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The Future Of File Sharing Essay

3082 words - 12 pages

According to recent research, 61% of people ages 14-24 illegally download copyrighted music (Van Der Sar, Aug. 2009). Known as “file sharing,” the process of making digital files available over the internet is a habit among many people of all ages. Since Napster, the first file sharing program, came out in 1999, the prevalence of file sharing steadily increased. According to Koleman Strumpf, by 2006, 60% of all internet traffic was due to file sharing, up from less than 10% in 1999 (Pries 1). The rapid growth of file sharing can be attributed to several factors, one of which is the general social acceptance of downloading music without paying for it (Grassmuck 1). Not everyone supports file sharing, however. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), a group who represents the recording industry distributors in the United States, continues to try to eliminate the mass downloading of their clients’ music. According to the RIAA, illegal file sharing causes “$12.5 billion dollars in losses to the U.S. economy as well as more than 70,000 lost jobs and $2 billion in lost wages to American workers” ("Who Music Theft Hurts."). But much research casts doubt upon these figures, and, though the RIAA would not want people to know, file sharing actually has many benefits. Because of the benefits file sharing presents to both artists and consumers and the data that refutes the opposing arguments, file sharing should be legalized.
The sharing of music started in the early days of physical media, with the cassette tape. People with cassette players were free to record songs from the radio and share them with their friends. Soon after, with the dawn of the digital age, sharing became even easier. People began ripping music from CDs and copying it for everyone they knew. Copying was easier than ever before: a physical medium (a tape, for example) was no longer needed. Copying was free and unlimited. In order to take advantage of this new technology, a company called Napster came into existence (Taintor). Napster, the first centralized way for computer users to share music, started its business in 1999. Two years later, the company lost a lawsuit, and had to pay millions of dollars in damages (Taintor). This legal setback did not stop the spread of file sharing; if anything, it caused a large increase in the number of options people had to share their music (Taintor). To fill the hole left by Napster, several new file sharing applications emerged. The new applications used technology called “peer-to-peer,” which enabled users to share their files amongst one-another, rather than from a centralized server. This change in the way the applications worked allowed them protection from the legal woes that plagued Napster. Since then, content owners and publishers have taken to suing individuals to combat file sharing (Kravets). They argue that mass lawsuits are the only way to protect their artists, the music industry, and music...

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