n. The collection of networks and other technologies that enable people to illegally share copyrighted digital files with little or no fear of detection.
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Here is a prediction: the darknet will never die. Adversaries will send out their digital agents to hunt down its disciples. But the darknet will go further underground, finding new ways to escape the reach of these electronic attackers. The faithful will find safety by banding together in small groups, beyond the reach of the oppressors.

The script for the next Matrix sequel? No — because the darknet is already here: it is the unofficial side of the internet. And its resilience guarantees that it will remain a thorn in the side of the music and movie industries, whatever successes they may have in crushing its early manifestations.
—Richard Waters, “No respite from the forces of darknet,” Financial Times (London), July 29, 2003
Users will copy objects if it is possible and interesting to do so," said authors Peter Biddle, Paul England, Marcus Peinado and Bryan Willman. That truism, they said, when combined with a high-bandwidth network and only a fraction of users initially sharing content, made the darknet ubiquitous. Sharing has existed for years, they argued, but the "sneaker net" approach of mixed cassette tapes passed among friends or sent through the mail meant the copyright abuse was "trivial.
—Patrick Ross, “Microsoft Employees Write That DRM Systems Is Doomed to Fail,” Washington Internet Daily, November 25, 2002
2002 (earliest)
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.
—Peter Biddle, “The Darknet and the Future of Content Distribution,” Digital Rights Management conference, November 22, 2002
The ominous tone that pervades the word darknet is probably no accident. That's because the joint coiners of the term — Peter Biddle, Paul England, Marcus Peinado, and Bryan Willman — are employees of Microsoft, a company on the forefront of something called digital rights management. DRM is a set of technologies that aims not just to ensure that people pay for copyrighted digital content, but also that they can't make illegal copies of that content. In a paper called "The Darknet and the Future of Content Distribution," the above authors argue that the existence of the darknet severely undermines all DRM initiatives, which is dark news indeed for Microsoft and every other company that hopes to control the use and abuse of copyrighted digital files.