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What Is Online Piracy

Updated on May 24, 2012

Online piracy, also known as peer to peer (P2P) file sharing is, in a nutshell, theft of digital files. One person hosts a file (such as a song, movie, program, etc) through a P2P program and anyone else with that program installed on their computer can then download the file from the host while the host retains his original file. After the download is complete, the new user can allow the program to continue sharing the file they downloaded to increase download speeds for other users who may want the file as well. Most shared files are copyrighted and it is not legal to download them for free.

Online piracy has been an issue for many years, specifically since 1997 with the launch of MP3.com. Record companies, movie studios, artists, actors, program developers, and many more people lose money through online piracy.

Significant Events In Online Piracy

  • 1997 - MP3.com is launched. At it's peak it delivers 4,000,000 file shares daily. In 2000, MP3.com lost a lawsuit filed by UMG and agree to pay $200,000,000 as well as discontinue their service.
  • 1998 - Audiogalaxy launched their P2P client, Audiogalaxy Satellite. In 2002, a lawsuit by the RIAA forced Audiogalaxy to block the illegal sharing of audio files.
  • 1999 - Napster is created and at it's peak had 26,400,000 users. Napster shut down to comply with an injunction in 2001.
  • 2000 - Scour Exchange is launched to compete with Napster but is quickly shut down in October, filing for bankruptcy due to copyright infringement.
  • 2001 - Kazaa is released. In 2003 the RIAA began filing lawsuits against individuals sharing files on Kazaa. In 2006, Kazaa settles a lawsuit for $100,000,000 and agrees to allow only legal files.
  • 2001 - BitTorrent is released.
  • 2001 - Limewire is released.
  • 2003 - isoHunt, a torrent file index, is founded.
  • 2003 - Demonoid, a torrent file index, is founded.
  • 2003 - Torrentspy, a torrent file index, is founded. In 2008, Torrentspy is shut down and ordered to pay the MPAA $110,000,000 in damages
  • 2003 - ThePirateBay, a torrent file index, is founded. Many legal actions have been taken against the company as well as a police raid in 2006. ThePirateBay remains online.
  • 2004 - The RIAA files another 750 lawsuits against file sharers.
  • 2005 - Mininova, a torrent file index, goes online. By 2008, Mininova had served over 5,000,000,000 downloads.
  • 2006 - Razorback2, a torrent file index, is raided and shut down.
  • 2006 - RapidShare is founded.
  • 2007 - RIAA sues Usenet.com.
  • 2007 - Capitol v. Thomas. A file sharer loses the first lawsuit by a major record label and is ordered to pay $222,000 for 24 songs ($9,250 per song). The lawsuit was vacated due to an error in jury instruction. A new trail was held in 2009. The file sharer again lost and was ordered to pay $1,920,000 for sharing 24 songs ($80,000 per song).
  • 2007 - Demonoid shuts down.
  • 2008 - TorrentSpy shuts down due to the hostile legal climate. TorrentSpy is later ordered to pay $110,000,000 in damages.
  • 2008 - Demonoid comes back online.
  • 2009 - ThePirateBay goes to trial. Guilty verdict. Each defendant sentenced to 1 year in jail and a total of $3,600,000 in fines and damages. In 2010 the sentences were later shortened but fines increased.
  • 2009 - Mininova removes all copyright torrents.
  • 2009 - BtChina and 530 other sites registered in China are shut down.
  • 2011 - An attempt to sue Limewire for $75,000,000,000,000 ($75 trillion) is announced.
  • 2012 - MegaUpload is seized and shut down by US Department of Justice. Owners of the website are arrested.
  • 2012 - Fileserve and Filesonic both voluntarily stop all sharing services.
  • 2012 - Btjunkie voluntarily shuts down.


*This is just a list of significant events, there are numerous other events*

Downloaders Vs Sharers

While many people are becoming more and more afraid of illegal downloading, it seems that the RIAA and others are mostly interested in suing and stopping the people who are sharing files and the people that are making the sharing possible. Very few cases seem to be against individuals that were strictly downloading and not sharing downloaded files.

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