File-sharing Networks

1. International Nature of File-sharing Community

Figure 1. Six most popular peer-to-peer sites (Hachman, 2010).

Websites Servers location Host country
baidu.com China China
isohunt.com Canada Canada
mp3fiesta.com Russia Ukraine
radpidshare.com Germany Germany
RMX4U.com United States (North Carolina) Luxemburg (shutdown 10/2010)
thepiratebay.org Germany (Belgium, Russia) Sweden
Noteworthy sites
napster.com U.S. (San Diego) United States (changed 07/ 2001)
limewire.com U.S. (California) United States (shutdown 10/ 2010)
movies-links.tv U.S. (Pennsylvania) United States (shutdown 07/ 2010)

Since the appearance of Napster in 1998, purchasing digital music tracks online gradually becomes a popular phenomenon internationally. As to be shown in the previous section, the switch from physical purchasing to digital purchasing does not completely benefit the recording industry. On the contrary, countries that have the biggest music market in the world including the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, France and Germany are strongly impacted by this transition. There are six notable peer-to-peer sites that are considered to contribute the most to music file-sharing community world-wide (Figure 1). Each site is hosted in different countries (Hachman, 2010). Digital pirating activities are essentially global-wide.

These websites offer BitTorrent programs. They have servers in countries that are out of the jurisdiction of the U.S. authority (Figure 1). For companies proved to facilitate music piracy that rent servers in the U.S., they were shut down by the federal agencies. For instance, RMX4U.com and four other peer-to-peer sites were shutdown in November 2010 by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The closure resulted from illegal file-sharing activities which  involve not only music products but also movies, games, and software products.

2. Sweden The Pirate Bay

With estimated 22 million users, The Pirate Bay is considered to be the biggest enemy of the entertainment industry in the U.S. and in the world (Wong, 2009). During its seven years of existence, many law-suits have been filed against The Pirate Bay. The most recent litigation occurred in 2009 where four men facilitating the site’s operation were sentenced to a year in prison individually. They were also fined $4.3 million collectively by Stockholm’s District Court. However, this case is being appealed to the Supreme Court of Sweden. The process could take years before a verdict is final (Simonsson, 2010). Until then, The Pirate Bay still offers file-sharing community the most up-to-date music album releases.

In 2008, a UK based anti-piracy firm named Web Sheriff intended to file law-suits in Sweden and in the U.S. against The Pirate Bay for 100 million dollars. The thread was then neutralized by Peter Sunde, a former spoken man and a co-founder of the site, stating that the U.S. law is inapplicable in Sweden (The Pirate Bay, 2008). Currently, The Pirate Bay is still working openly in the U.S.

More interestingly, one country that entirely blocks The Pirate Bay from their citizens’ eyes is the People’s Republic of China. That might result from pornographic materials which are made available for registered users only. That does not mean Chinese artists are immune from music piracy because they already have Baidu.com. Some estimation shows that Baidu is responsible for distributing around 50% of the unauthorized online music content in China (Lamy, Duckworth, & Kennedy, 2010).

Back to the Pirate Bay case, some experts say that it would be very difficult to stop the site because The Pirate Bay contains only torrent files. Their servers do not store any copyrighted or illegal materials like Napster case in 2001 or Limewire case in 2010. Hence, it is impossible to accuse them for copyright law infringement. Some people suggest that an implementation of the current intellectual properties law might help to shed light on this issue.

3. Uploading Community

There are many other personal websites called blogs where people can share their favorite music tracks or videos to their friends. These activities are especially popular in this social-networking age. A friend in Vietnam can upload a sound track of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way to their blog. Their friends studying in the U.S., then, can download and save this song to their computers. To many countries, this process is considered a legitimate practice. The effect of such blogging activities to the music industry of the U.S. might not be as big as the peer-to-peer sites. But these bloggers are still one link in the chain. Hence, they should also be considered when one tries to resolve the music piracy problem as a whole.


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