darknet.jpgThere are some notable Silicon Valley developments in the peer-to-peer file-sharing industry, even if a lot of the action is being driven by techies outside of the region.

Some folks are justifying their technology because it can make it impossible for repressive or censor-prone governments to restrict the flow of digital information. The NYT, for example, has a good piece today about 28-year-old Irish programmer Ian Clarke, who lives in Scotland and five years ago introduced a software system called Freenet. It will be updated in a few months so users can share files with only those they trust. The article mentions others who have contributed to building a so-called “darknet,” which that aims to shield the identities of those sharing information.

Of course, the same technology can be used as a trojan horse to circumvent music and video copyrights.

In Silicon Valley, the article mentions in passing, there are start-up companies imeem and Grouper allowing groups to share digital information. We checked out imeem and Grouper when they emerged several months ago, but only now — in light of the Supreme Court file-sharing ruling — are we grasping their full potential. We at SiliconBeat were a bit spooked by imeem when we tried it: We weren’t really interested in giving anyone direct access to our hard-drive. There are other, easier ways to share data, we thought. But hey, if we’re living in China and want to share information critical of the government, or if we want to share copyrighted music or video files privately, not a bad idea, right? Even better if you trust those you’re sharing the info with, and can limit the part of the hard-drive you’re opening up.

Meanwhile, here’s the Merc’s article today (or here) about the efforts by Bram Cohen and his team at BitTorrent, which recently transplanted to San Francisco, to search for venture capital and find legitimate ways to make money (more…)

It is also interesting to note Clarke’s comments about his intentions, in particular his reference to “political dissidents” in the U.S. According to the NYT:

Though he says his aim is political – helping dissidents in countries where computer traffic is monitored by the government, for example – Mr. Clarke is open about his disdain for copyright laws, asserting that his technology would produce a world in which all information is freely shared…

…”The classic use for Freenet would be for a group of political dissidents in China, or even in the United States,” he said in a telephone interview on Thursday. But he acknowledged that the software would also surely be used to circumvent copyright restrictions, adding, “It’s an inevitable consequence of our design.”