Wednesday, September 10, 2008


The article begins with the premise that throughout history , any object people thought was worth copying has been copied.  It used to be that copying could be regulated using existing law systems.  Small scale copiers didn’t really matter, and large scale copiers could be taken down using police and courts.  But the increasing number of intangible “objects” being copied has hindered the ability to regulate.

The article also assumes three things. The first being that at least some users of the objects will posses the object in a form in which it is possible to copy, and third that users have a capable connection to channels that can carry the copies.  The darknet, is according to these specifications, the network that results from the transfer of objects and ability of users.

In order to function properly, the darknet must have 5 distinct capabilities: input, transmission, output, database, and storage.  Most legislation that intends to disrupt the darknet takes aim at the output and cataloging ability of the network.  However most legislation aimed at the darknet is limited in effectiveness and has no real implications on its functionality.

The original darknet consisted of groups of social peers who had access to the desired objects.  The objects had to be manually transported, and even though this level of bandwidth was low, it was enough to sustain the rather slow demand for copied materials.  There was very little legal pursuit in this age of the darknet.

The next step in the darknet’s evolution came with the internet going mainstream around 1998.  By then most people had access to it and could quickly share information with people who weren’t even their peers.  However, it was much easier to prosecute illegal uses of this new technology, because darknet users were usually concentrated on very distinct servers.  This made it easy for a copyright owner to send a “cease and desist” letter and pursue legal recourse if they so desired.

Next came Napster.  It was the first darknet protocol to offer a fast method of output AND input as well as providing users with a comprehensive search engine of it’s catalog.  Napster would eventually be taken down for as it was shown that it was being used overwhelmingly to share copyrighted material.

Another , and more popular method of sharing objects is peer-to-peer networking.  In these networks people open up their disk space and allow others to access it in return for the ability to access others’ files.  The problem with these networks lies in the existence of free loaders.  The success of the program demands that everyone share equally making it harder to track the users (for illegal materials).  However the vast majority of objects come from a very small portion of the users.

To combat the prevelance of these p2p networks, right holders have begun to use DRM (digital rights management) to restrict what a consumer can do with his or her object even after it has been legally purchased.  Some companies have even gone so far as to hide software on common vectors for objects (i.e. CD’s and DVD’s) that restricts how a file can be used.  However, it is possible for most of this software to be subverted by a small portion of darknet users.

Because of the potential vulnerability of this software, new methods of restriction are being developed. One of these methods is watermarking, which involves imbedding a signature of sort on a file that marks it as needing a license to perform cetain acts such as copying.  This is disadvantageous mainly because a competitor may offer the same or a similar product free of the watermark making watermarking unprofitable.

The second method of regulation is fingerprinting, which instead of being a preventative measure, relies on the rights holder to track down the object when it is used illegally.

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