Book of the Day: Code Wars

Code Wars: 10 Years of P2P Software Litigation. Rebecca Giblin. 2012

The content industry spent the better part of the last decade seeking to hold P2P software providers liable for the infringements of their users. Its emphatic victories against the providers of Napster, Aimster, Grokster, Morpheus and Kazaa led directly to a massive shakeout of large commercial file sharing software operators, and might have been expected to wipe out unfiltered P2P file sharing software production for good.

But a funny thing happened in the wake of all of these injunctions and shutdowns and settlements: the number of P2P file sharing apps available in the market exploded. By 2007, two years after the US Supreme Court decided Grokster, there were more individual P2P apps in the market than there had ever been before. The average number of users sharing files on P2P file sharing networks at any one time was nudging 10 million, and P2P traffic had grown, by some estimates, to comprise up to 90% of global internet traffic. At that point, content owners tacitly admitted defeat, largely abandoning their long term strategy of suing key P2P software providers, and diverting enforcement resources to alternatives like graduated response.

Code Wars tells the story of this decade-long struggle between content owners and P2P software providers. It traces the development of the fledgling technologies, the attempts to crush them through litigation and legislation, and the remarkable ways in which they evolved as their programmers sought ever more ingenious means to remain one step ahead of the law. In telling the complete legal and technological story of this fascinating era, the book focuses on answering the question that has baffled content owners for so long – why is it that, despite being ultimately successful in holding individual P2P software providers liable for their users’ infringement, their litigation strategy failed to bring about any meaningful reduction in the amount of P2P development and infringement? The book answers that question with a compelling new explanation that draws on the real differences between physical world and software based technologies – and takes readers on a rollicking ride along the way.

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