A Brief History of File Sharing

In the beginning,
there was the internet,

    ...and it was good.

For the first time, computers could talk to each other,
whether they were in the next room or on the other side of the country.

Computers talk to each other by exchanging information. The reason they want to talk to
each other is access more information.

In digital terms, to share files. 

People began using their computers to access remote files 0n other people's computers using
file system mounting on Usenet (1980), and FTP servers (1985). As time went by, more and more people wanted to access more and more files and long story short, the internet was born!

When mp3 encoding was standardized in 1991, audio files became much smaller - ergo, easier
to post and easier to download.




In June 1999, Napster pulled out onto the information superhighway. Napster was an online music peer-to-peer file sharing that allowed people to easily share their MP3 files with others.

So it was that the file wars began.

on December 7, 1999, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed a lawsuit against Napster for facilitating the  transfer of copyright materials.

The RIAA felt Napster was the spawn of Satan. When Metallica found out that an unreleased demo of one of their songs was available on Napster, they thought so too and filed suit. A month later, so did Dr. Dre.

Napster's defenders included many music lovers, including 'underground' labels and musicians like Radiohead, Chuck D from Public Enemy and dj xealot.

The publicity surrounding the case raised Napster's profile considerably- soon, more than 26 million people had signed up.

Be that as it may, Napster was shut down in July 2001. Sort of...


The RIAA had won. Napster was off the grid.

The lawsuit, though, had introduced millions of people to downloading music from the internet. What had been an underground activity of highly motivated music geeks became a household word.

The RIAA had won the battle, but who exactly would win the war on sharing was, and still is,
an open question.


Post-Napster, other sites and software programs have come along...
Gnutella, eDonkey,, Kazaa, Audiogalaxy Satellite, LimeWire, BitTorrent and Pirate Bay...


The Industrial approach has not resolved anything. It's made a lot of money for a lot of lawyers, but it has not made the world a better, safer place for copyright holders.

It's started a digital game of 'whack-a-mole'.

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