Why P2P is Here to Stay

Hollywood, and its acolytes in the music business are fighting a losing battle when it comes to peer to peer networks. They can try and prosecute kids, and teenagers, but in the end it will all come to a naught. With each prosecution, Hollywood is only steeling the resolve of the coders to come-up with even more powerful technological solutions. Lawyers, unfortunately cannot keep up with the bits-and-byte world of P2P networks.

P2P is a multi-headed hydra – slice one off and ten more pop-up. Today’s Bit Torrent, is tomorrow’s eDonkey. And today’s eDonkey is tomorrow’s Freenet. They can try and shut down networks, and that will be a fool’s errand. One Grokster will be replaced by another Freenet. The well publicized networks, are slowly being replaced by “Dark Nets.” Dark Net, according to Beta News, are peer to peer networks “where the computer user will remain anonymous while transferring files. The system is also set up much like the Internet, meaning it is decentralized and practically impossible to shut down.” Freenet, is just a start of this dark-net movement.

Data collected by Cachelogic, a Cambridge, England-based start-up bears out the ever changing nature of the P2P networks. Their analysis of recent P2P data traffic shows that Bit Torrent, which last year was the most active P2P network has now been supplanted by eDonkey, that has become the network of choice for video file sharing. The study looks at four major networks – Bit Torrent, Gnutella, eDonkey and FastTrack. Video now accounts for 61.44% of file sharing activity on four major P2p networks, while audio is only 11.34%.

“Peer-to-peer file sharing is affecting children’s morality and well-being by giving them access to pornography and encouraging the everyday theft of music.” says Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California democrat. She was parroting the message of her political (pay) masters, the entertainment industry, which had kicked in $720,410 in campaign contributions. (via Techdirt) Boxer’s statements show a clear generational gap, between Hollywood and those Dean Landsman calls “the digital natives.”

Hollywood mafia, is being unrealistic in their desires. Their century old business model, just like the telephone business, is being upended by a demographic shift, and technological changes. The digital natives have grown up with a culture of sharing and swapping. This is a new reality which the older generations cannot comprehend. Landsman says this is only going to result in “secret sharing, sub rosa activity, the underground emerges in response to the new state of affairs. This a result of the changed legal and social implications of sharing.” They want to change generational behavior instead of their own broken and highly inefficient model.

Hollywood really needs to look inwards – it needs to come-up with a new model of digital distribution, which is affordable. Why are they ignoring the lessons of the music business. At one time, music was the #1 P2P activity, but anecdotal evidence suggests that legal options are helping curb music file swapping. Its’ quite possible, with the right tools and mechanisms, the video file sharing is going to be tamed. But lets face it – its not going to completely stop.

Broadband is the underlying catalyst. As the world unites over high-speed connections, geographic rules have been thrown out of the window. Cachelogic’s data shows, that Asia is joining the P2P party, as many sign-up with multi-megabit connections. How do you legislate outside the borders. To them Hollywood is a distant entity and no one out there feels sad about trading an illegal copy of Spider Man 2. Hollywood – time to deal with the new reality!

From Cachelogic report, a few highlights…
1. The video files being shared are smaller – so in a sense, they could be inferred to be simple video clips instead of full length movies.
2. BitTorrent is increasingly being used for the distribution of legitimate content.
3. Microsoft should be happy – nearly 46% of all P2P videos being shared are using windows media/video formats. (AVI?)
4. Interestingly, 65% of all audio files by volume of traffic are still traded in the MP3 format.
5. A surprising 12.3% are in the open-source OGG file format.