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Old 11-13-2012, 04:23 PM   #316
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Originally Posted by BoldlyDubious View Post
I like detailed criticism :-)
And I like detailed discussions like this one, which remain civil despite disagreement. Much of this thread could serve as an example of how to have sensible disagreements on the internet.

Now, I'm pulling some quotes out of order to tie together related ideas, but hopefully I won't pull them out of context in the process. Feel free to point it out if I do so unintentionally.

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So be it. There's nothing strange or heretic in granting limited publishing rights, if that's what the things I'm proposing must be called. We already have legal mechanisms like that in place today.
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This is easy to address. I didn't talk of families. According to my proposal, you can give copies of the files you purchase to how many people you want, but YOU are (jointly) responsible for the things that happen to your files afterwards.
That's not quite "limited publishing rights" in my mind. I used "families" as an example because that's the sort of sharing people often wish to do. How many people I want? There have to be limits of some sort. Surely it would not be okay to share with all 342 people I go to church with, even if not a single one posts it on the internet for the public. (Just an example of large groups a person might feel close to. I don't go to church.)

Which brings me to something else (doesn't it always? ) Right now the system is (some feel) unfavorably skewed toward the publishers and content providers. However, "give copies to how many people you want" can easily slant things sharply in the other direction because - again - of how ebooks are different from paper books. Right now passing a book on to my mom would require postage cost and some hassle. An ebook? No problem! It's legitimized small-scale file sharing, which would actually likely have a larger impact on sales than piracy currently does. I don't normally side with the publishers on much of anything, but even I have to cringe at how the numbers could add up.

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Current license-based DRM systems are clearly not working (neither for publishers -who suffer piracy- nor for users -who get very limited rights). Moreover, these systems are doing a lot of damage to culture in general and to people's attitude towards legality (Average Joe and -apparently- Average Politician will probably realize that only in 15 or 20 years).
So now the publishers' losses are transferred from large-scale piracy to small-scale sharing, which is actually more likely to cut into sales because it's targeted sharing, while users get to do the sharing but could potentially be on the hook for something they didn't actually do. It's like telling them "share with people you trust, but trust no one". This goes back to not knowing who is or is not a potential pirate. They simply won't know until it is too late and they are on the hook for a fine, at which point they will stop sharing with anyone for fear of it happening again, which should make the publishers happy but nullifies one of the advantages of the system.

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In my opinion this is not sufficient. The only failsafe fallback plan is making consumers able to do their own backing up of their media, legally. Moreover, what happens if the media publisher folds is only part of the problem I wanted to address. The other part is that consumers are now suffering an extremely uneven balance of power against publishers, which the latter justify with a "fight against piracy" that is not even working.
I did say it would be "a start". It wouldn't solve everything, but it would cover one of the reasons often cited by people who don't want DRM'd ebooks.

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Why can't you? In my opinion, provided that users are prepared to "pay" for such freedom with an assumption of responsibility (so they need to care about what happens to their media files) there are no technical reason nor unreasonable risks for the publisher in letting us "have it both ways".
Because you're taking away one of their motivations for doing so - more sales. The reason they offer the features they do is because a solid ecosystem is attractive to buyers. Without vendor lock-in, many of those features don't work. So if you decide I'm trustworthy enough to give me some of your books, I won't be able to use the features I bought my Kindle for in the first place. Give people the option of either using the cool features or getting free books from their friends... How many do you think will choose the cool features? I honestly don't know, as I don't use those features, so I'd actually be interested in finding out what most people would choose.

I've been interrupted so many times in the past hour as I've tried to write this, I'll just wrap it up here. It's so frustrating when work gets in the way of a good discussion. Also, if there are replies in between that covered any of this, forgive me, it just took me so long to get this typed.
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Old 11-13-2012, 06:49 PM   #317
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Originally Posted by CWatkinsNash View Post
And I like detailed discussions like this one, which remain civil despite disagreement.
It's interesting only as long as it's civil :-)
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I used "families" as an example because that's the sort of sharing people often wish to do. How many people I want? There have to be limits of some sort.
In my proposed "social DRM" scheme, the limit is not given by something inherently fragile as a hard-coded number set in the Terms of Service. It's given by something delocalized and flexible: personal trust.
Given that I will be responsible for what other people do with my files, I will give them only to those I consider as "completely trustworthy". In this context, this takes a pretty restrictive meaning. "Completely trustworthy" people are those I am absolutely sure will never give copies of my file to other people, under any circumstances, even if they know that they could do that without any risk for themselves. The only thing that will prevent them from giving my files away will be that they care for me.
For most of us the number people who comply with this definition of "completely trustworthy" is, I think, very limited.
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It's legitimized small-scale file sharing, which would actually likely have a larger impact on sales than piracy currently does.
I don't think so.
Let's say that Mr. X buys ebook or music album "Y". I estimate that for the average Mr. X there are maybe 15 "completely trustworthy" people in the above sense. Of these, 5 live with Mr. X, so are already considered as "lost sales" by media vendors according to today's system (licensing rules such as "you can load this book on up to 5 different devices" mean that anyone you share your devices with can read the book for free). Of the remaining 10 people, I'd say that the number of those who would certainly buy the book if Mr. X or someone else doesn't give it to them reduces to 1: Ms. Z. Let's make it 2 to keep into consideration the fact that Ms. Z may know someone else who bought "Y". (Ms. Z can get "Y" only from people who consider her as "completely trustworthy", i.e. from a very small set of people.)

So: 1 or 2 lost sales per actual sale, in exchange for a large reduction in the occurrence of illegal distribution of media AND a much greater customer satisfaction, at least from "power users" who buy a lot of media and thus are more likely to be aware of the limitations that vendors impose to them.
As a reference, I think that a similar ratio (1-2) between lost and actual sales applies to paper books as well. Lending pbooks is more difficult than emailing a file, but there's no risk in doing that, so you don't limit your lending to "completely trustworthy" people!
With current licensing schemes, I reckon media publishers claim a much higher ratio of lost sales per actual sale. Even ignoring their ludicrous figures (often ignoring the distinction between "willing to download for free" and "willing to buy"), a ratio of 1 or 2 seems good to me, given the mass of pirated media available on the Internet.
(Disclaimer: I'm not an expert and these calculations are totally arbitrary: it would be interesting to have some expert provide real data and estimates.)
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It's like telling them "share with people you trust, but trust no one".
It's like telling them "share with people who you really trust. Other people will buy their own media." Is that so bad?
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This goes back to not knowing who is or is not a potential pirate. They simply won't know until it is too late and they are on the hook for a fine, at which point they will stop sharing with anyone for fear of it happening again
Well, if I get a fine because someone I trusted distributed some of my files and did not accept to take any responsibility for it, the fine will have the positive effect of making me revise my (provably unreliable) criteria for giving trust before I get something worse than a fine.
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Give people the option of either using the cool features or getting free books from their friends... How many do you think will choose the cool features?
If very few will choose the cool features, it will mean that they are not so cool after all...

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Old 11-14-2012, 07:44 AM   #318
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Something that had confused me about your proposal is starting to become clear. So just to clarify, under your scheme someone who paid for the book can give it to whoever they want but anyone who received it can't pass it on - is that correct?

Because I think it might be a bit confusing. On the one hand you're encouraging lending/sharing on the basis that that's like paper books, but you have to educate people that the lending/sharing can only go one level - unlike paper books.

But it makes more sense of talking about being able to do "whatever you want" and still have "illegal distribution".
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Old 11-14-2012, 08:15 AM   #319
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No, I don't like that as well. But I like a lot less DRM schemes that prevent me from owning my files.

That said, according to my proposal putting fake but correct "social DRM" metadata in a media file would require:
1) ensuring that the file is one I actually bought;
2) ensuring that the purchase date in the metadata is the right one;
3) knowing what media vendor I bought the file from;
4) knowing my unique ID in those vendor's systems.
I can't see how someone who is not the CIA or someone very close to me can do that. And if one of my family wants to put me into trouble, they could do better than uploading my files via torrent...

On the contrary, for what I know the type of "identity proof" that media publishers try to convince everyone to accept for illegal uploaders is something like: "the upload came from an IP address that the wireless router of the accused person had at the time we presume the upload occurred".
This is much worse.
imo if you didn't do it you shouldn't be responsible as long as you took "reasonable" precautions. Any law* that allows fines to be issued without reasonable evidence of guilt is going to be abused and a wide net of fines issued. An IP address is not and should never be proof imo, only a means towards obtaining the right to acquire more proof.

However, whilst I do not agree with BD about the overall idea, I do think that IF and it's a big IF, the book vendors do watermarking correctly, it would indeed to quite difficult to fake a book as been bought by someone else without either

a) having copied that specific book from the person, in which case there's no need to fake it
b) broken into the vendors DB and accessed all the information required to regenerate the watermark and hashes embedded in each purchase.

That is, if the vendors do a responsible job of watermarking and keeping their internal DB secure, which I have my doubts over.

It would be a terrible to see legal customers prosecuted because the vendor failed to adequately secure their systems.

Edit: * Just to clarify, I mean any law related to IP infringement. There may be very valid cases in other areas where laws are introduced and apply with minimal evidence and result in fines yet is an acceptable balance.

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Old 11-14-2012, 09:47 AM   #320
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Something that had confused me about your proposal is starting to become clear. So just to clarify, under your scheme someone who paid for the book can give it to whoever they want but anyone who received it can't pass it on - is that correct?
Because I think it might be a bit confusing. On the one hand you're encouraging lending/sharing on the basis that that's like paper books, but you have to educate people that the lending/sharing can only go one level - unlike paper books.
Almost right :-)
Under my scheme there is not a predefined and top-down limit on who can give a copy of a file to whom: this would be, in my view, unenforceable and not flexible enough. Instead, it's the mechanism itself that encourages those who paid for a book to give a copy of it only to people who they trust will never share it with anyone else: in fact, if they keep doing otherwise they will almost certainly get some fines on the long run. Nothing except not wanting to put the original buyer into trouble prohibits "second-level" sharing.

According to my proposal the work of preventing illegal distribution of content is left to distributed trust bonds between people, not to the fear of (extremely unlikely though terrible) punishment as it is today. The reward for doing such prevention is the freedom for everyone of us to do with our media all the things (or most of them) that we would like to do, and are presently prohibited, illegal or unnecessarily difficult.

BTW, thanks to you and everyone else participating in this discussion for your effort to delve into this (now more than a bit on the tl;dr side...). I find this kind of collective brainstorming very interesting and useful to refine ideas.
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Old 11-14-2012, 09:59 AM   #321
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However, whilst I do not agree with BD about the overall idea, I do think that IF and it's a big IF, the book vendors do watermarking correctly, it would indeed to quite difficult to fake a book as been bought by someone else [...]
It would be a terrible to see legal customers prosecuted because the vendor failed to adequately secure their systems.
I agree with you, but it takes only a few of proved cases where legal customer gets unjustly prosecuted to discredit all subsequent accusations of illegal distribution based on using embedded metadata as evidence. So publishers would have the strongest pressure (do that or you'll die!) to do a good work.

I also want to make it clear that I don't like DRM systems of any kind, not even my hypothetical "social DRM". If everyone of us were honest and correct, no DRM (and no door locks...) would be necessary.
However, I'm trying to imagine a system that can actually work in the real (post-Internet and post-infinite digital copying possible) world for:
(1) ensuring that authors fully get the fruit of their work;
(2) avoiding that media buyers are held hostages of media distributors through abusive licensing policies.
Neither of these happen with current DRM schemes. More precisely: they fail at (1) and they intentionally do the contrary of (2).
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Old 11-14-2012, 10:26 AM   #322
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Originally Posted by BoldlyDubious View Post
According to my proposal the work of preventing illegal distribution of content is left to distributed trust bonds between people, not to the fear of (extremely unlikely though terrible) punishment as it is today. The reward for doing such prevention is the freedom for everyone of us to do with our media all the things (or most of them) that we would like to do, and are presently prohibited, illegal or unnecessarily difficult.
I see your proposal as completely fear-based. You are saying that the initial buyer is responsible for any breach of copyright. I would be afraid to loan someone a book under those circumstances--any carelessness on their part could result in my facing legal trouble.

Secondly, the people who actually commit the "crime" may easily get off scot-free--what's to connect them with MY file that may be several levels removed from their actions? I get blamed for something over which I had no control, about which I have no knowledge.

So your proposal in effect means NO loaning to anyone, no sharing with anyone, for fear of the consequences. There is no up side to this--if I let my e-book out of my possession, ever, or let anyone else use my computer where the books are backed up, I could be in hot water someday down the road.

With a scheme like this, a consumer would be better off going to a pirate site, getting books for free with other people's identifications attached to them, and then being able to share those books without fear of consequences--it's the original poor schnook who bought the books in the first place who gets screwed.
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Old 11-14-2012, 10:27 AM   #323
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I agree with you, but it takes only a few of proved cases where legal customer gets unjustly prosecuted to discredit all subsequent accusations of illegal distribution based on using embedded metadata as evidence. So publishers would have the strongest pressure (do that or you'll die!) to do a good work.
I'm not sure that will happen though. Look at all the cases where people have been accused of copyright infringement based only on an IP, with no checking whether that IP was actually really downloading or just faked as part of the seed list.

Had all those cases gone to court perhaps it would have changed quicker, but a lot of people may have just paid up the pre-fine amount to avoid going to court even if they were innocent over fear that the court case would cost more to defend themselves.

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I also want to make it clear that I don't like DRM systems of any kind, not even my hypothetical "social DRM". If everyone of us were honest and correct, no DRM (and no door locks...) would be necessary.
However, I'm trying to imagine a system that can actually work in the real (post-Internet and post-infinite digital copying possible) world for:
(1) ensuring that authors fully get the fruit of their work;
(2) avoiding that media buyers are held hostages of media distributors through abusive licensing policies.
Neither of these happen with current DRM schemes. More precisely: they fail at (1) and they intentionally do the contrary of (2).
2 isn't just applicable to media buyers. The publishers and authors can find themselves locked into a vendor because that vendor has hit a given market share and that vendors customers will resist moves to other platforms because they cannot transfer their content.

Would people be willing to use iTunes match and other cloud streaming services for their own music if they'd been prevented from importing all their currently bought cds/mp3's into the system and instead had to rebuy everything.

Publishers are imo helping retailers gain power over them.

Really when it comes to DRM there's only one question to ask:

Are you trying to stop casual sharing amongst friends/family or wide scale sharing?

DRM will only limit the former it will never limit/stop the latter. If standard DRM is used to enforce casual sharing limits, then we're back to vendor lock-in and making life difficult for your customers. If social DRM is used, we run the risk of innocent people been targeted for distribution.

That leads me to believe the only viable option is no DRM. Perhaps small scale sharing should just be accepted and laws adjusted to make it easier for companies to pursue large scale piracy, with fines relative to the level of evidence gathered and certainty of involvement? However, that would imply involvement of the police or some other official investigative body and that in itself could open another can of worms

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Old 11-14-2012, 10:32 AM   #324
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I'm not sure that will happen though. Look at all the cases where people have been accused of copyright infringement based only on an IP, with no checking whether that IP was actually really downloading or just faked as part of the seed list.

Had all those cases gone to court perhaps it would have changed quicker, but a lot of people may have just paid up the pre-fine amount to avoid going to court even if they were innocent over fear that the court case would cost more to defend themselves.
Exactly. The rights owners have an incentive to bully people into settling without their evidence being contested.
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Old 11-14-2012, 10:54 AM   #325
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any carelessness on their part could result in my facing legal trouble.
Well, not necessarily "legal trouble". I think that a reasonably low fine (something like a few hundred dollars/euros) would be a more than sufficient deterrent. That said: if your carelessness damages someone else (the authors of your ebooks and their publishers) from getting the reward for their work, why shouldn't you get a punishment?
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Secondly, the people who actually commit the "crime" may easily get off scot-free--what's to connect them with MY file that may be several levels removed from their actions? I get blamed for something over which I had no control, about which I have no knowledge.
No, you get blamed (and fined) for having personally given your files to at least one untrustworthy person who shared them with someone else while knowing that this may likely get you into trouble and damage the authors of your media. You had full control over this choice; you were careless; you pay the fine...
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So your proposal in effect means NO loaning to anyone, no sharing with anyone, for fear of the consequences.
No, absolutely. There are people I trust: I would easily trust them not to share my files, and I would happily lend my media to them.
What my proposal does is preventing loaning to little-known or untrusted people. I find this an acceptable limitation of what I can do with my media.
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Old 11-14-2012, 11:11 AM   #326
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Are you trying to stop casual sharing amongst friends/family or wide scale sharing? DRM will only limit the former it will never limit/stop the latter.
I think my proposal goes someway towards the goal of a system that does not stop "casual sharing" (I would rather call this "social enjoying" or something like that, and I think it is important for society and culture) but strikes wide scale sharing.
Wide scale illegal media distributors are what media companies fear most (or say they fear most). However, I get the impression that these mass uploaders are mostly amateurs: today it's really really easy (and free) to get media, strip the DRM and upload. With my "social DRM" scheme, wide scale illegal media uploaders would need to pester their acquaintances to get the media in the first place, and would get ostracized as soon as the fines begin... Not being professional hackers and criminals, I don't think these people will bother to remove the metadata (especially if this is not straightforward), and will end up switching to some other hobby.
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That leads me to believe the only viable option is no DRM. Perhaps small scale sharing should just be accepted and laws adjusted to make it easier for companies to pursue large scale piracy, with fines relative to the level of evidence gathered and certainty of involvement? However, that would imply involvement of the police or some other official investigative body and that in itself could open another can of worms
I agree about the can of worms! I would rather accept some form of DRM (provided it is carefully designed to damage ONLY illegal distribution, not -as today's systems- almost everything but that) than authorize generalized police snooping through people's files. The potential for abuse in the latter case is too high.
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Old 11-14-2012, 11:38 AM   #327
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I don't have too much time right now but I wanted to respond to my vision of the "lost sales" portion. (I do tend to go on so I actually set a timer for myself. )

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I don't think so.
Let's say that Mr. X buys ebook or music album "Y". I estimate that for the average Mr. X there are maybe 15 "completely trustworthy" people in the above sense. Of these, 5 live with Mr. X, so are already considered as "lost sales" by media vendors according to today's system (licensing rules such as "you can load this book on up to 5 different devices" mean that anyone you share your devices with can read the book for free). Of the remaining 10 people, I'd say that the number of those who would certainly buy the book if Mr. X or someone else doesn't give it to them reduces to 1: Ms. Z. Let's make it 2 to keep into consideration the fact that Ms. Z may know someone else who bought "Y". (Ms. Z can get "Y" only from people who consider her as "completely trustworthy", i.e. from a very small set of people.)
You envision that people will only share with a few close people, and those people will not pass them on because they don't want to endanger the source of the file. But I see something different, and so my numbers work out differently than yours.

Let's use Mary again, because I get confused when I use letters instead of names, and we know and love Mary by now anyway. Mary has an ebook. Her sister Jane wants to read it, and so she gives her a copy with a reminder that she shouldn't go giving it away because if it ends up on the internet, Mary will be in trouble. Jane reads the book, and when she meets with her Green Valley Gardening Club, she tells the other 19 ladies about the book. They all want to read it, but gosh, the book is expensive... So Jane says to them, "Okay, I'll give you copies but you can't pass them around because if they end up on the internet my sister will get it trouble."

Kathy, one of the Garden Club members, reads the book, and it sits on her computer for a while, right next to her other ebooks. Her cousin Amy and niece Sue come by and Kathy gives them copies of a few ebooks, including the one she got from Jane. Likely, some of the other members do something similar.

One ebook, purchased by Mary, results in 50+ free copies rather quickly. Not a single one ends up on the internet, and no malice was involved whatsoever. You asked them to rely on trust, and they did. Mary never gets in any trouble because it's all person-to-person and every single one of those people would never consider uploading it because that would be piracy!

If Mary trusts Bill, she gets a fine, and several thousand people who would likely never buy the book get a free copy. If Mary trusts Jane, nothing bad happens to her, and 50 people who might have actually bought the book get a free copy.

Crap. My timer went off. My closing thought (for now) - if "social policing" (or positive peer pressure, if you will) really worked all that well, we wouldn't need traffic cops. It requires that everyone (or most) are susceptible to that sort of thing. I'm not. Fortunately, I'm lawfully good (okay, sometimes chaotic good ) so I'm not a risk in this scenario, but if people are honest about the reality of the human animal, they'd be in catlady's camp - trust no one, just in case.
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Old 11-14-2012, 12:43 PM   #328
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Well, not necessarily "legal trouble". I think that a reasonably low fine (something like a few hundred dollars/euros) would be a more than sufficient deterrent. That said: if your carelessness damages someone else (the authors of your ebooks and their publishers) from getting the reward for their work, why shouldn't you get a punishment?
You think if I'm a little bit careless with a digital file, I should have to pay a few hundred bucks? That's absurd.

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No, you get blamed (and fined) for having personally given your files to at least one untrustworthy person who shared them with someone else while knowing that this may likely get you into trouble and damage the authors of your media. You had full control over this choice; you were careless; you pay the fine...
No. I get blamed if I let one person share the file. I have no control over who that person trusts, I have no control over whether that person's computer is hacked, I have no control over whether that person is careless. And so on and so on--there could be infinite levels of people who could disseminate that file, and when it ends up somewhere on a file-sharing site, then what? I'm supposed to trace how it happened? And at each level, there is less and less incentive for the person who has the file to safeguard it--because he's not the one who gets blamed. The net effect is that I would be unwilling to EVER let the first person share the file. This may be a benefit to the publishers and authors, but it's NO benefit to me as the consumer and is much more onerous than the current DRM.

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No, absolutely. There are people I trust: I would easily trust them not to share my files, and I would happily lend my media to them.
What my proposal does is preventing loaning to little-known or untrusted people. I find this an acceptable limitation of what I can do with my media.
No, it doesn't do that. It means you have to trust every person who is trusted by the person you trust, and every person those people trust, and so on and so on. And not only trust them to not distribute the file, but to safeguard it zealously, when they have absolutely no incentive to do so.

It's simply wrong to make the initial owner of the file liable for any and every nefarious use of the file.
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Old 11-14-2012, 01:12 PM   #329
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Since some of my responses have traveled all over the map of this discussion, I thought I'd spend a few minutes of my lunch break to summarize where I stand on the various points.

I am not opposed to social DRM itself. That isn't where my concerns are. My issues are with:
  • Legal copy-based transfer of files without reliable transfer of responsibility
  • Lack of clear definitions / limits - people need parameters to work within, because we don't all have consistent ideas of "how much is too much" or where the line is between sharing and publishing and piracy

What I would be all for is a watermark DRM system that removes the vendor lock-in by eliminating proprietary DRM formats, and I would be for a system of sharing that transfers the license and makes the recipient the current owner. Mary wouldn't "share" the book with Bill, she would give it to him and he would then be the new owner and the responsible party.
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Old 11-14-2012, 01:18 PM   #330
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No, you get blamed (and fined) for having personally given your files to at least one untrustworthy person who shared them with someone else while knowing that this may likely get you into trouble and damage the authors of your media. You had full control over this choice; you were careless; you pay the fine...

No, absolutely. There are people I trust: I would easily trust them not to share my files, and I would happily lend my media to them.
What my proposal does is preventing loaning to little-known or untrusted people. I find this an acceptable limitation of what I can do with my media.
Do you trust them never to get mugged and their laptop (with your file on it) stolen? And do you trust them to keep an offsite record of every borrowed file they have and on which devices they have it loaded, in case that happens? With multiple backups of said list, in case of fire/theft/bankruptcy of cloud service?

I don't trust myself to do that, much less anyone else, especially when it puts me at significant risk.
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