The Darknet and the Future of Content Protection

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Abstract

We investigate the darknet – a collection of networks and technologies used to share digital content. The darknet is not a separate physical network but an application and protocol layer riding on existing networks. Examples of darknets are peer to peer file sharing, CD and DVD copying, and key or password sharing on email and newsgroups. The last few years have seen vast increases in the darknet’s aggregate bandwidth, reliability, usability, size of shared library, and availability of search engines. In this paper we categorize and analyze existing and future darknets, from both the technical and legal perspectives. We speculate that there will continue to be setbacks to the effectiveness of the darknet as a distribution mechanism, but ultimately the darknet genie will not be put back into the bottle. In view of this hypothesis, we examine the relevance of content protection and content distribution architectures.