File sharing has been a big part of the counter-culture of legal and illegal music and movie downloads in the United States. Many file sharing programs that allowed the free flow of copyrighted files like Limewire, Napster, Bearshare, Frostwire, and the like have long been shut down by the U.S. Government (or switched their business models), but new software springs up all the time. For example, as soon as Limewire was shut down, Frostwire came out and today the most prevelant Peer to Peer software of today is bit Torrent.
The cycle keeps repeating as bit torrent sites like The Pirate Bay, Demonoid, and others have faced government seizures of their physical servers located in other countries. The government may not be able to completely shut down all of the file-sharing software as it continues to morph into different models that make it undetectable. Many people praise these programs as means to download and own files for free that they would otherwise have to pay for, but what these people don’t realize is the inherent danger of downloading files from anonymous sources and sharing the same files out to strangers: namely, child pornography.
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Here is a graphic showing the old way file sharing networks worked by each user connecting through a centralized server which is how the government was able to stop them, by legally choking off the central server:
(Images Courtesy of Vuze.com)
And here is a graphic showing bit Torrent Peer to Peer networks where the user downloads and opens a torrent file which then connects the user to the peers who are seeding the files:
One of the most important issues among the file sharing community in recent years has been the prosecutions relating to the possession and distribution of child pornography. Many of the defendants that have hired a child pornography lawyer in these cases said that they were not even aware of the images that were stored on their computers. Images of child porn can be downloaded to your computer through a series of Trojan horses or by blindly downloading an entire directory that is shared with you through one of these peer to peer services. One common method of sharing child porn is the intentional mislabeling of filenames. For example, you may download a video named “Die Hard” thinking that you are getting a movie about Bruce Willis. Upon download, you might open the file and instead of finding a movie you find that it is actually hundreds or thousands of images of child pornography. Images of child porn are sometimes inserted into otherwise normal video files and may even go unnoticed by the person downloading the file. This example proves that you cannot be sure what is actually contained in the files you are downloading, which increases the risk of using any peer to peer file sharing software or methods. Remember, there is no file certification process since most of these files (movies, ebooks, software, etc) are being downloaded and shared illegally.
The most common way people are convicted of possession of child pornography, is by their permanent storage on your hard drive even after deleting it in several locations. With file sharing programs, the downloaded files go automatically into two folders: “Saved” and “Shared”. A third folder is created for “Incomplete or Temp Files” that a lot of people are unaware of. Files are labeled incomplete when they are deleted halfway through. You may not even be able to open these files, but the government can, and will attempt to prosecute and convict you for the possession of illegal images of children regardless of the folder they reside in.
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