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Trying to Make DRM More Social-RM

July 26, 2010

DRM or Digital Rights Management is a tricky area.  It’s a means of imposing control such as you find in real world objects onto digital world objects.  The problem is that the digital world has a totally different set of ‘physics’ to the real world – you can make perfect copies for no cost.  From the user-end DRM is a restriction – moral or not – it places a degree of control over how you can use the digital copy of whatever it was you purchased.  From the business end DRM is a way to try and keep selling copies of media artefacts as if they were real world objects.  It’s a bind.  Creators want to get paid yet DRM makes the object less attractive to the customer. (This was shown in the fact that iTunes charged less for song with DRM then without.)  Lots of people have been looking at how to adapt to this new physics of free.

Here’s another one – a social version of DRM:

“Imagine how complicated it would be to build an electronic system that could interpret copyright laws, jurisdictional boundaries, end-user license agreements, and the variety of possible human behaviors, and then restrict people’s behavior so as to violate neither content-owner rights nor consumer rights, and without offending either side.

“It’s not only really hard, it’s completely impossible. Wherever human and legal judgements are involved, full automation is inappropriate.

“Now imagine how much simpler the system would be if it didn’t need to pre-impose restrictions, but rather depended on the natural social consequences of our product usage to preserve a balance between the rights of suppliers and consumers.”

It works like this:

Purchase a movie, song, book, game, etc. from an online vendor.

Download the encrypted content and store copies wherever you wish.

Send one of two (moveable but uncopiable) playkeys from the vendor to an online playkey bank of your choosing.

Download your other playkey into your TV, mobile phone, computer, or other device.

Now any player device, belonging to anyone, can play the content if:

You give it a copy of the encrypted content, and

You share the location and name of either playkey.

With P1817, product ownership is perpetual, and the tethers are severed that connect your purchases to their vendors. No one can restrict how you privately use or share them. However, because they are copyrighted, rightsholders retain the legal right to control public dissemination of their works.

Just as a printed book can be lost if you share it publicly (i.e., with strangers), you must be careful to share only privately (i.e., with those you trust.) That’s because anyone who shares either of your playkeys can take both of them and move them to his own device and his own online playkey bank! The availability and mobility of playkeys lets you electronically share, lend, borrow, give, take, donate, and resell digital property, just as you do with your physical possessions. And since playkeys remain singular, unique, and protected from counterfeiting, copyright holders know that your sharing will remain a private, non-public matter.

“Imagine how complicated it would be to build an electronic system that could interpret copyright laws, jurisdictional boundaries, end-user license agreements, and the variety of possible human behaviors, and then restrict people’s behavior so as to violate neither content-owner rights nor consumer rights, and without offending either side. It’s not only really hard, it’s completely impossible. Wherever human and legal judgements are involved, full automation is inappropriate.

Now imagine how much simpler the system would be if it didn’t need to pre-impose restrictions, but rather depended on the natural social consequences of our product usage to preserve a balance between the rights of suppliers and consumers.

It’s an interesting idea – but still has the problem that all forms of DRM have – it that the pirated version – with no resrictions at all – is not only easier to use, it’s free. It is also still trying to model a digital world on a real-word premise.

Not that I have a solution…still there is something in this I like…

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