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    Are Darknets the future of online file-sharing?

    By Dave Parrack

    File-sharing is insanely popular right now. Almost everyone has downloaded a file of some description over the Internet, probably illegally. With the authorities cracking down on such activity, rather than stopping it happening, the whole thing is in danger of heading underground. Welcome to the world of ‘darknets’.

    If you aren’t aware of piracy or illegal file-sharing then you must have been living underground for the past decade only to emerge into a world where anyone can get pretty much any file they want on the Internet for free. Whether that file is a music album, movie, television episode, video game, or piece of software, the Internet has opened piracy up to the mainstream.

    Sharing a copyrighted file of any description is obviously illegal, although we should make it clear that plenty of legal files are also shared over torrent sites and peer-to-peer networks every day. Doing anything illegal can lead to you getting caught, and piracy is no exception to this rule.

    The problem at the moment is that most of the methods used in piracy or file-sharing are vast, public networks with millions of users online at any one time. This is why you can download a movie on the day it’s released, or even before that in most cases. But as well as being a strength, this openness and popularity are also a weakness.

    As well as making finding files easy and quick, it means a lot of personal information is shared in the process. Which is why it’s so easy for copyright owners and trade groups such as the RIAA to find out who is sharing these files and sue them to kingdom come.

    This fact of life is making darknets more appealing and much more popular. Darknets aren’t actually as devilish as they sound, merely being closed networks amongst friends, or groups of people that aren’t open to outside influence or information-gathering.

    Up to now, darknets have been quite tricky to set up and not for use by normal people with little knowledge of how the whole process works. But now, as Ars Technica reports, LimeWire, one of the oldest and most-popular P2P clients has made the whole thing as easy as pie, meaning even relative noobs can create a darknet and share files over it in a matter of minutes.

    Whether darknets will grow to become the main method of online file-sharing isn’t clear as yet. As NewTeeVee points out, sharing amongst friends means the chances of obtaining bang up-to-date content falls dramatically. Certainly, one of the people involved will have to move out of the walled garden temporarily in order to bring the file in to the closed group.

    But this move to make file-sharing once again an underground movement should worry copyright-holders everywhere, because there’s little they can do to stop the movement of files amongst friends in closed networks.

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