Should we ban P2P file sharing? By kavinyao, Yao December, 2009 Intro Peer to peer (P2P) computing, which is a specific implementation of distributed computing, has been described as a most promising technology since it can be applied to many fields and it has made great contributions. P2P file sharing, or P2P file exchanging, is one typical application of P2P and one caused great debates as well. In this paper, I will introduce the general theory of P2P file sharing, the features and drawbacks of P2P file sharing and the current situation of piracy via P2P networks.
In the end, I will present possible solutions to help solve the piracy problem caused by P2P file sharing. Part I What is P2P file sharing? The simplest concept of P2P is: Every client as a server. To be more explicit, we use the term node instead of client to differentiate it from client-server mode, which was in dominant use before P2P file sharing appeared. In client-server mode, if anyone would like to download a file, he/she needs to link to a server where the required file is stored.
Since the bandwidth of the server is fixed, large amount of client links will finally lead to lower downloading speed. This is within bearing if the file size is small, but when it comes to large files of several gigabytes, that will cost both time and patience. The P2P network does just the opposite thing! If more people are connected to you, you are expected to get a faster downloading speed. Sounds magic, doesn’t it? But that is solid truth. That is why so many people like to use P2P file sharing.
Actually, a P2P file sharing network can be set up using different indexing modes. Here I would like to focus on the pure P2P file sharing system which runs without any centralized control and where the software running at each node is equivalent in functionality. There are just slight differences between these networks compared to the different between P2P and the client-server mode. Now the P2P file sharing technology has developed to the third generation and Bit Torrent and Emule are two typical examples of such technology. Part II A more efficient way to downloading
As is described above, in a pure P2P file sharing system, each node is equivalent in functionality and if you connect to this kind of system, you will get connected to a certain number of nodes which are connected to even more nodes. Through these nodes, you can search files, query downloading information and link to more nodes quickly and efficiently. The speed of two nodes is usually slow compared with the speed between a client and a server, but since you can download the same file from large number of different nodes simultaneously, you can often get a speed to the maximum of your bandwidth.
Besides faster downloading speed you can get, there are other benefits we can get from P2P network, e. g. , easy file sharing. Before the appearance of P2P, if people want to share their files, they have to rent a server, store the files on it, connect the server to the Internet and then others can access to the server to get the files. But now P2P saves you all these troubles. You can just select files to make them visible for others to search and if other people are interested in them, they can download them. All these can be accomplished just using P2P software, such as Emule.
What’s more, since there is no real server in P2P networks, losing response to one or several nodes does not affect your overall download speed. But in client-server mode, if you lose response of the server, you will have to get started again. Thus, we can conclude that P2P makes file sharing stabler and smoother. People will not be blind to such a fascinating technology. Since 2000, P2P downloading has had a boom and in 2006, the total P2P bandwidth could occupy 50%-70% of total Internet bandwidth. Part III P2P does do evil
With faster and stabler downloading, you may consider that P2P file sharing as the best way to downloading and sharing. You should hear the P2P non-enthusiasts’ voice. The fast speed P2P brings to us does not come out of the void. Rather, it needs each node to contribute a little and only with all the nodes making contributions, can the whole network work properly. so, a person using P2P sharing usually make the most of bandwidth he gets and people shares bandwidth with him/her won’t have enough bandwidth to do Internet-based tasks.
This is also what makes the ISPs so anxious. Take Japan as example, the P2P users that make up 10% of all Internet users in Japan hog up to 75% of bandwidth resources and 1% of all Internet users in Japan consume 63% of that 75% share. What terrible statistics it is! You may still consider the P2P best solution to downloading by saying that you will try not to affect others when using P2P. That’s true. Almost all the P2P softwares can control the maximum download and upload speed. But there are still factors you are not able to control. Not all the others are as kind as you.
With the benefit of anonymous connection, hackers could do harm to your computer by attaching viruses and spywares to files you are interested in. And since the network is anonymous, you can get in touch with all the files others share. Among those files, can anyone guarantee that there are no improper materials that either make you disgusting or contain illegal things? Apart from the reasons above, there is another one why so many people are against P2P file sharing. The reason is: the piracy problem. Part IV Bloody truth about piracy Who is the biggest protester against P2P file sharing?
The Hollywood movie makers are. The figure below can tell you why. In 2006, thanks to piracy, the movie industry lost 6. 1 billion according to a study by the MPAA, The Motion Picture Association of America. And losses due to Internet piracy were about $2. 3 billion globally. Of the 14 billion videos U. S. households download annually, 12 billion are pirated copies obtained through P2P file sharing services, according to a new report from In-Stat. The anonymous connections of P2P network make pirate contents spread so easily! Along with them are other industries like music industry, software industry and game industry.
Pirates caused the software industry to lose nearly US$48 billion in sales in 2008 according to the latest annual study commissioned by the Business Software Alliance. What makes the situation even more frustrating is that it is hard to trace people who are sharing pirate movies, music, softwares and so many other things which are intellectually protected. And since in some countries, such as the USA, where citizens have a strong right of privacy, it is illegal to just break into their computers and show that they are downloading or sharing pirate contents. Part V Ban it or not?
Maybe the best way to stop piracy is to stop the entire P2P networking systems, as many Hollywood movie makers and ISPs considers. The Hollywood movie makers have kept filing lawsuits against pirate downloading through P2P networks. Recently, Xunlei Technology Inc. , a Chinese Internet content provider, has received lawsuits from several American movie makers due to illegal file sharing through Thunder, a software developed by the company for P2P sharing. Since the very origin of P2P file sharing, ISPs have never stop finding ways to ban P2P traffic. Little progress has been made, though.
Now, more and more ISPs are joining the war against P2P. Exetel, a major Australian ISP, has announced that it may take a radical measure and ban p2p (peer-to-peer) network traffic during the first two hours of its ‘off-peak’ period. American ISP Tele2 has complied with the injunction and blocked its customers from accessing The Pirate Bay, a website that hosts torrents, or small information files used to download larger files from the Bit Torrent peer-to-peer (P2P) network. With joint efforts made by ISPs and movie producers, Pirate Bay, the world’s largest bit torrent hoster, is closed down a month ago.
However, there are rightful uses of P2P file sharing still, including software distribution, and media delivering for companies. For many Linux OS organizations which do not make profits from their softwares and which only rely on donations, P2P seems the best way to save their expenses on distribution. Also, companies like BBC and CCTV have released their own desktop client or browser plug-in which is based on P2P technology and which brings faster transmission of programmes to audiences who prefer to watch TV on their computers.
Part VI Suggestions for users, for ISPs, for entertainment industry As we can see, P2P file sharing is really a two-edged sword. Its advantages and the problems it brings make it difficult for people to simply decide to accept or reject it. Before I give my suggestions, I would like to share with you two trends. One trend is about the growth of offline sharing of ripped movies and music. As p2p-weblog. com reported, “The ‘social’ ripping and burning of CDs among friends — which takes place offline and almost entirely out of reach of industry policing efforts — accounted for 37 percent of all music consumption, more than file-sharing. The other one is about the decline of P2P traffic since the appearance of streaming videos. It is reported in this September on p2pon. com that the P2P traffic is down to approximately 18% of all North American traffic. Just consider that only two years ago the P2P accounted for 37% of all North American traffic. Arbor Networks, an Internet research company, says that streaming video is replacing P2P. Services like YouTube, Spotify, iPlayer, Hulu and Netflix now all allow legal access to the same content, in many cases significantly more easily than a P2P download.
So, we get the keywords: easy legal access. It is the proliferation of portable and writable media, from CDs and DVDs to PC card, USB, and external hard drives that made offline pirate content sharing possible. With fast developing of technologies, dare anyone say that there will not be new ways of piracy that are even harder to trace? Copyright holders and ISPs should be aware that P2P is just a small part of the technology explosion. If this issue is viewed from a different angle, maybe they can get the problem solved more easily.
If people can get legal access to movies, music and softwares easily at little cost or even for free, there will not be a fool waste his time and efforts which could be saved to take pleasure downloading them through P2P networks or ripping them from DVDs at risks of being charged, I believe. Here comes my suggestion: users, ISPs and the entertainment industry should work together. For users, since exchanging pirate contents are illegal and of huge risks, why not turn to easily accessed contents on YouTube?
You can enjoy the same fun and that saves you all the trouble of downloading, waiting and worries of being charged. You can also download legal music and movies on iTunes store at relatively low prices. For ISPs, more efforts should be paid to distinguish illegal P2P traffic from illegal traffic. This may be challenging but is certainly of great benefits. For the entertainment industry, the days when movies could only be shown in cinemas or sold in solid formats have passed.
The decision maker should open their minds to distribute their products in various ways, paid downloading, iTunes store, free but low-quality viewing on YouTube, etc. They have to do these for the sake of profits, and, for the sake of audience. Summary A technology as P2P is, it depends on the people who use it how it can be used. It is not the P2P to blame for serious piracy these days. With the right tools and application management platforms, P2P traffic can be identified, classified, controlled – and eventually built into revenue generating services.
References: 1. Chonggang Wang Bo Li, Peer-to-Peer Overlay Networks: A Survey 2. Sean McCarthy, Bijit Hore, Ilya Issenin, Shannon Tauro, Songmei Han, Survey on P2P File Sharing System 3. Benjamin Craig, Evaluating Centralized, Hierarchical and Networked Architectures for Rule Systems 4. Tejal Patel, Peer-to-Peer Grid 5. wikipedia. org, Peer-to-peer 6. zeropaid. com, Aussie ISP Wants to Ban P2P Traffic on Off-Peak Hours 7. bit-tech. net, 45% of all traffic is P2P, say Sandvine 8. cnbeta. com, BT?????????? ?? VeryCD???? 9. afterdawn. om, Canadian ISP admits limiting P2P traffic 10. pcadvisor. co. uk, ISP to battle Pirate Bay P2P ban 11. p2pon. com, ISP: We Will Ban P2P Traffic 12. p2pon. com, P2P Traffic in North America Drops Almost by 50% 13. zdnet. com, Japan’s ISPs agree to ban P2P pirates 14. lightreading. com, Controlling P2P Traffic 15. p2p-weblog. com, Stop Blaming P2P 16. arstechnica. com, P2P traffic drops as streaming video grows in popularity 17. Pocket-lint. com, P2P traffic steadily dropping 18. readwriteweb. com, Trend Watch: P2P Traffic Much Bigger Than Web Traffic