File Sharing

File sharing is the practice of distributing or providing access to digitally stored information, such as computer programs, multi-media (audio, video), documents, or electronic books. It may be implemented through a variety of ways. Storage, transmission, and distribution models are common methods of file sharing incorporate manual sharing usingremovable media, centralized computer file server installations on computer networksWorld Wide Web-basedhyperlinked documents, and the use of distributed peer-to-peer networking (see peer-to-peer file sharing).

Types of file sharing

Peer-to-peer file sharing

Main article: peer-to-peer file sharing

Users can use software that connects in to a peer-to-peer network to search for shared files on the computers of other users (i.e. peers) connected to the network. Files of interest can then be downloaded directly from other users on the network. Typically, large files are broken down into smaller chunks, which may be obtained from multiple peers and then reassembled by the downloader. This is done while the peer is simultaneously uploading the chunks it already has to other peers.

File hosting services

File hosting services are a simple alternative to peer-to-peer software. These are sometimes used together with Internet collaboration tools such as email, forums, blogs, or any other medium in which links to direct downloads from file hosting services can be embedded. These sites typically host files so that others can download them.


Main article: File sharing timeline

Files were first exchanged on removable media.[citation needed] Computers were able to access remote files using filesystem mounting, bulletin board systems (1978), Usenet (1979), and FTP servers (1985). Internet Relay Chat (1988) and Hotline (1997) enabled users to communicate remotely throughchat and to exchange files. The mp3 encoding, which was standardized in 1991 and which substantially reduced the size of audio files, grew to widespread use in the late 1990s. In 1998, and Audiogalaxy were established, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was unanimously passed, and the first mp3 player devices were launched. offered music by unsigned artists, and grew to serve 4 million audio downloads daily[citation needed].

Usenet was created in 1979.[1] It is a network that was initially based on the UUCP protocol for dial-up connections and has, since being transported over the Internet, used a specialized client-server protocol, the Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP). Its main purpose was the exchange of text based messages, but through attachments allowed users to encode files and distribute them to participating subscribers of Usenet newsgroups. Usenet remains one of the largest carriers of file sharing and Internet traffic.[2][3] Legal challenges to P2P systems have spurred a resurgence of Usenet.[4] Usenet itself has also been the target of legal challenges pertaining to its use in file sharing.[5]

Between 1979 and the mid 1990s, file sharing was done through bulletin board systems and Usenet. The term shareware and its distribution model became more popular in part due to the BBS networks and systems.[6] Putting shareware on BBS was a way for some developers to distribute their software and generate income.[7] Games such as Doom became popular as a result of this distribution model.[8] Bulletin boards eventually became obsolete as the Internet grew in popularity.[9]

In June 1999, Napster was released as a centralized unstructured peer-to-peer system,[10] requiring a central server for indexing and peer discovery. It is generally credited as being the first peer-to-peer file sharing system. In the case of Napster,[11] an online service provider could not use the "transitory network transmission" safe harbor in the DMCA if they had control of the network with a server. Many P2P products will, by their very nature, flunk this requirement, just as Napster did.[12] Napster provided a service where they indexed and stored file information that users of Napster made available on their computers for others to download, and the files were transferred directly between the host and client users after authorization by Napster. Shortly after theA&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc. loss in court Napster blocked all copyright content from being downloaded.

GnutellaeDonkey2000, and Freenet were released in 2000, as and Napster were facing litigation. Gnutella, released in March, was the first decentralized file sharing network. In the gnutella network, all connecting software was considered equal, and therefore the network had no central point of failure. In July, Freenet was released and became the first anonymity network. In September the eDonkey2000 client and server software was released.

In 2001, Kazaa and Poisoned for the Mac was released. Its FastTrack network was distributed, though unlike gnutella, it assigned more traffic to 'supernodes' to increase routing efficiency. The network was proprietary and encrypted, and the Kazaa team made substantial efforts to keep other clients such as Morpheus off of the FastTrack network.

In July 2001, Napster was sued by several recording companies. As a result, Napster lost in court against these companies and was shut down. This drove users to other P2P applications and file sharing continued its exponential growth.[13] The Audiogalaxy Satellite client grew in popularity, and the LimeWireclient and BitTorrent protocol were released. Until its decline in 2004, Kazaa was the most popular file sharing program despite bundled malware and legal battles in the Netherlands, Australia, and the United States. In 2002, a Tokyo district court ruling shut down File Rogue and an RIAA lawsuit effectively shut down Audiogalaxy.

Demonstrators protesting The Pirate Bay raid2006.

From 2002 through 2003, a number of BitTorrent services were established, including Suprnova.orgisoHunt,TorrentSpy, and The Pirate Bay. In 2002, the RIAA was filing lawsuits against Kazaa users. As a result of such lawsuits, many universities added file sharing regulations in their school administrative codes (though some students managed to circumvent them during after school hours). With the shut down of eDonkey in 2005, eMule became the dominant client of the eDonkey network. In 2006, police raids took down the Razorback2 eDonkey server and temporarily took down The Pirate Bay. Pro-piracy demonstrations took place in Sweden in response tothe Pirate Bay raid. In 2009, the Pirate Bay trial ended in a guilty verdict for the primary founders of the tracker. The decision was appealed, leading to a second guilty verdict in November 2010[14]

Networks such as BitTorrent via uTorrent and Azureus and the trackers & indexing sites, gnutella via Limewireand the eDonkey network via eMule[15][16][17] managed to survive this turbulent time. Limewire was forced to shut down following a court order in Arista Records LLC v. Lime Group LLC in October 2010, but the gnutella network remains active through open source clients like Frostwire and gtk-gnutella. Furthermore, multi-protocol file sharing software such as MLDonkey and Shareaza adapted in order to support all the major file sharing protocols, so users no longer had to install and configure multiple file sharing programs.

Filesharing in academia

File sharing occurres in academic and research circles, where researchers wish to access subscription journals and books, but do not wish to pay a licence fee. File-sharing websites allow researchers to request articles, which are then found by those who do have access to them, and then the articles are posted to the website for all to access,[18] a practice that appears to be unknown to many editors of these journals.[19] The file sharing is extended even further by researchers who share library access codes (usernames and passwords) so that other researchers can access the library databases directly themselves.[20]


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