There’s a great debate in recent years about whether file sharing software applications are legal or not, and while most people believe they are in violation of copyright laws, they continue to be used to share files, programs, music, videos and more. Peer to peer file sharing software, or P2P file sharing, is the biggest culprit in this debate. This type of file sharing software client, such as Limewire or Vuze, is used by millions worldwide. P2P file sharing clients work by allowing members of the community the ability to share usually music and video files with other members of the community by downloading the file from one another’s local computer.

It’s important to point out that there are plenty of completely legal alternatives to P2P file sharing, such as paid music/video downloads or sites such as YouTube who offer free videos. And of course, Huddle’s project collaboration software allows for file sharing amongst friends, colleagues, teams, or your organization.

Opponents of file sharing programs say that downloading copyrighted material is illegal and is equivalent to stealing. They claim that PSP file sharing is to blame for the recent decline in worldwide music sales from $38 billion in 1999 to $32 billion in 2003. There’s no doubt that file sharing has an effect on music sales, but proponents of legalizing file sharing software say that it helps boost music sales by providing greater exposure. It also helps new bands to get discovered by a greater audience.

There have a number of legal rulings worldwide regarding the use of file sharing software clients to share files. The first notable case was A&M Records vs. Napster in 2001 where Napster was found liable for copyright infringement. This ruling set-off the “great debate” regarding P2P file sharing software titles. Another recent case involved Jammie Thomas-Rasset who was charged with copyright infringement by downloading 24 music files via Kazaa, which was at one time the most popular P2P file sharing client in the world. She was found guilty by a U.S. District Court that fined her $80,000 per song, or $1.92 million, for illegally sharing files. That may be a bit extreme, but it has definitely sent a message to P2P file sharing users and the file sharing clients themselves.

Some P2P file sharing software clients allow the user to filter copyrighted content out of their network, which effectively eliminates the risk of copyright infringement. This is a great advance in the progression of online file sharing, and it is a trend that is sure to continue. Although P2P file sharing has declined in recent years, according to a recent survey of British music fans, the number of people downloading illegal content is still exceptionally high. The survey found that the number of people using file sharing software fell from 22% in 2007 to 17% in 2009. Furthermore, the percentage amongst 14 to 18-year-olds fell from 42% to 26%.

Whether you support P2P file sharing or not, it’s not likely to go away any time soon. And if used legally without copyright infringement, P2P file sharing software can be a great tool for discovering new music, video, sharing documents or games. This can be a great tool for developers looking to gain some interest and exposure for new games they’ve designed, as well as provide musical artists and budding videographers a great tool to market their new songs or videos.

Here are the top five most popular free P2P file sharing software applications as determined by number of downloads at

5. uTorrent

As one of the most popular BitTorrent clients around, uTorrent is a lightweight P2P file sharing client that is easy to use and is compatible with Windows 98 and up (newest Mac version is currently in Beta). Its simple and easy to use interface make it a very popular choice, and it’s innovative RSS feed download function automatically downloads files from subscribed feeds as they are published.

4. BitComet

BitComet is a fast and easy to use file sharing client that is easily recognizable by Windows users due to its Internet Explorer-esque design. BitComet is compatible with PCs that run Windows 98/ME and up.

3. Frostwire

People familiar with Limewire will easily recognize Frostwire as it borrows from Limewire’s source code. The main difference is that Frostwire functions much like the Limewire Pro version (paid version), which makes it a very attractive choice recently. It is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems.

2. Vuze

Vuze is a popular file sharing client used to share HD video across the web. It allows you to play high-quality video on PCs, Macs, iPhones, iPods, Apple TV, PS3 and on Xbox 360. Ultra-fast speeds and easy to use interface has made Vuze one of the most powerful video sharing apps anywhere.

1. Limewire

Far and away the most popular P2P file sharing software app is Limewire, which has over 70 million unique users per month. Its user-friendly design is easy to use, and it integrates with Google/Jabber and Facebook for sharing files with your friends quickly and easily. There’s also a feature to disable sharing of copyrighted material, so only legal files are shared freely throughout your personal network.

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