Downloading Copyrighted Material
By Safwat Fahmy
It's no secret that piracy of copyrighted material is running
rampant throughout the Internet. In fact, this outright theft of
recorded music, movies, videos, television programs, and software
over peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing networks is so prevalent, and
done by so many users, that it's become a routine part of computing
worldwide. Music is by far the commodity most often taken without
It's also no secret that this goes on daily inside our businesses,
homes, and college campuses; and it's being done by our colleagues,
family members, friends, and maybe even ourselves. But there are a
number of dirty little secrets about downloading copyrighted
material over P2P networks that no one seems to want to talk about:
It's illegal. For most, this is obvious, but still people
find reasons for doing it that almost seem to make sense. Ethical
issues aside, it's worth noting that many have been legally
prosecuted and have faced stiff fines and even jail time.
It hurts the music and film industry. This may be one of
hardest little secrets to believe, but it remains a fact. Most
artists and actors are not the superstars making millions. Plus
there are the sound mixers and engineers, gaffers and best boys,
office clerks and production assistants. It's a vast group of
behind-the-scenes workers that help bring the final product to
completion. These are the people hardest hit when a studio or label
is forced to make cuts due to decreased revenues.
It hurts productivity. With P2P networks running wild, some
Internet service providers and internal networks have seen bandwidth
drop by more than 60 percent during peak usage. Not only is
productivity cut by the amount of time users and employees are
spending searching for and downloading music, but the decrease in
bandwidth can take a once vibrant network down to a crawl.
It can be dangerous. In some P2P networks, personal or
confidential information is not safe from other users who may drop
into your computer via a P2P-installed back door and steal it right
from under your nose. "Share folders" are often hard to configure
and search wizards built into the P2P client can leak personal
information like bank accounts, credit cards, Social Security
numbers, family photos, and virtually anything else you keep on your
computer. Computer viruses can also be transmitted through the
sharing of infected files.
It turns the user into an instant distributor of illegal material.
Once a user downloads files from a P2P network, many of these P2P
networks cause that user's computer to automatically begin
re-sharing those files (and others) with anyone else in the network,
effectively turning a thief into a dealer with a click of the
mouse. The ramifications are staggering in that the seemingly
innocent downloading of a single song could make that user an
eventual distributor of copyrighted material to hundreds, even
thousands, of others
P2P file sharing of copyrighted material must stop. It is damaging
to the industry and to society as a whole. We need to hit the
illegal file sharing networks where it hurts -- by disabling their
transmissions and effectively drying out their stream, closing down
the networks for good.
It is crucial to note that while much of the P2P world is involved
with the illegal sharing of copyrighted material, numerous P2P
networks continue to break new ground in Internet computing –
legally. Such technologies include: P2P telephony (e.g. Skype), P2P
TV (e.g. Joost, Babelgum), streaming based personal P2P (i.e.
sharing of photos, videos, and other files with family and friends
on a newly growing networks including Tubes), streaming based P2P
video, P2P data syncing between computers, and distributed computing
(e.g. SETI@Home). SafeMedia is committed to preserving and
promoting this fair and positive use of peer-to-peer computing, that
is why Clouseau was designed to only disallow P2P transmissions via
networks that are known to be clearinghouses for copyrighted
The fight against Internet piracy via illegal P2P networks will
continue, and we believe we have the odds in our favor.
Safwat Fahmy is Chairman and CEO of SafeMedia Corporation,
a developer of Clouseau®, an Internet piracy prevention technology
solutions that protect digital copyright industries from the theft
of their products via illegal peer-to-peer file sharing.
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