The international record industry has been heralding as a great victory their deal with P2P software producer Sharman Networks, the makers of the KaZaA P2P client. Read for example this note from FT.com, where the settlement is described as one of the biggest victories against online piracy for the music industry.
Under the terms of the settlement, Sharman Networks will pay the world’s four major music companies – Universal Music, Sony BMG, EMI and Warner Music – more than $100 million USD in damages. KaZaA has also agreed not to share pirated copies on their network, while it has promised to go “legal” and start selling music in the fashion of another former pirate haven, Napster.
As far as victories go, this is as pyrrhic as they come. It is no secret in the P2P sharing community that FastTrack, the P2P network used by KaZaA, has been in considerable decline since 2004. To understand this, one has to understand P2P networks, and I believe that some of the journalists writing on this subject are seriously out of their depth when reporting on this issue. P2P clients like Grokster, KaZaA, Limewire, Morpheus and eDonkey do not make a P2P network; they only allow the user to connect to an existing network by using common protocols. There are a large number of P2P networks out there: Gnutella, Gnutella 2, Ares, FastTrack, eDonkey2000, BitTorrent and even Freenet. Clients are applications used to connect to those networks. For example, the Gnutella network alone serves a large number of P2P clients, including LimeWire, BearShare, iMesh, FrostWire, MLDonkey, Morpheus, Swapper, Shareaza and XoloX. KaZaA is only one client in the FastTrack network, which includes other clients such as giFT, Grokster, iMesh, KCeasy, MLDonkey, mlMac and Poisoned. You can bring down KaZaA without bringing down the entire network.
Moreover, FastTrack has been in serious decline in recent years. In January 2004, FastTrack accounted for 46% of all the P2P worldwide traffic. By June 2004, their share had been reduced to 19%, mostly because users swapped to other networks, mainly BitTorrent and eDonkey2000. It is thought that nowadays FastTrack accounts for less than 15% of the global P2P traffic.
Why the celebration then? I believe that the music industry has to show something for their efforts, as it is clear that despite their heavy-handed tactics they have been losing the battle against P2P networks. I believe that they should concentrate on making legal downloads more appealing and interoperable, which will eventually solve most of the issues.