Five File-Sharing Predictions for 2009

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What will happen to BitTorrent users and their favorite sites in the new year? What will happen to the music industry's new efforts to combat piracy with the help of ISPs, and what about efforts to legalize file sharing? We asked guest columnist Janko Roettgers for his predictions for 2009.

Granted, making predictions is easy. Being right is much harder, but I’m going to give it a try anyway. Please check back in a year and see how well I did, and feel free to share your own thoughts about what this year might bring in the comments.

File-sharing will continue to grow.

Okay, this is a no-brainer. Torrent sites like the Pirate Bay have been showing huge growth rates every single year, and there is no reason to assume that 2009 will be any different. Except maybe for the fact that the global economic crisis will continue to force consumers to spend less. And what’s an easy way to save some dough? Exactly, free music, movies and TV shows. File sharing is going to get a big recession bump in 2009.

One of the biggest torrent sites will close down.

Just don’t ask me which one. Rights holders will continue to put pressure on site admins and their hosting providers in 2009, just as they did in 2008, and at least one well-known name will fold under this pressure. For a few days it will look like the file sharing world is going to end, but then it will be business as usual again.

The RIAA’s new three-strikes policy will fail.

The music industry announced just two weeks ago that it will stop its mass lawsuit campaign and instead cooperate with ISPs to punish file sharers. The Wall Street Journal reported at the time about “agreements in principle” with an unspecified number of unnamed ISPs that “may cut off” net access for repeat offenders. Or not, one should add. ISPs don’t like to lose customers over a few traded songs, which is why a similar deal in the UK still doesn’t include any enforcement measures half a year after it was struck. The same will happen in the US. In fact, some smaller ISPs might even get a boost by promising that they won’t disconnect customers over P2P.

P4P will actually work.

The somewhat controversial technology that aims to mitigate the effect of P2P transfers on ISPs’ networks has proven to work pretty well in field tests, but those were limited to a single video file provided by personal file sharing start-up Pando. 2009 will bring us some first mass-scale implementations, and I suspect that some of you will start to use P4P-assisted file transfers without even noticing, which is how good infrastructure technology should work.

We will all become socialists.

The uproar was huge when Warner Music first expressed support for a flat fee for legal P2P music sharing in the spring of 2008. Techcrunch called the idea extortion, others warned of socialism, big government and an unfair music tax. Then the global financial markets hit rock bottom, countries like the US started to nationalize banks left and right, and people warmed up to the fact that government intervention and taxation aren’t always bad things. This will continue in 09.

We’ll see billions of tax payer’s money spent on infrastructure projects and governments taking stakes in major industries. In a way, we will all become socialists, if only to wait out the end of the crisis. And in the process, we will warm up to the idea of collective licensing. Now, it’s unclear whether the record labels will actually come through and start first blanket licensing trials by the end of the year, but I predict that consumers will be ready for it. Because really, who will object to five bucks a month in light of billions spend on bailouts?

Janko Roettgers is a Los Angeles-based journalist. He is also the editor of P2P Blog.


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