As media digitization and data distribution becomes easier, copyright holders are having to take increasingly aggressive steps to counter the growing number of people partaking in illegal file sharing and copyright theft. This proliferation of illegal file sharing has been responded to by the music, television and movie industries with a of mass of litigation against file sharers, websites and network operators which they view as facilitating or participating in copyright theft. Moya (2011) says that a unnamed researcher has told him that “right now, the total number of ‘J. Doe’ defendants sued in mass P2P suits since the beginning of 2010 is on the cusp of 100,000 (99,924), spanning 80 different cases”. This is in relation to a single decentralized file sharing technology called BitTorrent created by Bram Cohen in 2001. In February 2009 it was estimated that BitTorrent traffic accounted for roughly 27% to 55% of all Internet traffic in some countries (Schulze & Mochalski, 2009). The popularity of file sharing technologies such as the BitTorrent Protocol as a distribution protocol could be attributed to the systematic litigation and subsequent shutdown or failure of centralized peer-to-peer file sharing networks such as Napster, Morpheus and Kazaa.
Each of these networks presented a large single target of litigation and an easy way to enforce filters to prohibit copyrighted material on these networks or to eliminate the distribution channel entirely. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) are two organizations particularly infamous for their continuing and aggressive attacks on file sharing platforms, and their sometimes very public, relentless hunting and intimidation tactics over digital media consumers (Shaw & Mercer, 2005, 182). The modus operandi of of the RIAA and MPAA is to use stand-over and terror tactics on consumers it has identified as copyright infringers using provisions in the DMCA to subpoena the Internet Service Providers (ISP) of the alleged offenders, with the intention to sue them. Shaw & Mercer (2005, 182-183) describe the RIAA as regarding itself as a “key protector of music companies’ legal and business interests” and doesn’t bluff. Because of the tactics it employs, many people simply pay the redress and very few cases actually make it to trial. The RIAA alone, has issues several thousand infringement suites against people it considers to be violators. Gantz & Rochester (2005, 23) says that “by the numbers, most digital pirates are consumers” and that only a relatively few of violators actually profit off illegal downloading. This means that most of the people attacked by the RIAA are regular people simply enjoying media on their own terms.
- UCLA Online Institute for Cyberspace Law and Policy. (2001). The Digital Millennium Copyright Act – Overview. Retrieved 2011, from The UCLA Online Institute for Cyberspace Law and Policy: http://gseis.ucla.edu/iclp/dmca1.htm
- Wikipedia. (2011). File Sharing Timeline. Retrieved 2011, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File_sharing_timeline
- Olsen, E. (2002). MP3.com Turns Five. Retrieved 2011, from Blogcritics Music: http://blogcritics.org/music/article/mp3com-turns-five/
- Wikipedia. (2011). File:BlankMap-Europe-v4.png. Retrieved 2011, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:BlankMap-Europe-v4.png
- Computer History Museum. (2006). Timeline of Computer History. Retrieved 2011, from Computer History Museum: http://www.computerhistory.org/timeline/?category=stor
- Gantz, J., & Rochester, J. (2005). Pirates of the Digital Millenium. New Jersey, USA: Financial Times Prentice Hall.
- IFPI. (2008). Danish court confirms Pirate Bay is illegal & orders access to be blocked by ISP. Retrieved 2011, from IFPI: http://www.ifpi.org/content/section_news/20081127.html
- McCullagh, D. (2007). RIAA tries to pull plug on Usenet. Seriously. Retrieved 2011, from CNET News: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-9798715-38.html
- Kravets, D. (2007). RIAA Sues Usenet.com, Decries it as Napster, Kazaa. Retrieved 2011, from Wired Magazine: http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2007/10/riaa-sues-usene/
- Dietrich, D. (2005). Universal Music Australia Pty Ltd v Sharman License Holdings Ltd (with Corrigendum dated 22 September 2005)  FCA 1242 (5 September 2005). Retrieved 2011, from Dale Dietrich Tech Law: http://www.daledietrich.com/imedia/decisions/UMA_v_Sharman_(Fed_Ct_Australia_Sep_5_2005).htm
- Moya, J. (2011, 1 31). 99, 924 Sued So Far in Mass BitTorrent Lawsuit Campaigns. Retrieved 1 31, 2011, from Zero Paid: http://www.zeropaid.com/news/92400/99-924-sued-so-far-in-mass-bittorrent-lawsuit-campaigns/
- Schulze, H., & Mochalski, K. (2009). Internet Study 2008/2009. Leipzig: Ipoque.
- Shaw, R., & Mercer, D. (2005). Caution! Music & Video Downloading: Your Guide to Legal, Safe, and Trouble-Free Downloads. Indianapolis, Indiana, USA: Wiley Publishing Ltd.