The rapid growth of distributed P2P networks was just another result of the continual cat-and-mouse game between software developers and the entertainment industry. Copyright infringement was being committed on an unprecedented scale, and the incidence rate is still rapidly growing. Here’s a statistic that illustrates the scope of the problem: according to Sharman Networks (the company behind the FastTrack P2P network), the Kazaa program had been downloaded more than 315 million times (worldwide) by 2004.
The RIAA initially responded to the distributed P2P threat by suing Grokster and StreamCast, the companies behind two of the most popular networks, but they have also used other tactics to interfere with P2P networks and, in some cases, to directly intimidate users. One tactic, spoofing, was covered earlier. Another tactic was the use of instant messaging—a standard feature of many P2P programs—to send warnings directly to file sharers. In 2003 the RIAA sent more than four million messages like the following to users of the Kazaa and Grokster networks: “It appears that you are offering copyrighted music to others from your computer. Distributing or downloading copyrighted music on the Internet without permission from the copyright owner is illegal….”