The darknet rises: how Microsoft engineers predicted the failure of DRM as we knew it

optical disc dvd cd pile stock 1024

In 2002, four Microsoft engineers presented a paper titled The Darknet and the Future of Content Distribution to a security conference in Washington, DC. They argued that DRM would be ineffective at stemming the unauthorized spread of copyrighted content due to a "darknet" of torrents, file lockers, and local sharing. Microsoft was in a tough position at the time as it wanted to both calm fears that PCs would become "locked down" by secure hardware modules at the same time as staying on the good side of content companies. Because of this, the paper's authors almost lost their jobs and were not allowed to publicly defend their statements.

In an interview with Ars Technica, the paper's lead author discusses the complex internal politics of Microsoft at the time, the inefficacy of DRM, and attempting to manage the public view of his work on secure hardware modules, which was perceived by some to be an attack on the open PC. Of course, DRM has been more successful in recent years, not through locked-down mp3 downloads or copy-protected discs (Blu-rays rips are prevalent across the so-called darknet), but through Netflix, Spotify, Rdio, and the movie industry's UltraViolet program. Nonetheless, the interview makes for interesting reading, as does the engineers' prophetic paper itself.

The Verge
Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.



Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.