Peer-to-peer applications are designed to share content directly between computers across the Internet. Inspired by the original Napster music service, which was shut down for copyright violation, the peer-to-peer (or P2P) applications employ an architecture that avoids a central server and thus seeks to avoid prosecution for illegal file sharing, despite the fact that such applications do, in fact, facilitate such activity.
While originally inspired by the desire to share music, a great deal of content shared in P2P systems is pornographic. “In a study of peer-to-peer file sharing networks, the U.S. Customs Department’s CyberSmuggling Center found that searching for innocuous phrases normally used by children (phrases included the name of a popular female singer, child actors, and a cartoon character) elicited a slew of pornography. More than half of the downloaded images were either adult pornography, cartoon pornography, child erotica, or child porn.”27
Examples of popular P2P systems include: Kazaa, Grokster, Gnutella, Emule, Edonkey, BearShare, Morpheus, and LimeWire.
My philosophy on P2P systems is simple: Don’t. For the average family, there is no productive, legal value to be derived from P2P applications, and there are plenty of potential downsides.