In a study spanning 560 companies, ranging from 10 to 45,000 employees, Canadian company AssetMetrix found peer-to-peer software such as Kazaa and Morpheus installed at least once in 77 percent of companies. The survey found that every company in its sample with more than 500 employees had at least one installation of file-swapping software.
The results highlight the potential risks that corporations and individuals run, as the record industry prepares to file potentially thousands of lawsuits against individuals who offer copyrighted materials online.
"Corporations are frantic about how to rein in some control over this," said AssetMetrix President Paul Bodnoff. "Like with software licenses, most companies want to be on the right side of the law. The challenge is how they do that."
The presence of file swapping on corporate networks has been a subject of increasing concern during the past year, for reasons extending beyond businesses' legal liability.
Copyright holders have steadily increased their pressure on corporations to crack down on their employees' file-trading behavior, sending letters to the Fortune 500 companies warning of legal risks, and even settling out of court for $1 million with one company where a large archive of copyrighted songs was found.
However, corporate technology managers say they are also worried about the drain of resources sparked by file-swapping applications. P2P software can allow viruses to worm their way onto corporate networks, and transfers of large media files such as movies can take up large amounts of bandwidth, resulting in unexpected network costs for companies.
Several companies have sprung up that offer network management tools aimed at finding and deleting unauthorized applications, including file-swapping software. AssetMetrix now offers a free service that lets corporations scan their networks to see how many P2P clients have been installed, and how much storage space is taken up by multimedia files downloaded through the services.
The first round of lawsuits against individual file swappers is expected from the Recording Industry Association of America in mid-August.