Peer to Peer Sharing: Technology Collides with Copyright

by Alan Sheckter, Videomaker news editor

Video-sharing services such as Scour, Swaptor and Grokster allow video files to be sent directly, peer-to-peer (P2P) style, from one computer user to another, anywhere around the world. As broadband connections become more prevalent, and compressed video technology continues to get better, this file-sharing ability promises to become a more viable, reliable way to share video projects. Unfortunately, the same technology that allows you to share your own Grand Canyon footage or a movie you created from your daughter’s ballet recital footage, also allows individuals to steal copyrighted Hollywood movies and TV clips.

While most video-sharing sites have policies against trading copyrighted material, they cannot look over the shoulder of each user. In late June, Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., previewed legislation he plans to introduce to address copyright infringement on P2P networks.

I’m a strong believer in the beneficial potential of P2P networks, Berman said in a speech to the Computer and Communications Industry Association in Washington, D.C. But most people currently use them for unbridled copyright piracy. Billions of P2P downloads every month constitute copyright infringements for which creators and owners receive no compensation.

To help combat the problem, Berman, whose district includes Hollywood, backs widespread, online availability of copyrighted works through lawful, consumer-friendly services, strong digital rights management, lawsuits by copyright owners and prosecutions against the most egregious infringers.

Resigning himself to the same reality that copyright owners encountered when people first copied vinyl LPs onto audio-cassette tapes a generation ago, Berman concluded, No legislation can eradicate the problem of peer-to-peer piracy.

In a similar video-sharing saga, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) announced in July that nine motion-picture studios sued, an Internet video site. The MPAA said,, for sheer personal gain and profit, offered copyrighted films without any consideration for the rightful owner who invested immense capital, time and effort to bring the film to audiences worldwide. Stay tuned.

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.

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