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Are the Users Next?
The Gnutella Paradox
| 10.10.2000
Commentary by netwebly's Janelle Brown came up with a excellent piece which discusses the legal and technical problems next generation file-sharing applications like Gnutella are likely to face in the future.

In the Gnutella Paradox Brown brings up the biggest problem facing file-sharing services: as soon as applications like Napster and Gnutella get big enough to become useful, they inevitably attract the attention of the powers that be - leading to a contentious cycle of innovation and litigation that is likely to continue for years.

Gnutella, the application many observers believe is first in line to inherit 30 million angry users if a San Francisco court decides to shut down Napster, may not be able to withstand the pressures caused by the influx.

A recent report by researchers at Xerox Parc found that only a very small percentage of Gnutella users actively share files, a conclusion that hints at possible problems to come.

Of course, its worth noting that Gnutella has yet to develop the sort of hyperactive file sharing community that has gathered around Napster. Its more than likely that as the composition of the Gnutella community changes, its users file-sharing habits will change as well.

Another study of Gnutella usage suggests that the network may only be as strong as its weakest link. Because the nature of the distributed network Gnutella employs may force users with slower dial-up connections to bear the full weight of network traffic in some situations, Gnutella may not be able to handle the increased traffic that would come with a Napster shutdown.

But perhaps more troubling than the technical obstacles an aroused Gnutella may face is the possibility that the RIAA (or another authority), unable to direct its lawyers at a single company, may decide to go after individual users in an effort to effectively control the network.

Cary Sherman, General Counsel for the RIAA told Salon
"Gnutella is the name of a program that is a P2P network; to the extent that there's no central source running it like Napster, it's true that an injunction can't bring it down. But there are also people disseminating the program, and people who are using it to disseminate materials. There could be legal strategies to address that."

If that sounds a little bit like a threat, that's because it is one.

Click here for the Gnutella Paradox

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