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Internet Piracy Essay

1499 words - 6 pages

In recent years, internet piracy or "file sharing" of copyrighted material has gained much popularity. It is a topic that has incessantly sparked debate and has even received global attention. Although on the surface the act of file sharing may seem harmless, it is far from it. Each year, film and record production companies as well as software and video game development companies suffer from billions of dollars in lost profits. This loss comes as a direct result of internet piracy. Many agree that file sharing is unethical and consider it to be no different than downright theft. On the other hand, there are those that support file sharing and claim that their actions are easily ...view middle of the document...

As one might have guessed, this content is not all free from copyright. In fact, the majority of the media and software that is distributed is copyrighted.

The process of sharing files is one that is not necessarily new. FTP (File Transfer Protocol) has existed and been heavily used prior to the inception of e-mail. The growth of file sharing on P2P networks and other file sharing methods can probably be attributed to the advances in audio compression in the mid 90's. Specifically, the compression format known as MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 or "MP3" for short has allowed for music and other audio content to be transferred into a highly compressed format whilst still retaining (close to) the quality of the original source. Shortly after this format became available, individuals around the world began "backing up" their music collections and sharing these small MP3 files with friends. Individuals began to upload full length albums to web sites that offered free hosting. Inevitably, it was recognized by the web hosts and the copyrighted files began to quickly disappear. Frustrated, these individuals began to look for alternate means to distribute their music. In 1999, "Napster," the first P2P application was developed. Without a doubt, Napster is responsible for the growth in file sharing popularity as its main focus was to offer an easy way for users to share their music collection. Today, file sharing and internet piracy has grown to new proportions. Not only have additional applications and methods been developed, but broadband internet access has become faster and more affordable. This combination is already having a huge impact on the film, music, and software industry and the problem is growing rapidly as file sharing becomes more widespread.

With its rise in popularity and acceptance by many, file sharing has sparked debate that questions the ethics of those that embrace it. In the United States, the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material is illegal. Thus, is the sharing of copyrighted files also illegal or should it be considered theft? Does the digital format in which the files are transferred protect the distributors from the law? These questions are just a couple of the many that arise and are argued by advocates and opponents alike.
Proponents of file sharing often suggest that information should be "free." They feel that they have a right to the information contained within the content they distribute and that such distribution is a form of expression. American supporters sometimes justify these rights by citing the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The First Amendment pledges that "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech..." They equate the distribution of copyrighted material with freedom of speech and expression.

Advocates of file sharing also support the notion that internet piracy has no economic impact and/or if it does, the impact is insignificant and...

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