LimeWire Dead: What`s Next for File-Sharing Software?
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For ten years the popular file-sharing software known as LimeWire was considered the go-to source for free – I mean, shared -- music online. The software enabled millions of users to upload and download pirated music completely free of charge. That's recently changed, so now where can you go for shared music and the like? Keep reading for the background and some new sources.
As of October 26th, those signing on to LimeWire to download new tunes will be met with the following message:
“This is an official notice that LimeWire is under a court-ordered injunction to stop distributing and supporting its file-sharing software. Downloading or sharing copyrighted content without authorization is illegal.” That’s because U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood issued an injunction, ordering managers of the site to disable "the searching, downloading, uploading, file trading...and/or all functionality" of the LimeWire software.”
Many knew this day would eventually come, and if surprised by anything, people were baffled as to how the software operated for as long as it did. In the early 2000s the music industry took a nosedive, citing pirated music as the reason for their dismal sales. So, in an obvious move, the music industry waged war on any software company offering pirated music, and on those partaking of their services. Somehow LimeWire stayed afloat, and it wasn’t until October that the company, and its creator Mark Gorton, were found guilty of committing copyright infringement, engaging in unfair competition, and inducing copyright infringement.
In a statement released by a LimeWire spokesman, the company responded by saying, “While this is not our ideal path, we hope to work with the music industry in moving forward. We look forward to embracing necessary changes and collaborating with the entire music industry in the future." It’s important to clarify that LimeWire still exists, but it is no longer acting as a file-sharing service. It remains unclear if -- or how -- the company intends to continue existing without offering the file-sharing services they’ve become known for in the last decade.
Closing the Door
Those who don’t look favorably upon LimeWire, including the Recording Industry Association of America, which filed a copyright complaint against Gorton and LimeWire three years ago and is now seeking damages that could surpass $1 billion, still have major concerns despite the court’s decision. The problem, as they see it, is that there’s little the court can do to stop software that’s been in existence for ten years. Judge Wood is doing her best to close the door on any future upgrades, releases, or the creation of comparable software. She also wants LimeWire to do everything in its power to discourage the use of LimeWire software already “in the wild” -- something the judge referred to as “legacy software.”
In her judgment, Woods wrote, “Using its best efforts, Lime Wire shall use all reasonable technological means to immediately cease and desist the current infringement of the copyrighted works by legacy users through the LimeWire system and software to prevent and inhibit future infringement of copyrighted works.”
According to CNET’s Media Maverick Greg Sandoval, Wood ordered Gorton and employees to establish "default settings in the legacy software that block the sharing of unauthorized media files" and offer users tools to remove the software from their hard drives. Wood also ordered Lime Wire to create a copyright filter that would work on legacy software; in addition, the judge required that Gorton and crew first get the permission of music labels before building any new, legal version of LimeWire.
Despite it being illegal to download pirated content, LimeWire made millions of dollars while in business, and had an equal amount of users using its software on a daily basis. Obviously, this was bad for the music biz, but it enabled users from all over the world full access to free music. Now that LimeWire has met its demise, many are left wondering what’s next in file-sharing.
File-sharing can mean a lot of things, and as is the case with LimeWire, it’s not just specific to sharing music. To be specific, file-sharing simply means distributing or providing access to digitally-stored information, such as audio, video, computer programs, documents, or electronic books. This distribution can happen in a number of ways, including centralized computer file server installations on computer networks, manual sharing through the use of removable media, Internet-based hyperlinked documents, and the use of peer-to-peer file sharing that made LimeWire immensely popular.
Many believe that the next alternative file-sharing software to make a major splash is BitTorrent, which emerged a few years ago and has become one of the most common protocols for transferring large files. It is believed that as of February of 2009, BitTorrent accounted for somewhere between 27 and 55 percent of all Internet traffic. Like LimeWire, the software was released nearly ten years ago, but it’s only been in recent years that the software has seen a huge spike in popularity.
For many, one of the most appealing aspects of the BitTorrent protocol is its ability to distribute a very large file without burdening the source computer with a heavy load. BitTorrent’s network also sends a separate copy of the file to everyone requesting one. Typically, this is something that would very easily overload a standard host, but the BitTorrent’s protocol works as an alternative data distribution method that makes even the smallest computers, like today’s cell phones or other electronics with very low bandwidth, capable of distributing files to many recipients.
When distributing a file, a user must first create a small torrent descriptor file, which they can distribute in a conventional way via the Internet, e-mail, etc. Then, acting as what the site refers to as a “seed,” the file can be made available by the user through a BitTorrent node. Those with access to the torrent descriptor file can, in turn, give the file their own BitTorrent nodes. Essentially, they are acting as peers, enabling them to download the file by connecting to the seed and/or other peers.
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