File Sharing Continues, Despite Legal Efforts

July 20, 2012

USENET is utilized for file sharing that goes far beyond anything involving copyright infringement. Take down orders have caused legitimate websites to have to remove content that they could legally display, simply because the takedown orders were issued erroneously. On the USENET system and on torrent sites, there is little evidence to indicate that the legal actions taken against some of the most notorious sites have done anything to discourage file sharing among young people.

A study by the group Cybernorms at Lund University, referenced in a TorrentFreak article, https://torrentfreak.com/the-pirate-bay-partners-with-academic-researchers-to-counter-propaganda-120509/ that the numbers of people aged 15 to 25 who engage in file sharing have remained stable, despite legal efforts to restrict the activity. One of the reasons that the study gives for this continued activity is quite simply that the people doing the sharing don’t believe that they’re doing anything wrong.

Sweden has a different relationship with file sharing than does the United States and, for that matter, most of the rest of the European Union. In the United States, Congress has been almost constantly lobbied by industry advocates pushing for more and more restrictive laws on Internet access designed to restrict file sharing. In July of 2012, US ISPs will begin monitoring Internet activity on behalf of the entertainment industry and sending out warnings and, in some cases, cutting user services because of alleged file sharing.

Hearts and Minds

While the entertainment industry has been moderately successful – more so in the UK and European Union than they have in the United States – at implementing new laws designed to restrict file sharing activity, the study by Lund University shows that they have more or less failed at winning the sympathies of the public. In addition to this, laws that have been passed and the bans that have been placed on some websites have failed to prevent people from accessing them. Getting around a website or USENET block is no more difficult than getting a VPN service and encrypting the traffic.

Dangerous vs. Wrong

A researcher quoted in the TorrentFreak article notes that, among the studied users, the industry efforts to censor and prosecute websites and USENET services that are involved in file sharing only make users that frequently them feel like they are in more danger, but those laws fail to make users feel like they are doing anything wrong. In fact, a different study by the same organization showed that the usage of VPN networks among 15 to 25-year-olds has gone up 40 percent since 2009.

Some USENET services utilize SSL encryption to provide privacy when users are downloading. Despite the many industry actions and statements to the contrary, much of the file sharing on USENET is legal and done for legitimate purposes, though it may be interfered with by ISPs in the near future.

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