File Sharing's Bad Rap

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Let's face it: thanks to the campaigns of the RIAA and the MPAA, file sharing is now a four-letter word. They might as well be painting file sharers as 'baby killers' or something equally heinous. Sure, piracy is usually a bad thing—but not all file sharing is piracy. For example, tons of music is freely (and legally) available for download, thanks to bands who allow fans to tape and trade their concerts. The most popular way of doing so these days is with a file sharing app called BitTorrent.

BitTorrent uses a swarming download method, whereby each user invovled simultaneously downloads and uploads bits of the larger whole. Rather than a standard Web or FTP download, where each person downloads a complete file from a server one at a time, a BitTorrent download allows one person to have a complete file, and let others help him or her distribute it. In theory, the more people involved, the faster the speeds are for everyone (since there is more shared bandwidth involved). So if I tape a concert, transfer it to my computer, and created a BitTorrent session, I can distribute it to hundreds of people around the world in a few days—even if I have limited bandwidth.

Like anything else, BitTorrent can be used for good as well as bad—and a lot of pirated software, music, and movies is distributed via this method. But as a file sharing technology , it’s a great idea.

Have you had any experiences with BitTorrent? What do you think?

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