File-Sharing and the Darknet

File-Sharing and the Darknet

Martin Steinebach (Fraunhofer SIT, Germany)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9715-5.ch011
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Today the darknet is a term most often is used for privacy networks like TOR. Around the year 2000 at the high of the mp3 file sharing debate between internet activists and copyright holders, it was a term commonly used for file sharing networks allowing the transfer of digital files, especially music and movies. These former darknets were subject of multiple investigations with the aim to identify and sue users who traded copyrighted martial via these networks. Therefore, a technical development started trying to achieve privacy for file sharing users. In this article, the authors show how file sharing networks evolved into the privacy networks we know today and which impact the privacy mechanisms have on file sharing.
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With increasing download speeds and the general growth of the Internet, sharing content over the Internet became more and more common. Even before the world wide web was introduced, mailing lists and FTP servers were used to access illegal copies of photos, documents or (with the rise of mp3) songs. The first file sharing methods were still centralized and depended on a server. Law enforcement or administrators could easily attack these servers. This led to the adoption of alternative infrastructures, the peer-to-peer networks. File sharing via peer-to-peer networks has been used for the exchange and distribution of copyrighted material since the advance of this technology.

This section discusses the history of illegal content distributed via the Internet, commonly called ’warez’, and first general approaches to distributed warez without being monitored and sued.

Bulletin Boards

The concept of warez existed even before the Internet as we know it today. The book NO COPY reports from the origins of today’s warez scene (Kroemer & Sen, 2006). In the 80’s copyrighted contents were distributed in so-called Bulletin Board Systems (short: BBS). The dial-in into these forums was not as common as today and typically only technically interested people met there.

In these small communities, it was important that members actively supported the community before downloading, for example by uploading their own content or commercial software with removed copy protection. Commercial interests were almost not existent. At the end of the 1990s, the law enforcement took stronger action against this community.

This led to uncertainty among many participants, who now regarded the support of the scene as too great a personal risk. At the same time, the Internet, as we know it today, began to gain popularity. As a result, many warez from the BBS were uploaded and made accessible to everyone. These two factors were mainly responsible for the decline of the Bulletin Boards.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Peer-to-peer Network: A network of nodes with usually equal rights and responsibilities. The nodes are usually computers of Internet users where a software with the peer-to-peer protocol is running.

Darknet: From the perspective of copyright violations, any network used for the illegal distribution of files can be called a darknet. From a privacy perspective, a darknet is a network providing anonymity for its participants.

File-Sharing: Offering and transferring digital files via various channels of the internet, usually in a decentralized manner.

Warez: Term for illegal digital goods, usually software or multimedia files.

TOR: Short for The Onion Router. A privacy network based on onion routing and encryption.

IP Address: Internet protocol address, usually the basic identifier of a computer participating in the internet. It can be seen as a pseudonym of the user of the computer and can be connected to the identity of the user by his internet service provider.

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