Code Wars

Code Wars

10 Years of P2P Software Litigation

Rebecca Giblin

With reference to US, UK, Canadian and Australian secondary liability regimes, this insightful book develops a compelling new theory to explain why a decade of ostensibly successful litigation failed to reduce the number, variety or availability of P2P file sharing applications – and highlights ways the law might need to change if it is to have any meaningful effect in future.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Rebecca Giblin

Subjects: law - academic, intellectual property law

Extract

The P2P phenomenon In 1998 a college dropout called Shawn Fanning wrote a little application called Napster, and the way content was delivered to consumers changed forever. Those few lines of code launched owners of the copyrights in music, movies, books and games into a death battle to protect traditional revenue streams and preserve their exclusive right to new ones. In previous decades they’d felt threatened by plenty of other technologies, including the phonograph, radio, photocopier and VCR, but they had never before faced such a Hydraean opponent. In the next decade, they expensively and lengthily litigated three major actions against P2P providers in US courts, and then a fourth action in Australia. In all that time not a single P2P provider ultimately emerged victorious. Sooner or later, every single one was held liable for the copyright infringements of its users. Against any one of those predecessor technologies, that kind of emphatic victory would surely have brought about compromise or obliteration. But P2P file sharing software proved different. Unfazed by the overwhelming legal successes of rights holders, software developers continued creating new programs that facilitated file sharing between individual users. By 2007 there were more individual P2P applications available than there had ever been before. The average number of users sharing files on P2P file sharing networks at any one time was nudging 10 million,1 and it was estimated P2P traffic had grown to comprise up to 90 percent of all global internet traffic.2 At that point, rights holders...