The legal debate surrounding file sharing has caused many lawsuits. In the United States, some of these lawsuits have even reached the Supreme Court in MGM v. Grokster.


In that particular lawsuit, the Supreme Court has ruled that the creators of P2P networks can be held responsible if the intent of their program is clearly to infringe on copyright laws.

On the other hand, file sharing is not necessarily illegal, even if the works being shared are covered by copyright. For example, some artists may choose to support freeware, shareware, open source, or anti-copyright, and advocate the use of file sharing as a free promotional tool. Nearly all shareware, freeware, and open source software may be shared as much as the end user wishes, depending on the license for that specific piece of software. Content in the public domain can also be freely shared.