Peer-To-Peer File Sharing
How Peer-To-Peer File Sharing Works
Peer-To-Peer File Sharing (also referred to as p2p ), is a method by
which people share files on the internet using special software, such as Kazaa,
Limewire, or other programs which log into networks such as eDonkey, BitTorrent,
and Gnutella. These networks and programs work by allowing someone to download
a file from more than one source, thus distributing the bandwidth. In this way,
you do not tie up your own server bandwidth should too many people request your
program. Once a program is "out there", "seeded" or "announced", it can then
appear on the network. Note that sometimes it may not appear in the
network if nobody is actually sharing that particular file. In addition,
people sharing the file will not get hit with too much bandwidth which can slow
their connection if more than one person is sharing the file. This is due to
the p2p program downloading pieces of the file from several sources which are
shareing the file simultaneously. A p2p network is a very efficient way
to share files.
Most p2p networks are not one computer somewhere with a lot of files stored on
it. While there are many p2p networks such as Fast Track, BitTorrent,
and Gnutella, p2p is actually a connection between your computer and
someone else's computer. Thus you could be connected to several other
computers owned by other users to download pieces of a file. When the download
is finished, all the pieces will create the actual fully complete file.
The idea of p2p is to save bandwidth for people who are distributing large
program files, such as perhaps the Linux Operating System or freeware and
shareware games and programs. You can tell your users they can obtain the
program on a certain peer-to-peer network. If they can not find it, then they
could try it again, or you could share it from your computer as well in this
way. Usually most p2p programs allow you to share your programs securely and
What files can I find on a P2P network?
Because p2p is a very efficient way to share files, you can find many programs,
videos, music and other large files on any p2p network. However, many of
these files may be illegal! Unfortunately, because of the nature of p2p
networks, many use them to share copyright sonds, movies that just were released
into the theatres, commercial programs that are not available free to the
public (non-demo, actual full versions), and other illegal files. Also, p2p
networks are also big distributors of porn. Many of these networks and even
programmers who make the programs to obtain files on these networks have been
sued in court (and some lost) for distributing illegal and/or copyright material.
In addition, even some users have been sued for sharing such material.
So P2P networks are illegal to use, right?
No. You can still use them, as long as you are obtaining or sharing legal
material through them. For example, you can download different distributions
of the Linux Operating System on the BitTorrent network. You can also obtain
legal shareware and freeware programs as well. However, it is up to you
to determine if a program or file you are downloading is actually legal to
obtain. Generally, if you know the program is shareware, freeware, or free to
obtain on the internet, you can try searching a p2p network for it to download.
This also will help the original program authors save bandwidth on their web
site. Maybe some very old (yet still good) freeware programs may be obtainable
only through a p2p network and not anywhere else on the internet.
As long as you are sure the file is legal for you to obtain through the internet,
it is perfectly legal for you to download it via a p2p network.
Can I share files via P2P networks?
Yes. As long as you have the legal right to share them. This goes for
any file. Generally, if you can not legally share them on your web site,
you can not legally share them on any P2P network either, and shouldn't. However,
if you have written a large program, using a P2P network can be the best way to
distribute it. Remember, Active Web Hosting does monitor bandwidth.
So if visitors to your site are downloading large files, your site could
become slow or unusable. By using a P2P network to share your large file, you
can free up bandwidth to your site. Merely tell your visitors which network you
put the file on and how to obtain it. Some P2P networks have ways you can link
to the file so that those with the access program can automatically go directly
to downloading the file.
Can I share other people's files via P2P networks?
Yes. As long as you have the legal right to share them. Read the license
agreement that comes with the program or files to see if they are freely
shareable. If they are, then you can put it up on the network. This will help
people obtain the file easier since you are sharing some of your own bandwidth
in helping to distribute the pieces of the file. Note that you still will have
to have the complete file intact in order to successfully share it.
You will also be supporting the author of the program or file by saving them
bandwidth on their web space.
Can I put up Bit Torrent or other P2P feeds on my web site?
Some people used to put up a list of currently distributed files or feeds
on their web site as a public service for people to find programs and files to
download. However, due to laws against distributing illegal files on the internet,
many of these types of web sites have been shut down by law. It is nearly
impossible at the moment to filter out illegal from legal files, and know what
files are really legal and which are not. Some users may rename files to something
obscure or more legit-sounding in an effort to distribute an illegal file. Because
there is no way to monitor the network, you can not be sure what gets posted
to your web site would be a list of legal files. However, you're still responsible
for the content on your site. If you're caught with a list of illegal files
for download on your site, then you could face legal issues and may have your
site shut down. Therefore, it's best not to post P2P file feeds on your
site. Direct links to download specific legal programs are probably the best
way to list files. You would have to be sure to edit this list manually, so that
illegal files do not appear automatically on your web site.
Is discussing P2P on my web site legal?
In the United States, it is OK to discuss certain technologies as long as the
discussion does not in any way promote or encourage illegal activity. Writing
about P2P and it's benefits is perfectly legal, as is providing links to legal
downloads, networks and programs. Just be sure that you have full control over
the content on your web site, and write only about the legal site of
using this technology.
Where can I get started downloading files?
You need to take several steps to start downloading files:
Obtain a Peer-To-Peer Program. This program will let you log into a P2P
network where you can then access the files. Note that most P2P networks
will also want some personally identifyable information such as a username,
email address, and password in order for you to use the service. However, there
are quite a few networks that are free and do not charge for service. Also be
wary of programs that carry adware or spyware,
which can also report back your usage and other information to another computer
and serve ads based on this information. If in doubt, read about the program
carefully to see if they carry adware or spyware. Some will also state that
they do not.
Note that what P2P network you log into depends on the file sharing program you
install. Each program will log into only one specific network and not any
Some of the more popular P2P programs can be
Once you install a file sharing program, you will want to read the program
manual, help file, or information on the web site where you got the program to
be sure that you set up your firewall properly. Some P2P programs may
need a special port to allow connection between your computer and the computers
that are distributing the files. A firewall is a program that protects your
computer from intruders. Some operating systems include a firewall and some do
not. Be sure you have one in place before using any program that connects your
computer to someone else's.
After you run the program for the first time, you'll need to set up any log-in
information. Also you'll want to determine if you'll be sharing files and find
where in the program to turn it off, if you wish not to. Or, if you're sharing
files, to set up what folder on your hard drive contains the files you wish to
When you log into a P2P network, you can then search for the file you wish to
download. Or if you're just sharing, you can usually minimize the program to
the system tray and leave it run so that people can obtain the files or pices
of the files you're sharing. It's best to have a broadband connection such as
DSL or cable for this. Be sure that your ISP will allow you to use your
connection as a server. Some may have specific and/or strict rules about this.
Also be very sure that any file you are trying to download is legal for you
to obtain via the internet. The same goes for any file you are sharing.
You can also look at some web sites that have files you can download
for free, and legally. In fact,
has information on legal BitTorrent files that people are releasing under the
Creative Commons License,
which is a free software license similar to the
GNU Public License or
GPL as it's commonly referred to. This may be a good place to get started
while learning to download files.
To further speed up downloads, many files may be compressed archives,
requiring you to obtain a separate program to decompress them. For Windows,
decompress a wide variety of the most popular archive file formats.
Be sure to scan any file you download for viruses, just in case. Viruses
can also thrive in P2P networks, and can be found in any file, legal or not.
In Summary: Keep It Legal
If used right, using P2P networks can save you a lot of bandwidth, help you
download large files faster, and can open the door to new programs and files.
However, if misused (as is unfortunately often the case), you can get into very
big legal trouble if you share or sometimes even download files you do not have
a legal right to own or distribute.
Using caution with Peer-To-Peer file sharing is always a good idea.