In 1999, peer-to-peer file sharing became popular with the advent of the application Napster, which enabled the sharing of mostly MP3s between users, most of which was downloaded illegally. Although it reached its peak in 2001 with 26.4 million users worldwide, the RIAA retaliated accordingly i.e. they let their armies of attorneys loose and shut them down (but not before they settled with Metallica and Dr. Dre). By then it was too late, as more sites like the now-defunct Limewire and Madster popped up in dandelion-like fashion. Specific protocols like BitTorrent also emerged and in turn it was used by The Pirate Bay, which was started by a Swedish anti-copyright organization. However elusive, the powers that be have managed to catch up to the latter as recently as July of this year when one of The Pirate Bay’s co-founders and a few others were finally arrested, sentenced to less than a year in prison but hit with $6.9 million in fines from both the Swedish film and music industries, respectively.
P2P sharing is a physical representation of globalization but these cases show that it has to be restricted in lieu of copyright law. The response to illegal downloaders is justified but to these extremes seems a little harsh; it’s clear the RIAA and other bodies like it are trying to send a message. Presently, as record sales falter in comparison to their peak, more artists are releasing their music for free and/or allowing full streams of their albums. With these new developments and the transition from ye olden days of the industry, it seems now that those exorbitant fines were simply a money grab for the organizations.
– Laurel B.