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Old 11-14-2012, 02:01 PM   #331
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Originally Posted by CWatkinsNash View Post
[...] 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!
Ok, I'm game: let's push your "Mary has an ebook" scenario a few steps forward :-)

A total of 50 people received a free copy of the book that Mary originally bought. Of these, 20 were actually considering buying that book, because they read the reviews and talked with other people and they feel that it is the type of book they like. The other 30 don't care much about that book, and never considered buying it, but... it came for free! So they take it all the same. 20 of these 30 end up not reading it; the other 10 read it. All of the 20 people who wanted to buy the book, of course, read it. So 30 people read the book.

20 sales are lost for the book that Mary bought. However, something else happens. Among the 30 people who read the book, 10 think that it was really good, and want to read more from the same author. Over the next 6 month, 3 of them buy one book, and 2 of them two books, by that author. 7 sales are thus made. We are still at -20+7=-13 sales, though. However, one of the two people who liked the original book so much (so: one out of 50 "freeloaders") becomes a real fan of the author, and wants to have everything: so an additional 10 titles get bought. We are now at -13+10=-3 lost sales.

Of the other 49 "freeloaders", 10 talk about the book they got for free to someone. Probably, the ones who talk are those who diskiked the book most (5 people) and those who liked it most (5 people). Of the latter, 2 convince a few of their friends that the book is interesting, leading to 3 more sales. Overall, we have now -3+2+1=0 lost sales. (Yes, of course I rigged the numbers to get exactly zero at the end! ;-) )

In the meantime, on the other side of the country, Amy gives her PC to her boyfriend Joe to do some research for his college, and goes to the swimming pool. Amy knows that Joe acts a bit foolishly sometimes (it's part of his charm), but she knows there's no risk in letting him use the computer. In fact, all of her personal files and data reside in her (password-protected) cloud repository. Joe is bored and alone, and finds on the desktop a folder called "media-not_mine". Inside he only finds one file: an ebook. With the vague idea of being a hacker, he uploads it to a torrent site. He knows he can't damage Amy, because her own books are elsewhere; and after all this is clearly already a pirated copy... so what the hell! Feeling somewhat better, Joe resumes his work.

One week later, Mary receives a polite email from the local police. It says that her book has been illegally distributed and asks for the identity of possible uploaders. Mary is upset, and that evening at the Gardening Club tells the other members about this. Did one of them upload the book? Why, of course not! Did one of them give a copy of her book to someone else, even if she asked them not to? A few ladies cast lower their eyes to the ground.
Mary is indignant: "See what you did? Now I have to pay 300$! I won't give the list of your names to the police, because I don't know who is responsible; but you let me down very badly."

Best case: the members of the Club pay 15$ each to refund Mary of the fine, then they all go out for a beer. Each of them swears, in her own heart, that she will NEVER EVER AGAIN give a copy of a book she received for free to someone else.
Worst case: Mary pays the fine herself. Everyone is very embarassed, and nobody ever asks for free ebooks at the Gardening Club. Mary has to accept that someone at the Club cannot be trusted not to share her own books, and from that day gives her media only to people she REALLY knows.
In both cases, the system evolves autonomously towards LESS illegal sharing, not more.

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Old 11-14-2012, 02:16 PM   #332
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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.
No. It means that you have to trust every person you give your files to, and ASK THEM TO AVOID GIVING AWAY YOUR FILES TO OTHER PEOPLE. If they can be trusted, they will comply; if they can't, you should not have given them your files, and you may have to pay for your error.
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Old 11-14-2012, 02:24 PM   #333
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Do you trust them never to get mugged and their laptop (with your file on it) stolen?
I don't have to. I simply ask them to erase the file after they finish reading the book/listening to the record, or I ask them to keep the file in some cloud repository that a mugger can't access, or I accept the (low) risk that their laptop is stolen and the mugger uploads its contents instead of formatting the disk and selling the PC as quickly as possible.
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Old 11-14-2012, 02:34 PM   #334
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Originally Posted by BoldlyDubious View Post
No. It means that you have to trust every person you give your files to, and ASK THEM TO AVOID GIVING AWAY YOUR FILES TO OTHER PEOPLE. If they can be trusted, they will comply; if they can't, you should not have given them your files, and you may have to pay for your error.
That is absurd. I cannot control someone's future behavior. I cannot know for a certainty if my trust has been misplaced, until the person breaks my trust.

You also continue to ignore that a person may simply be careless, or that a computer might be hacked.
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Old 11-14-2012, 02:42 PM   #335
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  • 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
Hmmm... interesting. My proposal tried to tackle the problem of responsibility and limits by decentralizing. I.e., by leaving their definition, for each specific case, to the original buyer of the file: the only person who will almost certainly get part of the responsibility (and part of the fine) if the file gets illegally distributed.
It's the buyer who has to decide "how much is too much", i.e., who to share with and possibly what to ask them to do (such as "Please don't give copies of this to anyone" or "Please don't give copies of this to people who live outside our solar system").
As the number of people you share with increases, and/or your knowledge of them gets lower, your risk to get fined increases. You are the right person to choose where to draw the line.
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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 transfersthe 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.
How do you prevent me from buying something, then keeping a (DRM-stripped) copy and finally selling my file to someone else?
Even if the DRM cannot be stripped (a big if), most mass-market media are meant to be played once. What if I buy a DVD, see the movie, then sell it to someone else? These are lost sales for the DVD publisher.

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Old 11-14-2012, 02:48 PM   #336
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That is absurd. I cannot control someone's future behavior. I cannot know for a certainty if my trust has been misplaced, until the person breaks my trust.
You also continue to ignore that a person may simply be careless, or that a computer might be hacked.
My "social DRM" proposal doesn't ask you to trust people, or to take risks. It's your choice. The "zero risk" option is always available: don't share the media you buy with anyone.
It seems to me that you want to be able to share (i.e. to choose who can get a copy of your media), but you don't accept the risks and responsibilities which are associated to choice.
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Old 11-14-2012, 03:05 PM   #337
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That is absurd. I cannot control someone's future behavior. I cannot know for a certainty if my trust has been misplaced, until the person breaks my trust.

You also continue to ignore that a person may simply be careless, or that a computer might be hacked.
I wouldn't worry too much about it. We can have the "tools" modified to replace our name embedded in the watermark with "BoldlyDubious" for all of our ebooks! Problem solved.
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Old 11-14-2012, 03:14 PM   #338
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Originally Posted by BoldlyDubious View Post
My "social DRM" proposal doesn't ask you to trust people, or to take risks. It's your choice. The "zero risk" option is always available: don't share the media you buy with anyone.
It seems to me that you want to be able to share (i.e. to choose who can get a copy of your media), but you don't accept the risks and responsibilities which are associated to choice.
No. I don't actively share my files with anyone. But your scheme would make me potentially liable if someone copies my files without my knowing, and it would do this without giving me any added benefit to offset the risk.

Right now, I can easily convert file formats to read the book on any device I choose. There is no actual legal risk to me. Under your scheme, I am open to potential legal action for copyright infringement and illegal distribution the rest of my life, even if I never do anything wrong myself. Years down the road, someone may get hold of a file with my identification on it and make my life miserable. And for this potential legal liability, what exactly do I get in exchange? The right to do something I already can do--convert files for my personal use?

DRM is silly and useless, but your proposal is much worse.
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Old 11-14-2012, 03:49 PM   #339
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Originally Posted by BoldlyDubious View Post
Hmmm... interesting. My proposal tried to tackle the problem of responsibility and limits by decentralizing. I.e., by leaving their definition, for each specific case, to the original buyer of the file: the only person who will almost certainly get part of the responsibility (and part of the fine) if the file gets illegally distributed.
It's the buyer who has to decide "how much is too much", i.e., who to share with and possibly what to ask them to do (such as "Please don't give copies of this to anyone" or "Please don't give copies of this to people who live outside our solar system").
But this would be impossible to enforce, because if I can give it to as many people as I want, the only line to be drawn is internet distribution. Sneakernet is alive and well these days, and this would be legalizing it by default. I remember those guys with the unmarked black floppies lurking at the shareware expo...

Please clarify this - what happens if Mary gets that fine because of Bill, but one of Bill's beneficiaries repopulates the internet supply of Mary's book elsewhere. How does Mary prove that this new supply is from the original "offense" and not another slip-up on her part? There could be a hundred people in possession of Mary's ebook just looking for another safe haven to pirate it again.

With only the first misguided copy, Mary is sunk. Every one of those ebooks would be identical in terms of file ID, so there's no way to know if Mary herself is responsible for further violations. She screwed up once, and could be dealing with it for years.

I feel that it's simply too much to place the burden on Mary when there are so many ways that both I and others have pointed out that those files could end up on the internet that she can't control unless she just chooses to share with no one.

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How do you prevent me from buying something, then keeping a (DRM-stripped) copy and finally selling my file to someone else?
When did DRM stripping become part of this area of the conversation? How do you prevent someone from stripping DRM and sharing *that* copy under your system?

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Even if the DRM cannot be stripped (a big if), most mass-market media are meant to be played once. What if I buy a DVD, see the movie, then sell it to someone else? These are lost sales for the DVD publisher.
What you're describing falls under first-sale doctrine. It's already common practice with licensed physical items, especially with books, and the publishers have managed just fine. Losses are limited because it's inherently copy-controlled - only the originally existing copies can be sold, no additional ones can legally be made without licensing the content. What I'm proposing is about the closest we can get to doing that with electronic items. I believe the European courts recently decided that it can be done with software.

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Old 11-14-2012, 04:12 PM   #340
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Right now, I can easily convert file formats to read the book on any device I choose.
Good point. I left format conversion aside, then forgot about the issue. Here's an amended version of my proposal:

Media files are sold (not licensed) to buyers. When a buyer downloads a media file, her/his own copy of it includes embedded metadata that allow the vendor to identify who bought it, and when. Buyers are allowed to give copies of the files they bought to other people of their choice; however, they have a personal responsibility if copies of their media files get illegally distributed, whoever the actual distributor is.

If a media file gets illegally distributed (e.g., it is published on a torrent site) the original buyer of that file is considered responsible of illegal distribution along with the actual distributor and they both get fined. Only the distributor gets fined if one or both of the following conditions apply:

1) at time X, before the illegal distribution, the buyer of the file notified the police of a theft of property or data which included media files, and the illegally distributed file was purchased before time X;

2) the buyer of the file is able to identify the physical person who actually distributed the file, and this person confirms to have done that.

When a buyer gets fined for illegal distribution at time Y, she/he cannot be fined again for illegal distribution of files she/he bought before time Y.

Finally, buying a media file gives to the buyer the right to download how many copies of it she/he wants, in whatever file format of choice, at the moment of purchase or later. All copies include embedded metadata identifying the buyer. The buyer is not allowed to perform format conversions on the media file, as they can destroy the metadata, except when the destination format is not made available by the vendor.


(BTW: if the vendor folds, I cannot get new copies of the file, so I am free to convert those I already have into any format.)

Last edited by BoldlyDubious; 11-14-2012 at 05:26 PM. Reason: adding a point defined in next post + minor changes
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Old 11-14-2012, 04:38 PM   #341
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Sneakernet is alive and well these days, and this would be legalizing it by default.
Yes, but very small sneakernets :-)
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Please clarify this - what happens if Mary gets that fine because of Bill, but one of Bill's beneficiaries repopulates the internet supply of Mary's book elsewhere. How does Mary prove that this new supply is from the original "offense" and not another slip-up on her part? There could be a hundred people in possession of Mary's ebook just looking for another safe haven to pirate it again.
I think this can be managed this way: if you get fined at time X, you get the same treatment of people who report theft of hardware or files at time X, i.e. you cannot be fined again if files that you bought before X are illegally distributed.
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She screwed up once, and could be dealing with it for years.
That would be most unfair and will not happen (with the above mechanism).

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How do you prevent someone from stripping DRM and sharing *that* copy under your system?
I don't. However, the only person who has a reason to strip the DRM/embedded data from a file is the file buyer, and I don't think that files are usually illegally distributed by the person who paid for them...
Summing up: usually, the buyer will not illegally distribute her/his files, so won't bother to strip the metadata. On the other hand, an illegal distributor who is not the buyer can get the buyer into trouble, so by definition doesn't care if that happens and will not bother to strip the metadata as well.

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What you're describing falls under first-sale doctrine.
Is this doctrine applicable also to files, which can be infinitely copied for free? However, my comments about this issue were hasty and not well thought out (I, too, set timers to myself :-) ), so feel free to reduce them to pieces (or, better still, to ignore them completely and go on with the main discussion)!
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Old 11-15-2012, 04:30 AM   #342
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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. If you start giving a copy of your media to that fishy-looking second cousin of your acquired aunt, you can already start to save for the moment the fines will arrive... The system seems to me to be inherently self-limiting.
If you can give the files to as many people as you want, then how can you be prosecuted for anything that happens to the file afterwards? obviously you simply need to say that you want everyone to have the file, there has to be a legally defined limit.

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Ok, I'm game: let's push your "Mary has an ebook" scenario a few steps forward :-)

A total of 50 people received a free copy of the book that Mary originally bought. Of these, 20 were actually considering buying that book, because they read the reviews and talked with other people and they feel that it is the type of book they like. The other 30 don't care much about that book, and never considered buying it, but... it came for free! So they take it all the same. 20 of these 30 end up not reading it; the other 10 read it. All of the 20 people who wanted to buy the book, of course, read it. So 30 people read the book.

20 sales are lost for the book that Mary bought. However, something else happens. Among the 30 people who read the book, 10 think that it was really good, and want to read more from the same author. Over the next 6 month, 3 of them buy one book, and 2 of them two books, by that author. 7 sales are thus made. We are still at -20+7=-13 sales, though. However, one of the two people who liked the original book so much (so: one out of 50 "freeloaders") becomes a real fan of the author, and wants to have everything: so an additional 10 titles get bought. We are now at -13+10=-3 lost sales.
I think it will go more along the lines of 50 people get the book for free, 30 like it and then ask the person they got it from if they have any more.
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Old 11-15-2012, 06:03 AM   #343
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However, the only person who has a reason to strip the DRM/embedded data from a file is the file buyer, and I don't think that files are usually illegally distributed by the person who paid for them...
Considering that it's "nearly" technologically impossible for anyone other than "the person who paid for them" to strip today's most prevalent forms of DRM from ebooks ... you may want to rethink that assumption. Unless you think darknet still only contains scanned copies of physical books. Darknet is brimming with copies of ebooks that the original buyer stripped the DRM from and:
A) uploaded/distributed to darknet themselves.
B) passed along to an untrustworthy person who distributed/uploaded it (which they'd still be fiscally/legally responsible for under your proposed system).
But make no mistake: there is no "second-hand DRM-stripping of someone else's purchases and then the mass/illegal distribution of that file" going on in today's scene. At the very best, the original owner is handing a possibly illicit copy of an ebook to a pirate... and at the worst: uploading that illicit copy themselves.
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Old 11-15-2012, 08:51 AM   #344
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If you can give the files to as many people as you want, then how can you be prosecuted for anything that happens to the file afterwards? obviously you simply need to say that you want everyone to have the file, there has to be a legally defined limit.
The fact that you retain a part of the responsibility if one of your media files gets illegally distributed (even if the distributor is the third cousin of a friend of the dentist of the person you originally gave a copy of the file) is the key point of my proposal. It's what makes the individual buyer care about preventing illegal distribution.
In exchange, the buyer gets the right to do with her/his media files a set of sensible things that are presently illegal/prohibited/unnecessarily complex, such as backing up, changing device or having spouses or close friends use them.

You can't set an a priori limit to the responsibility of the buyer, otherwise the mechanism doesn't work.
In fact my idea is that in presence of infinitely copiable files, the only mechanisms that can effectively control unauthorized diffusion are those that rely on "internal damping": the farthest the file goes from the original buyer, the lower the probability that it will be shared.
In my proposal, this damping exists because a buyer won't give the file to people who don't care about what happens to him enough to avoid sharing the file to others, and the number of such people is limited.

Conversely, the current DRM system lacks any damping, and thus is unstable. To give one of my files to someone I have to do a bit of work (to remove DRM), yes. But once I remove the DRM, I won't care anymore where my file actually goes and who gets it. So there's no mechanism that prevents my file from being passed and uploaded and copied and shared ad infinitum.

The obvious objection is: OK, but also in your "social DRM" scheme the buyer can (at least in theory) strip the embedded data from the file. So everything is the same, right? Wrong.
The situation is completely different because with current DRM schemes (which strongly limit what the buyer can do with the media files that she/he "buys" -actually, becomes a licensee of) the buyer has an incentive to strip the DRM! In fact, only by stripping DRM she/he can do with the file the things that she/he wants to do.
So the current system encourages people to strip DRM from their media. And, as I said, once this has been done there's nothing that really prevents the file from flooding the whole Internet. On the contrary, in my scheme for "social DRM", the buyer of a media file has no reasons whatsoever to strip the metadata from her/his file, because she/he is already free to do with it everything she/he needs. So why should she/he do that?
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Old 11-15-2012, 09:19 AM   #345
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BoldyDubious,

I'm still confused as to what constitutes "illegal distribution" under your scheme. Can you clarify?
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