There are many ways to share files like eBooks, films, software or music via the Internet and by far one of the most controversial is probably “Peer-to-Peer file sharing”:
What is Peer-to-Peer File Sharing?
With the help of software (a quick search on CNet returns over 450 results!), users connect into a peer-to-peer network to search for shared files on computers of other users (the “peers”) connected to the same network.
Large files are typically broken down into smaller chunks, which may be obtained from multiple peers and then reassembled by the downloader. Have a look at this YouTube video explaining how it all works.
Advantages of Peer-to-Peer File Sharing
One of the main advantages of peer-to-peer file sharing is the way large files are broken down into smaller chunks and obtained from multiple peers. This speeds the download process up considerably.
How safe is File Sharing?
Some peer-to-peer software packages regularly check for infected files and remove them, others simply do nothing, and it is worth remembering that even the ones that do, are always one step behind.
So, unless you have decent and up-to-date Anti-Virus software on your computer DON’T even think about using peer-to-peer file sharing. You are basically sharing files with strangers who might set out to – or do so unintentionally – spread viruses and other malware.
However careful you are, file sharing remains risky and is certainly not recommended for any computer that has confidential data on it or is used for “serious” work!
Is File Sharing Legal?
Peer-to-peer file sharing in itself is perfectly legal but is often used in illegal ways and thus has had a lot of bad press over the years for its piracy and copy-right infringement aspects.
Most of us probably remember the Napster music peer-to-peer file sharing pioneer that was taken to court and ordered to shut down its entire network because of the potential financial losses to the music industry.
Numerous other pieces of software have since been released (with some also ordered to shut down) and with the recent blocking of the famous “Pirate Bay” first by Virgin and then by other broadband providers. The government is trying hard to limit the damages this type of piracy is said to cause.
However, since then, new “unstoppable” file sharing networks have been developed and the law seems to be fighting a losing battle with peer-to-peer activity reported to be back to normal after just one week! (according to Computerweekly).
Although some might argue that file sharing is not “stealing” (read more here!), there surely can be no doubt that copyright infringement IS illegal! So unless you are planning to use peer-to-peer file sharing only for sharing and downloading non-copyrighted files or for files that you have ownership of – you are breaking the law.
The future of Peer-to-Peer File Sharing
Software and music piracy is nothing new – we probably all remember people recording vinyl records onto tapes or taping music shows on the radio, but what has changed is the simplicity of it.
And despite the risks and controversy surrounding it, today’s modern file sharing is still very popular.
However, with more and more low cost options of legal (risk- free and high quality!) downloads of music (ITunes et al), Ebooks (Audible and the like) as well as complete films available to be watched instantly via LoveFilm and other providers, combined with the governments never ending attempts to make illegal file sharing more and more difficult, the popularity of the illegal side of peer-to-peer file sharing will hopefully reduce over the years…
Have PC Harmony,
so you can concentrate on the more important things in life…