The popularity of file peer-to-peer networks is driving the development of novel technologies that capitalise on the huge numbers of people sharing music and movies.
The new Matrix movie has been pirated online
Unlike earlier systems the performance of the latest file-swapping software does not degrade as more people try to get hold of popular files.
The newer software also makes it easier for people to find the files they are looking for.
The programs make it easier to get hold of and download larger files which could spell problems for film studios keen to stamp out movie piracy.
Last week file-swapping software Kazaa became the most downloaded program ever.
According to figures from Download.com, the Kazaa file-swapping system has been downloaded more than 229 million times, more than the previous record holder ICQ.
But the technology behind Kazaa is being superseded by newer programs such as eDonkey and BitTorrent that use new techniques to get files to people.
By contrast to earlier peer-to-peer systems, eDonkey spreads the index of files people are willing to share across several machines.
Instead of going to a master list to find a particular file, users would interrogate the machine holding the list of those types of file.
Downloaded files are split into small pieces and shared out across the network. This means that other people looking for the same file can start downloading more quickly.
BitTorrent works in a similar fashion with those downloading a file becoming a proxy server for anyone else wanting the same track, program or film.
The program started out as a tool for downloading large files such as CD images.
While these technologies have been in use for a while, now large numbers of people are starting to use them as their preferred downloading system.
Making it easier to find and download large files might mean more problems for music and movie makers keen to stamp out piracy.