The Rise of File Sharing

by Jake Ruston

File sharing is quite a tricky issue to deal with. It's something that has been around in various different forms for a number of years, but we just can't seem to agree on whether it's positive or not. We have organisations and Governments who claim copyright must be enforced and therefore file sharing must stop, but on the other hand you have those who feel that information should be freely shared. So who's right? It's a very sensitive issue that we must all think about and take a stance on. There's one thing that we don't need to debate, though - file sharing has been rising for many years. Just ten years ago it was a very niche activity, but sites like Napster were beginning to form. At the time members of the public were jumping on board with it and the law simply couldn't keep up with the fast pacing changes. Over the few years after this, more and more services were being created which did fundamentally the same thing. LimeWire was something of particular note, it made file sharing much easier for the average person. You didn't need any skills or technical knowledge to do it, which is why pirating music became so popular. This gave a huge problem to the record labels who really didn't know how to react, their profits were being cut and the only thing they could do was to launch legal action - which is exactly what they did. This is what started the huge fight that still continues today. The first target was Napster which was one of the first in the industry to allow users to share files. Due to all activity going through a central server, the Government simply launched an attack on the server which completely destroyed the network, nobody was able to connect. Future software changed to get around this problem by making them decentralized - they no longer required a single server and therefore became much more difficult to shut down. One of these networks we should talk about is Ares Galaxy, a piece of software that was created in 2005 and is still around today. Most of the tools that were created around that time have already shut down, so it's interesting to think about why this one is any different. It has had to adapt over the years, originally running on its own peer-to-peer file sharing network but now using the common BitTorrent protocol. This gives users the maximum flexibility when they're looking for something in particular. So, what can we take from all of this? File sharing is and looks set to be something in modern society. No matter how much attention the Government puts into it, it's likely that it will continue to be used, albeit in different ways. In fact even in recent years things have been changing rapidly. We'll just have to sit back and see what happens to the future of this industry. It's going to be an interesting ride, that's for sure.