Former peer-to-peer sharing site Kazaa is to become the latest file sharing service to be relaunched as a legal music site. The service follows the likes of Napster, and more recently, Pirate Bay, in becoming a legitimate site after being effectively shut down by the courts following allegations of copyright infringement.
Kazaa was one of the most prominent peer-to-peer sites which led the illegal music downloading boom of the early 2000s. These services were blamed for a downturn in profit suffered by the music industry and led to court injunctions and fines for both the sites and it’s users. In 2000, Napster became the first site to be challenged when Amercian band Metallica filed a lawsuit when a demo of a new song by the band was widely distributed on the site. They were then followed by rapper Dr.Dre, who also filed a lawsuit against Napster. Despite settling out of court, the network continued to grow, peaking in February 2001 with over 25 million users worldwide. After a series of legal challenges and lawsuits, Napster eventually shut down in 2002, before being relaunched as a legitimate service in 2003.
Since Napster and Kazza’s peak, the music industry has fought hard to reverse the trend of illegal downloading. As well as lobbying successfully to shut down services such as Napster and Kazza, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), began launching lawsuits against it’s users in 2003, and currently claims to file between 700-750 suits a month. This
approach has been criticised by many, and it wasn’t until the launch of iTunes, offering legal music downloads, that the tide began to turn for the industry. Opening in 2003, iTunes provided users with a similar service to the peer-to-peer sites, but was supported by many music labels, and payed royalties from it’s user’s subscription charges. iTunes has become an
online phenomenom, by January 2009, the site had sold over 6 billion songs, and it has now spawned many other legal downloading services. Digital sales are now included in the music charts, and are slowly phasing out the physical single.
More recently, music sharing site Pirate Bay was also sold after it’s owners faced jail for copyright infringement. Hans Pandeya, of Global Gaming Factory X AB, who bought the service, reflected the shift towards legal downloading of the past few years: “In order to live on, The Pirate Bay requires a new business model, which satisfies the requirements and needs of all parties, content providers, broadband operators, end users, and the judiciary. Content creators and providers need to control their content and get paid for it,” he said. “File-sharers need faster downloads and better quality.”
Other recent innovations, such as music streaming sites like Spotify, have also seen the trend for illegal downloading falling, and with Kazza now joining Pirate Bay as a legal site it seems the better quality and safety of legal services began by iTunes is now making the peer-to-peer sites more unpopular. A report recently suggested the music industry is winning the fight against illegal downloads, with a study of 1,000 music fans showing just 26% of 14-18 years olds admitted to file sharing, compared to 42% in 2007.