You can see why file sharing on the Net scares the Hell out of the RIAA and the MPAA. After all, when Napster started up in 1999, CD sales fell as much as 30 per cent. For some reason, people all over the place who previously had no clue how to use things like IRC and FTP and had only a basic understanding of using a browser were suddenly Napster ninjas. The situation only got worse when Kazaa appeared, and when Bittorrent was released it just got easier and easier to reliably get what you wanted.

After Napster was released and became popular, the RIAA pressed Congress and the courts for relief against what it said was uncontrolled, extensive piracy. Congress agreed that file sharing services could be liable for piracy by their users, so the RIAA started to send letters to the likes of BearShare, WinMX and Grokster, telling them to wise up or shut down. And shut down many of them did.

Now, the RIAA claims that unauthorized song swapping has been "contained." They contend that although the problem has not been eliminated, a lot of progress has been made. And maybe they are right. They have sued just over 18,000 individuals for sharing songs online, removed the profiteers from online piracy, and have been successful in educating file sharers (including children) about copyright. Suddenly, pinching songs from the Net for free just doesn't feel so right any more.

Does this mean that, one day soon, illegal file sharing on the Net will practically be non-existent? Is the life just draining out of it? Will the RIAA win?