File sharing is what the Internet is for. Whole reason it exists. What it’s been doing successfully since it started. But in 2006, some of the spotlight fell on the simple act of file-sharing, or more specifically, sharing files with others that might not necessarily be yours. Here’s a look back at the year in peer-to-peer, where the biggest story was where players changed sides.
On the demand side of the equation, the public flocked to download vast quantities of video content, legally or otherwise. Savvy developers and entrepreneurs began building P2P technology popular among pirates into legitimate producitivity and distribution applications. The supply side balked, arguing against network neutrality while quietly throttling certain protocols and packets. Of course, providers also added millions of new broadband subscribers, and in the case of cable and telephone companies, sought to leverage their ubiquity to add voice and video services, respectively.
Legally, there were some minor (likely pyrrhic) victories on the part of content owners to jail copyright infringers. But this only excited public debate on fundamental questions of ownership and freedom of speech. Arguments that non-commercial sharing of commercial content is tantamount to theft met a tsunami of public apathy, with signs of increases in both legal and illegal content distribution. Such actions prompted copyfighters to point out that black markets and the public commons have always coexisted with legitimate business.
Here’s a brief chronology on how the year in P2P played out:
- Jan. 30: Warner Brothers announces their new In2Movies service for Germany, which will feature P2P distribution of their content. [WSJ]
- Feb. 10: UK broadband provider ntl and BitTorrent team up to offer their own legal content distribution. [GigaOm]
- Feb. 26: This user’s experience with the Kontiki-powered Sky by Broadband service demonstrates ‘legitimate’ P2P still has a ways to go. [PC Doctor]
- April 3: The Freenet Project releases Freenet 0.7, a proof-of-concept project by network neutrality, privacy and copyright reform advocates. [Slashdot]
- April 3: On the same day, LinuxP2P runs an interview with Swedish Pirate Party founder Rick Falkvinge which frames the arguments for policy reform in stark common sense. [LinuxP2P via P2PNet]
- May 5th: BitTorrent lands a licensing deal with Warner Brothers, the first legitimate content deal for the P2P company. [GigaOm]
- May 16: A piece of malware with a singular mission – to selectively delete content connected with file sharing – is discovered. Pirates roll their eyes and sigh. [Slashdot]
- June 7: EMI launches QTrax, an ad-supported, peer-to-peer music service. Is never mentioned again. [Slashdot]
- June 12th: RIAA tentatively admits that the grey market trade in copyright materials may be around to stay, while simultaneously reassuring everyone that they will continue to make money. [USA Today]
- June 28: Weeks later, the RIAA reportedly begins taking a new track with their lawsuit, targetting localities and their media apparatus in order to put a face on piracy. [Slyck News]
- Aug. 23: Sony buys up Grouper for $65 million, in a move that reeks of desperation for street cred with the kids. [GigaOm]
- Sept. 12: eDonkey becomes the last of the old file sharing giants to settle with the RIAA to the tune of $30 million. Users of open source copycat eMule shrug. [Slashdot]
- Oct. 23: If there wasn’t already enough spam and malware on Gnutella networks, Skyrider announced plans to become a “P2P Marketing Platform.” [GigaOm]
- Dec. 1: Starting the year as a popular euphemism for content piracy in general, BitTorrent shakes the image and finishes a year of attempted legitimacy with a $20 million capital investment. [GigaOm]
- Dec. 15: As the reality of ubiquitous file sharing, legitimate or otherwise, sets in the main argument for P2P — efficiency — can finally get a hearing. [NewTeeVee]