Ever since the internet was created, people have been finding new and unique ways of sharing information. The internet is a whole other world, in which you can find or search just about anything. Whether it be how to make the perfect chocolate chip cookies or how to change the font in Microsoft Word, the answers are all there, readily available to be consumed. It’s human nature to want to share your knowledge with others and the internet is one of the easiest platforms to do so.
How Peer to Peer Networks Work
A peer to peer network allows two people using the same program to connect and share information in the form of data files, from one another’s hard drive’s. These files could be anything from music, movies, photo’s and even applications. Peer to peer networks facilitate these data transfers by allowing access to the host’s computer. They are able to diagnose and determine which connection is considered the best based of off internet speed, and number of router hop’s needed to facilitate the exchange. I had always been skeptical about using peer-to-peer networks in the past because I had heard about horror stories about people obtaining viruses from files received and completely crashing their computers. That was the last thing I needed in my university years as I could barely afford to eat let alone pay for a new computer. Once I started living with my roommates, I suddenly realized that it was more common than I thought. It wasn’t just the 40 year old living with their parent’s basement streaming the new spiderman movie anymore, it was normal 20 year olds such as my self, tormenting their textbooks in order to get ahead. They quickly showed me the ropes and before I knew it, I was off and running, downloading anything I wanted. I quickly realized that there are many different sites to choose from in order to get your desired files. Sites such as Pirate Bay, isoHunt and many more offer torrents uploaded by other users. Once you download a torrent to your computer, you can then put the torrent into a program such as uTorrent which will extract the encrypted files for you.
One glaring problem with peer to peer networks is that the rate in which the transfer occurs is generally at the speed of an upload. In other words its very slow, So Bram Cohen developed BitTorrent in order to curb this problem. BitTorrent takes a file and breaks it down into little pieces which allow for faster downloading speeds. When you think about it, its makes perfect sense. In order to create faster download speeds, break up a massive file into smaller segments. Another feature that makes BitTorrent unique is that the program offers higher download rates to users who allow the downloaded file to seed. Seeding means that the downloader allows the file to be shared with other users. This is entices users to seed which produces increased download rates. The video below does a nice job of explaining BitTorrent.
Legality of Peer to Peer Networks
There are many questions surrounding the legality of peer to peer networks and file sharing. The legal issues come into play when sharing copyrighted content without the consent of the artist or owner. A copyright protects the artist over various mediums such as a CD, DVD or the internet. So if I were to share Avicii’s new album over a peer to peer network without the consent of himself, it would be considered illegal. Although everyone does it, including myself from time to time, this is not a valid excuse to use. There are many platforms in which we can obtain our media legally. These outlets range from iTunes to Beatport and only cost around a dollar a song on average. A main reason why I think people, especially students, use these peer sharing networks is because we do not have the disposable income to throw away at a cost of a dollar per song when it is so easy to rip one off of a peer network. Although it is not the ethical thing to do, until laws become steeper and more strict, I don’t see anything changing with regards to piracy and peer networks. It’s just too easy. This notion is reinforced by this CBC news article stating that tougher laws won’t stop internet piracy.
Overall, as a generation we are finding new ways to share information with each other, using tools such as peer to peer networks to do so. As the internet evolves, so too will different programs and applications which will allow us to share anything we want. With this being said, it is up to us to determine what is ethically appropriate and what is not.