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Peer-To-Peer Networks

Page history last edited by Emily Hymes 11 years, 10 months ago



Peer to Peer Networking Defined


The definition of a network is a collection of computers, software, and hardware that are all connected to allow their users to work together and share work amongst themselves.  [1] This allows many computers, perhaps in a small business capacity, to be able to share files and resources, such as printers, and to allow ease of access with e-mail. [1] Peer to Peer networking consists of a group of computers that are able to share files without having to be connected to a central dedicated server. [1]  Peer to Peer networking is used in many small business settings as a way to work internally and exchange information easily.  Peer to Peer has recently come to describe applications in which users can use the Internet to exchange files with each other or through a mediating server. [2]  Peer to peer networking serves to benefit small business by allowing users to share files among computers in a singular office.  When these networks are expanded to include world populations and the sharing of digital files there are legal implications.  Peer to peer networks result in "file-swapping."  This kind of behavior involves the sharing of copyrighted digital music, movies, and software from computer to computer.  This kind of peer to peer networking often involves transmission of this copyrighted material over long distances with unknown users.   Over time there has been a radical increase in the amount of peer to peer networks available for file-swapping allowing great user freedom.  The large amounts of people utilizing these networks are sharing information that is copyrighted and this places financial distress on the software industry, the recording industry, and the motion pictures industry.

Peer-To-Peer Networks In Society


 Some of these networks, such as Limewire, are fully functioning networks at this time.  These networks allow the user to download files, save to a personal computer, and then copy the downloaded material onto CD's, IPods, or DVD's for personal use.  The industries who produce this material find fault with those who download and use the information for personal use without purchasing the material.  The recording, software, and move industries equate this to stealing.

Napster-The First P2P Network


Napster was the first peer to peer network that took off and is commonly referred to a first-generation network. It was founded in May of 1999 by a college drop-out by the name of Shawn Fanning. [3]  It's premise was very simply and the interface was very easy to use which attracted people immediately.  The system consisted of a central server that indexed all of the files a user had. [4]  When a user requested a certain file, the central server would provide a list of clients who had that file in their possession. [4]  It was then up to the user to simply choose a source to download from and begin the download.  Once the download was complete the user would then store the downloaded information on his or her own personal computer.  The central server was very sensible in that it allowed an efficient way to handle searches and keep control over the network.[4] 


The Downfall of Napster


As Napster exploded onto the scene and became a household name there also came controversey.  Napster was sued in December of 1999 by the Recording Industry Association of America for copyright infringement. [3]  On April 13, 2000 Napster was sued by the heavy metal rock group Metallica for racketeering and copyright infringement. [3]  Two weeks later Dr. Dre filed a lawsuit as well. [3]  It would seem as though the world of peer to peer networking was ending just as it was beginning.  In fact, in July of 2006 Napster was ordered to shut down in U.S. district court. [3]  However, Napster after filing bankruptcy, was brought back to life by tecnological giant Roxio [3] and was most recently acquired by Best Buy.  However, because of the legal trouble in Napster's beginning the post-lawsuit Napster was never the same.  Instead it was set up as a pay service and has continued to play second fiddle to iTunes.  Napster did, however, pave the way for the second generation peer-to-peer networks that have not suffered the same fate as Napster, such as Gnutella and Kazaa.


Gnutella, Kazaa, and Limwire


Gnutella emerged with the same key ideas as Napster, but without the central server.  Unlike Napster, Gnutella is not a Web site, but an arrangement in which you can see the files of a small number of other Gnutella users at a time, and they in turn can see the files of others, in a kind of daisy-chain effect. Gnutella also allows you to download any file type, whereas Napster is limited to MP3 music files. [5]   This software has risen in popularity and like Napster, has allowed people the opportunity to download software and files and share them with other Internet users.  Gnutella is the premise behind the peer-to-peer networks in existence today.  Kazaa and Limeware have been carrying on the Gnutella tradition, each in their own separate ways.  Kazaa keeps the peer-to-peer idea alive by using software called Kazaa to enable people to participate in dowloading information from other users with the same software, without the use of a centralized server.  Kazaa comes with adware and spyware that is downloaded with the program and must also be running on the computer in order for Kazaa to function appropriately.  Limewire does not contain adware or spyware and runs without the use of centralized server as well. [6]


Dangers of Peer to Peer Networks


  • Copyright infringement-Many of the items contained on peer-to-peer networks are copyrighted music, movies, games, and software.  The chances of dowloading these copyright protected files onto a computer are great.  Users need to be aware of the content they are downloading to ensure they are not participating in copyright infringment.  Copyright infringement is punishable by the law and can result in jail time or fines.
  • Child Explotation and Obscenity-Because of the open network that is provided under the peer-to-peer network format, the opportunity is present for people to put pornographic images and child pornography on their computers and make it available for download.  Possession of child pornography is punishable by law and having pornographic material on one's computer can make it accessible by minors.
  • Computer Hacking-Some of the files and programs available for download contain items that become attached to the computer.  These items aid others in gaining personal information contained on ones personal computer.  Some files can contain software that becomes intalled and is able to transmit credit card and social security information to a third party as an indivdual uses these numbes to make purchases, etc.  This kind of malicious behavior greatly contributes to identity theft.


Social Impact


Peer to peer networks are often mentioned in conjunction with Digital Piracy.  The intent of the peer to peer system is not to make the file-sharing of copyrighted material easily accessible.  However, with the programs that are in place to allow file sharing many times this is the case.  It is up to each individual to investigate the material they are choosing to download.  If someone is in doubt about a file, the obvious solution would be to avoid the file altogether.  Many people now, however, do not seem to find anything morally or legally wrong with obtaining copyrighted information from the internet via a peer-to-peer network.  Peer-to-peer networks were designed for the budding musician and software designer to be able to get their products out there at no cost to them.  In many ways, peer-to-peer networks have promoted the small-time bands and artists in ways that may not otherwise be popular. 


Implications for Media Ecology

Media ecology is very much concerned with the way in which new media forms affect humans beings and implicate their lives.  Peer-to-peer networking allows great freedom in the world of business as it allows many different computers in the same office to link together and share information. However, this same system can lead to legal issues as well.  When a network is established outside the confines of the office and used to share copyrighted information such as movies or music, laws are being violated.  Given the legal trouble of these kinds of networks users must be aware of how their participation in these may land them in legal trouble down the road.  Because the ability to share digital information globally has reached epidemic proportions the groups banding together to fight digital piracy have multiplied as well.  The future is yet to be determined for these networks as the battle continues to be fought with those who approve the use of peer-to-peer networks and those who staunchly disapprove.



Works Cited


[1] “Computer Networking.” TecsChange:Technology for Social Change. TecsChange. 20 Nov. 2008 http://www.tecschange.org/networks/network-syllabus.html 


[2]  "Definitions." United States Government Copyright Office. 2008. U.S.Copyright Office. 20 Nov. 2008 http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-definitions.html


[3]  "History of the Case:Napster.” CBS News. 22 Nov. 2008 http://www.cbsnews.com/htdocs/napster/timeline.html 

[4]  Pretre, Baptiste. "Attacks On Peer To Peer Networks." 2005. Distributed Computing Group. 22 Nov. 2008 http://dcg.ethz.ch/theses/ss05/freenet.pdf


[5] "Gnutella." What is.com. 22 Nov. 2008  http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/0,,sid9_gci345266,00.html


[6]  "Kazaa VS. LimeWire." 20 Sep. 2005. CDRInfo. 22 Nov. 2008 http://www.cdrinfo.com/Sections/Reviews/Specific.aspx?ArticleId=15064&PageId=3















Comments (1)

Jeff Martinek said

at 5:25 pm on Dec 9, 2008


Can you link this to the MP3 article?


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