Peer to peer (P2P) refers to the sharing of files and information directly between network users. P2P programs allow users to directly access each other's information on their hard drives, without the need for any central servers. 1
Because P2P is widely used in the sharing and downloading of music and videos, one of the biggest issues circulating it is how it violates copyright laws.
What is Copyright
"Copyright is the legal right to control the copying, distribution, modification, display, and performance of certain works or media. A music artist owns the copyright on their song just as surely as you have copyright on the essays you write in school. Copyright should be assumed unless otherwise stated." For more information on Copyright, you can visit the Missouri State University Copyright Policy.
There are several legitimate uses of P2P- indeed, many content providers encourage its use in order to take the strain off of their own servers. However, the use of such software for illegal ends often results in fine and confiscation of equipment. There are other issues to worry about as well, such as viruses and identity theft.
When connected to P2P programs, users often share a lot more information than they think they are sharing, and often a lot more than they would ever intend to. "A recent study at Dartmouth showed that when music and image search wizards built into P2P programs scan your computer, folders with personal information can be automatically, and inadvertently, shared, putting you at risk for identity theft." One simple solution to this problem is to utilize file-sharing programs that do not scan your computer.
Files shared and downloaded from P2P programs may contain more than the music the user intended to download. Often, malware is attached to the files and then spread secretly to the users computer. For example, the Trile C. worm was spread almost exclusively through P2P programs and email messages. The Trile C. worm would end any computer security programs active on the computer, making it very difficult to remove the malware. The worm was easily installed via P2P file sharing.