What is file sharing?

What is file sharing?

Take and share - that is the motto of file sharing. File-sharing services offer the possibility of making one's own files available online and sharing them with each other worldwide in so-called P2P (peer-to-peer) networks. Anyone who uses the corresponding file-sharing program can then download all the files that are in a file-sharing folder - and in return makes them available for download to others.

The idea behind file sharing services is to share the download speed among users. This is increased by the fact that the file-sharing clients load different parts of a file from several users who offer this file. So each user contributes his part and makes the part he has already downloaded available again to other participants.

What is made available or obtained online in detail is decided by the respective users themselves. The term "exchange platform", which is often used in the media, is not entirely correct. In fact, the data is not exchanged, but copied. The original remains with the respective owner. 

When is file sharing permitted?

The reputation of file sharing is not the best. But of course, not every use of a file-sharing program is illegal, since it can be your own files that are distributed there. A practical example is the torrent protocol. Pretty much all Linux software packages (distributions) are distributed via it. For the manufacturers this offers an immense advantage: high data availability at low cost. And these savings in turn benefit the users.

Microsoft also uses the file sharing concept for Windows 10: Instead of storing files on one or more central servers, all PCs that have already received the update in question are available for download. This allows the manufacturer to save its own bandwidth and guarantee faster distribution when new software is released.

Damages for illegal downloads

But one thing is certain: it is illegal to share music, movies and purchased software. In most cases, these are illegal copies of copyrighted material that are shared among each other - and that is punishable by law. In addition to imprisonment, users of illegal file-sharing networks face the threat of high damages. For example, the music industry demands 200 euros in damages for each music title made available on the Internet. According to the Federal Court of Justice (BGH), this is an appropriate sum.

Are parents liable for their children?

If parents do not know that their underage children are using file-sharing services to download illegal copies, they are not liable either. This was decided by the BGH in 2012. However, the prerequisite is that there has previously been an informative discussion about participation in file-sharing services. Anyone who has informed their children that downloading copyrighted goods is illegal does not have to constantly monitor this. Children of legal age are responsible for their own actions. However, if parents know that their adult offspring are distributing illegal copies of films or similar via their connection, for example, they are also liable.

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