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.