The Darknet and the Future of Content Distribution

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The Darknet and the Future of Content Distribution

Peter Biddle, Paul England, Marcus Peinado, and Bryan Willman

Microsoft Corporation

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 be short-term impediments 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.

1 Introduction
People have always copied things. In the past, most items of value were physical objects. Patent law and economies of scale meant that small scale copying of physical objects was usually uneconomic, and large-scale copying (if it infringed) was stoppable using policemen and courts. Today, things of value are increasingly less tangible: often they are just bits and bytes or can be accurately represented as bits and bytes. The widespread deployment of packet-switched networks and the huge advances in computers and codec-technologies has made it feasible (and indeed attractive) to deliver such digital works over the Internet. This presents great opportunities and great challenges. The opportunity is low-cost delivery of personalized, desirable high-quality content. The…...

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