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Peer-to-Peer Web Sites Grow 535 Percent This Year

In addition to audio and video files, peer-to-peer Web sites may be sharing the problems of increased legal liabilities and bandwidth drains for businesses allowing employee access to these types of sites from corporate networks.

Websense Inc., the worldwide leader of employee Internet management (EIM) solutions, reports that the number of peer-to-peer file sharing and file transfer Web sites has spiked more than 535 percent in the last 12 months, now totaling nearly 38,000 Web pages. In fact, 30 percent of products listed on CNET’s “Most Popular” software download list are P2P applications.

While most P2P applications and MP3 files are free to users, corporations are paying the price for illegal employee song swapping. For example, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) recently announced that Arizona-based Integrated Information Systems Inc. (IIS) agreed to pay the organization $1 million in lieu of a court trial. IIS ran a dedicated server permitting employees to post and share thousands of copyrighted MP3 files over their company computer network.

“Companies are no longer in the position to turn a blind eye toward employees illegally swapping songs using company resources,” said Jennifer Kearns, a labor and employment partner at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison LLP., a global law firm with offices in the United States, London, Oxford and Munich. “Companies that look the other way may have copyright violations occurring in the workplace and lawsuits are a potential outcome of such activity. Managing employee access to controversial technology and content – such as file-sharing applications – is one way to control legal risk.”

According to Nielsen//NetRatings, workplace Web users take advantage of high-speed office connections to access MP3s more frequently than at home. And, at the height of the Napster craze, Napster music swapping software was found on 20 percent of more than 15,000 work PCs examined, according to eMarketer.com. Today, the problem has extended beyond Napster. In fact, the number of users of file sharing applications other than Napster grew 492 percent last October alone, according to Jupiter Media Metrix.

“Napster may have faded, but new MP3 and video download sites have picked up the slack,” said Andy Meyer, vice president of marketing for Websense Inc. “Employees are eager to download these applications onto their corporate networks, taking advantage of high-speed Internet connections. Meanwhile, company IT professionals scramble to manage the network drain and support problems associated with unauthorized downloads.”

Websense Enterprise EIM enables companies to adaptively manage how employees use the Internet at work. To solve the growing problem of controversial peer-to-peer file sharing on corporate networks, Websense created Premium Group II (PGII). PGII consists of additional database categories – including Internet radio and TV, streaming media, peer-to-peer file sharing, personal network storage/backup and Internet telephony – and can be installed into Websense Enterprise software to conserve more network bandwidth.

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