Integrating Law and Economics
Chapter 4: Napster and Peer-to-Peer
4.1 INTRODUCTION File-sharing services provide to web users the ability to find and download files from other computer hard drives by typing an appropriate title, word or phrase. For example, a student interested in the Civil War can find and download material from other user hard drives by entering the phrase ‘Abraham Lincoln’. In addition to documents, software and photographs, file-sharing can enable the unauthorized transfer and copying of copyrighted music, books and movie files that can be ‘ripped’ from CDs or otherwise loaded to hard drives on personal computers. The unauthorized reproduction of any copyrighted material can displace original sales and licensing opportunities and therefore presents concerns for copyright owners. File-sharing can entail at least four topologies. In the first generation, Napster, Scour, Aimster/Madster, Audiogalaxy and iMesh routed file requests through central directories that located and accessed donor hard drives with tracks that could be copied. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) successfully pursued litigation against these services and led to their eventual demise or legitimacy. In a second generation, KaZaa and Grokster use a network configuration that routes file requests through directories that are installed regionally on user computers. In a third layer of file-sharing services, smaller providers – such as Morpheus, BearShare and Limewire – use open source Gnutella programs to locate material without routing requests through any directory whatever. In a prospective fourth generation, Freenet will migrate encoded content across the web with perfect user anonymity. Facing a rapidly growing problem, record labels, music publishers and movie...
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