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  • Do Better changed the title to File Sharing | Free Downloads | Torrents
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File sharing is the practice of distributing or providing access to digital media, such as computer programs, multimedia (audio, images and video), documents or electronic books. File sharing may be achieved in a number of ways. Common methods of storage, transmission and dispersion include manual sharing utilizing removable media, centralized servers on computer networks, World Wide Web-based hyperlinked documents, and the use of distributed peer-to-peer networking.

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Files were first exchanged on removable media. Computers were able to access remote files using filesystem mounting, bulletin board systems (1978), Usenet (1979), and FTP servers (1970's). Internet Relay Chat (1988) and Hotline (1997) enabled users to communicate remotely through chat and to exchange files. The mp3 encoding, which was standardized in 1991 and substantially reduced the size of audio files, grew to widespread use in the late 1990s. In 1998, MP3.com and Audiogalaxy were established, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was unanimously passed, and the first mp3 player devices were launched.

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In June 1999, Napster was released as an unstructured centralized peer-to-peer system, requiring a central server for indexing and peer discovery. It is generally credited as being the first peer-to-peer file sharing system. In December 1999, Napster was sued by several recording companies and lost in A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc.. In the case of Napster, it has been ruled that an online service provider could not use the "transitory network transmission" safe harbor in the DMCA if they had control of the network with a server.

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Gnutella, eDonkey2000, and Freenet were released in 2000, as MP3.com and Napster were facing litigation. Gnutella, released in March, was the first decentralized file-sharing network. In the Gnutella network, all connecting software was considered equal, and therefore the network had no central point of failure. In July, Freenet was released and became the first anonymity network. In September the eDonkey2000 client and server software was released.

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In March 2001, Kazaa was released. Its FastTrack network was distributed, though unlike Gnutella, it assigned more traffic to 'supernodes' to increase routing efficiency. The network was proprietary and encrypted, and the Kazaa team made substantial efforts to keep other clients such as Morpheus off of the FastTrack network. In October 2001, the MPAA and the RIAA filed a lawsuit against the developers of Kazaa, Morpheus and Grokster that would lead to the US Supreme Court's MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd. decision in 2005.

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Shortly after its loss in court, Napster was shut down to comply with a court order. This drove users to other P2P applications and file sharing continued its growth. The Audiogalaxy Satellite client grew in popularity, and the LimeWire client and BitTorrent protocol were released. Until its decline in 2004, Kazaa was the most popular file sharing program despite bundled malware and legal battles in the Netherlands, Australia, and the United States. In 2002, a Tokyo district court ruling shut down File Rogue, and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed a lawsuit that effectively shut down Audiogalaxy.

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From 2002 through 2003, a number of BitTorrent services were established, including Suprnova.org, isoHunt, TorrentSpy, and The Pirate Bay. In September 2003, the RIAA began filing lawsuits against users of P2P file sharing networks such as Kazaa. As a result of such lawsuits, many universities added file sharing regulations in their school administrative codes (though some students managed to circumvent them during after school hours). Also in 2003, the MPAA started to take action against BitTorrent sites, leading to the shutdown of Torrentse and Sharelive in July 2003. With the shutdown of eDonkey in 2005, eMule became the dominant client of the eDonkey network. In 2006, police raids took down the Razorback2 eDonkey server and temporarily took down The Pirate Bay.

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“The File Sharing Act was launched by Chairman Towns in 2009, this act prohibited the use of applications that allowed individuals to share federal information amongst one another. On the other hand, only specific file sharing application were made available to federal computers” (United States.Congress.House). In 2009, the Pirate Bay trial ended in a guilty verdict for the primary founders of the tracker. The decision was appealed, leading to a second guilty verdict in November 2010. In October 2010, Limewire was forced to shut down following a court order in Arista Records LLC v. Lime Group LLC but the gnutella network remains active through open source clients like FrostWire and gtk-gnutella. Furthermore, multi-protocol file sharing software such as MLDonkey and Shareaza adapted in order to support all the major file sharing protocols, so users no longer had to install and configure multiple file sharing programs.

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On January 19, 2012, the United States Department of Justice shut down the popular domain of Megaupload (established 2005). The file sharing site has claimed to have over 50,000,000 people a day. Kim Dotcom (formerly Kim Schmitz) was arrested with three associates in New Zealand on January 20, 2012 and is awaiting extradition. The case involving the downfall of the world's largest and most popular file sharing site was not well received, with hacker group Anonymous bringing down several sites associated with the take-down. In the following days, other file sharing sites began to cease services; Filesonic blocked public downloads on January 22, with Fileserve following suit on January 23.

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File hosting services may be used as a means to distribute or share files without consent of the copyright owner. In such cases one individual uploads a file to a file hosting service, which others can then download. Legal assessments can be very diverse.

For example, in the case of Swiss-German file hosting service RapidShare, in 2010 the US government's congressional international anti-piracy caucus declared the site a "notorious illegal site", claiming that the site was "overwhelmingly used for the global exchange of illegal movies, music and other copyrighted works". But in the legal case Atari Europe S.A.S.U. v. Rapidshare AG in Germany, the Düsseldorf higher regional court examined claims related to alleged infringing activity and reached the conclusion on appeal that "most people utilize RapidShare for legal use cases" and that to assume otherwise was equivalent to inviting "a general suspicion against shared hosting services and their users which is not justified". The court also observed that the site removes copyrighted material when asked, does not provide search facilities for illegal material, noted previous cases siding with RapidShare, and after analysis the court concluded that the plaintiff's proposals for more strictly preventing sharing of copyrighted material – submitted as examples of anti-piracy measures RapidShare might have adopted – were found to be "unreasonable or pointless".

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By contrast in January 2012 the United States Department of Justice seized and shut down the file hosting site Megaupload.com and commenced criminal cases against its owners and others. Their indictment concluded that Megaupload differed from other online file storage businesses, suggesting a number of design features of its operating model as being evidence showing a criminal intent and venture. Examples cited included reliance upon advertising revenue and other activities showing the business was funded by (and heavily promoted) downloads and not storage, defendants' communications helping users who sought infringing material, and defendants' communications discussing their own evasion and infringement issues. As of 2014 the case has not yet been heard.

In 2016 the file hosting site Putlocker has been noted by the Motion Picture Association of America for being a major piracy threat, and in 2012 Alfred Perry of Paramount Pictures listed Putlocker as one of the "top 5 rogue cyberlocker services", alongside Wupload, FileServe, Depositfiles, and MediaFire.

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