File-sharing in the limelight


During the 1980s, the VCR challenged US copyright law with its infringing capability. The questions answered then have produced new ones for file-sharing technology to answer today.

Copyright law has been under scrutiny for years, as new technologies emerge that change the way in which copyrighted works are consumed by audiences, affecting the way in which copyright stakeholders need to be compensated.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing technology, which allows users to ‘share’ many types of files seamlessly over a decentralised network that is keyword-searchable, has been seen as a major source of music piracy since the late 1990s, and in recent years, that reach has extended to film and television too.

Wide-scale copyright infringement on file-sharing networks began with Napster. Similar versions established themselves as the opportunity to download copyrighted works for free in electronic format became widely known. Many file-sharing services operated similar business models, until LimeWire offered its paidfor version. As the alternatives closed after court defeats or in the face of legal action, LimeWire profited, acquiring millions of migrating users for its Gnutella network.

File-sharing, copyright law, P2P