Peer-to-peer file sharing is so easy and effective to use that people ignore or deny the fact that sharing copyrighted material is illegal. The extent to which it is used makes people feel like if everyone is doing it, it is alright. P2P networks have the ability to download and upload copyrighted files that exist on user’s computers that contain the file sharing software. The actual software is not illegal.
There are legal ways that non-copyrighted material can be shared from one computer to the next. However, the majority of people that own P2P software use it to distribute copyrighted material, such as songs and full length films. The record and film companies view this as stealing and flagrant copyright infringement.
Computers that connect to other computers with the help of certain software is known as peer-to-peer. Some well-known existing or no longer existing P2P software programs include Napster, Kazaa, Limewire, WinMX, and Ares, among many more. Peer-to-peer file sharing gives users the ability to download large files at rates faster than most connections over the Internet take place. When a user makes files available for download, other users can browse a shared folder and select which files they would like to download for permanent use on their own computer.
Often, the files available for download are copyrighted material, which creates confusion regarding copyright infringement. While people may not even realize they are committing copyright infringement, record and movie companies certainly do. They have won cases against file sharing networks as well as individuals for taking part in distributing copyrighted material.
Problems with Copyright Infringement
Famous P2P Infringement Cases
The first landmark case involving major record companies and a peer-to-peer network was the case A&M Records, Inc v. Napster Inc. In the suit A&M Records represented music industry heavyweights such as Sony Music Entertainment, A&M Records, Universal Records, and Warner Bros. Records. Napster was the P2P network that received the most media due to its huge following and convenient index for locating music.
The peer-to-peer network could easily search files and then download them. A&M Records sued the company for copyright infringement. Napster’s fair use and free speech defenses failed. Napster failed to assure 100% of the copyrighted material was removed from all available download folders. The company was shut down and ordered to pay $26 million to the plaintiff.
One of the most famous suits against an individual user occurred when the RIAA sued Joel Tenenbaum, a Boston University student. Tenenbaum’s defense failed and he was ordered to pay $22,500 per song. He was ordered to pay a total $675,000. The judge could have ordered him to pay $150,00 per song.
There have been other individual suits settled for sums in the range of $3,500. The RIAA has ceased suing people because they were losing too much money on legal fees and the users could not afford to pay the RIAA. They have since begun attempting to have Internet access removed from those who commit copyright infringement over P2P networks.