The content industry spent the better part of the last decade seeking to hold P2P software providers liable for the infringements of their users. Its emphatic victories against the providers of Napster, Aimster, Grokster, Morpheus and Kazaa led directly to a massive shakeout of large commercial file sharing software operators, and might have been expected to wipe out unfiltered P2P file sharing software production for good.

But a funny thing happened in the wake of all of these injunctions and shutdowns and settlements: the number of P2P file sharing apps available in the market exploded. By 2007, two years after the US Supreme Court decided Grokster, there were more individual P2P apps in the market than there had ever been before. The average number of users sharing files on P2P file sharing networks at any one time was nudging 10 million, and P2P traffic had grown, by some estimates, to comprise up to 90% of global internet traffic. At that point, content owners tacitly admitted defeat, largely abandoning their long term strategy of suing key P2P software providers, and diverting enforcement resources to alternatives like graduated response.

Code Wars tells the story of this decade-long struggle between content owners and P2P software providers. It traces the development of the fledgling technologies, the attempts to crush them through litigation and legislation, and the remarkable ways in which they evolved as their programmers sought ever more ingenious means to remain one step ahead of the law. In telling the complete legal and technological story of this fascinating era, the book focuses on answering the question that has baffled content owners for so long – why is it that, despite being ultimately successful in holding individual P2P software providers liable for their users’ infringement, their litigation strategy failed to bring about any meaningful reduction in the amount of P2P development and infringement? The book answers that question with a compelling new explanation that draws on the real differences between physical world and software based technologies – and takes readers on a rollicking ride along the way.

What people are saying about Code Wars:

With a combination of acute observation, close analysis and clear-headed honesty, Rebecca Giblin leads the reader to share her conclusion that there is no legislative, judicial, commercial or technical panacea for copyright infringement which P2P software facilitates, but that even now it is not too late to improve the manner in which the rights-owning and distribution sectors address the challenges that P2P poses.

- Jeremy Phillips, Olswang, and Intellectual Property Institute, UK

“Code Wars” is an eye-opening contribution to the debate over the copyright-technology rivalry. Whether Dr. Giblin’s prescriptions will convert a fratricidal conflict into an exemplar of sibling harmony (or at least a workable truce) remains to be seen. In the interim she has evocatively described the contending forces and convincingly shown why, court victories to the contrary notwithstanding, the legal rules that should prevent the exploitation of piracy-based business models have in fact charted the course for a behind-the-lines rout.

- Professor Jane C Ginsburg, Morton L. Janklow Professor of Literary and Artistic Property Law, Columbia University School of Law, Director, Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts, in the Foreword to Code Wars.

 

Interested? Read the first chapter here.

 

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About the author

Read more by Rebecca Giblin - academic papers - popular press

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Background and cover design courtesy of JC Chen