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.
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 (1985).
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.
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.
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.
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.