File Sharers vs. the MPAA: a Decade Later

Copyright holders in the United States, under the aegis of MPAA, have been locked in a decade-long battle with individuals and companies that are involved in illegal online file sharing activities. This decade-long battle has undergone various cycles and still promises to take new directions.

File Sharers vs. the MPAA
Credit: Jow.Ross / Wikipedia

It appears that a new battle front has been opened following the now common use of VPN services to cover the tracks of individuals who download content from sites such as BitTorrent. However, the manner in which this battle has been taking shape for the last decade has been fascinating.

Hollywood was rattled by the emergence of sites such as KaZaA that allowed users to share songs and movies illegally. But the real battle lines were drawn following the introduction of BitTorrent. The site allowed users to upload links that allowed other users to access all manner of files.

Alarmed by the emergence of the new site, copyright holders, under the auspices of MPAA, launched a major campaign to counter the popularity of BitTorrent. The strategy of MPAA was simple: to directly appeal to the individuals who use BitTorrent and educate them on the dangers of accessing files on BitTorrent.

It was based on this strategy that the MPAA launched its now famous, ‘You can click, but you can’t hide,’ campaign. The essence of the campaign was to inform people that they did not stand to gain much from illegally downloading content from online pirating sites.

But MPAA went a step further and warned people via its campaigns that it could see what the people were doing when downloading files on BitTorrent.

By using this argument that was calculated to scare users of BitTorrent, MPAA was referring to the features of file sharing sites that make it possible for the other users to see what others are downloading. Authorities can monitor what every individual who visits BitTorrent is downloading at any given time by analysing the activities attached to the IP addresses of the people who visit BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer file sharing platforms.

But it appears that the MPAA’s campaign based on the slogan, ‘You can click, but you can’t hide,’ slogan ran out of steam with the introduction of VPN services specially built for file sharers. One of the pioneers in this category of VPN services was Relakks, a Swedish-based VPN service that was created specifically to protect the privacy of file sharers.

In the recent times, many other VPN services have started announcing that they can help individuals successfully share files online and avoid the trap of being detected by the likes of the MPAA. It is true that VPNs provide the best answer to file sharers who have to dodge MPAA.

However, it remains appalling to note that the MPAA can still catch parties who attempt to use BitTorrent services in the current times. Although many people know that VPNs can help hide their IP addresses and keep the safe when they are on BitTorrent, it appears that some people ignore to protect their IP addresses when sharing files.

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File Sharers vs. the MPAA

File Sharers vs. the MPAA: a Decade Later