sharing of files from whomever they want.
The main concern lies with the music and movie industry and how much money they are losing because of illegal file sharing. People are simply finding new ways to acquire these products. Granted, there are many who get them for free on file sharing networks. It has been estimated that around 1 billion songs are being “illegally” shared per month. Consequently, some of the smaller record stores, which were commonly known to sell older titles and vintage storage mediums (actual records), are going out of business or are being forced to sell alternative products, like t-shirts or jewelry.
Throughout the rest of this article I will be discussing the latest developments involved with file sharing. First, I will go over arguments from both sides of the file sharing debate, then tell you whether or not a compromise can be reached. Either way, I hope you've come in with an open mind, regardless of which side you're on.
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