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Old 11-15-2012, 09:24 AM   #346
BoldlyDubious
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Originally Posted by DiapDealer View Post
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.
Good point. I partially addressed it in my previous post, but I will clarify (hopefully!) here why I think that my scheme could offer a reasonable solution. By the way, it is aimed not only at ebook but at downloadable digital media in general (music, ...).

So, today illegal distribution is done by two categories of people:
A) people who get a copy of someone else's file(s), stripped of DRM by the original buyer or by someone else (including the distributor);
B) people who bought the file and decide to illegally distributing it.

Let's consider categories A and B one at the time, starting with A.
In my scheme, if I buy a media file I can give it to other people legally and without restrictions, so I do that without removing the embedded metadata first (why bother?). Of course (as I explained) the whole scheme is designed to strongly discourage giving files to people you don't really trust: so we can assume that I will give my files to people who I think care for me enough not to put me into trouble, and ask these people not to share their files with anyone else.
So, if one of the people who received a media file from me through this trust-based process wants to illegally distribute it, she/he will need to:
1) remove the metadata identfying me;
2) break the promise of not sharing that (implicitly or explicitly) she/he made to me;
3) create a dirty secret between her/him and me (friend, spouse, ...);
4) get preoccupied that the "metadata-removal tool" they downloaded from that suspicious-looking website may not work perfectly, thus bringing a fine to me and a terribly awkward situation between she/he and me.
Is it worth it, just to let unknown people save some money? I'm not convinced.

Of course, the distributor can be a complete bastard who doesn't care at all about me while simulating exactly the opposite (pretty low probabilility, I'd say). In that case, she/he will likely have other reasons for such scheming that than illegal uploading, and presumably will not risk blowing her/his "cover" just to upload a file.

Now, to category B of illegal uploaders.
If I pay for a book (or record, or...) by author A, it means that I like what A does. Generally, I will be pleased if A gets paid to continue her/his fine work. I know that if I upload my book (or record or...) A will get an economic damage, maybe a large one if my file really spreads. Would I do it all the same, all for the sake of having unknown people save some money? I'm not convinced.

Of course, I could have other motives. I could be, in fact, a disgruntled customer. Aha, the publisher asked me an absurdly high price for this book! Let them pay (<press "Upload">). If I did something wrong and I'll get a fine, it was worth it all the same (maniacal grin). Or: yes, John Smith is a good writer but this new book is a collection of short stories that I already have (I'm a fan) plus a single new item: a grocery list. John Smith robbed me, and I'll rob him (<press "Upload">).
These kind of (extreme) situations can be avoided rather easily if publishers, media vendors and authors avoid robbing their customers too openly :-)

What do you think?

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Old 11-15-2012, 09:38 AM   #347
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BoldlyDubious View Post
Now, to category B of illegal uploaders.
If I pay for a book (or record, or...) by author A, it means that I like what A does. Generally, I will be pleased if A gets paid to continue her/his fine work. I know that if I upload my book (or record or...) A will get an economic damage, maybe a large one if my file really spreads. Would I do it all the same, all for the sake of having unknown people save some money? I'm not convinced.
So where do you think existing uploaded content comes from?
Some (certainly not all) is indeed from people doing exactly that.
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Old 11-15-2012, 11:31 AM   #348
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Originally Posted by BoldlyDubious View Post
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)!
As of right now in the US, it applies only to physical licensed goods. But in Europe it was recently decided by the courts that this is legal for software as well. It remains to be seen if it will soon extend to media but it's not that far of a jump, though who knows what will occur in the US. It's an area of law that needs some re-examination in light of current technology.

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Originally Posted by BoldlyDubious View Post
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?
Emphasis mine. This is kind of insulting to those who strip DRM for non-nefarious purposes, you know. You make it sound like one inevitably leads to the other and that is simply not true. Many people who are opposed to leaving their ebooks DRM'd are also very opposed to piracy and are not in any way contributing to those files "flooding the internet".

DRM-stripping is not a gateway drug to piracy.

Stripping tools would have been developed even if only the pirates used them. Any DRM system creates a vacuum ready to be filled by someone who can crack it, and someone will.

Your system gives a reason to strip DRM too. Those who want to share without being paranoid about it would do so to reduce the risk. But that's really irrelevant, because it doesn't matter what the typical user (aka, non-pirate) does with the DRM - the people who want to pirate it will still strip the DRM / watermark from the file the second it's possible to do so.
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Old 11-15-2012, 01:26 PM   #349
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Originally Posted by latepaul View Post
BoldyDubious,
I'm still confused as to what constitutes "illegal distribution" under your scheme. Can you clarify?
Yes, of course. I'd say (but I'm not a lawyer, and I'm open to suggestions) that under my scheme "illegal distribution of a file" can be defined as any form of publication of the file on the internet.
I would like to add reasonable exceptions (such as: if you and I share a Dropbox folder, I can put the file there) but I could not think of one that is not open to abuse :-)
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Old 11-15-2012, 01:42 PM   #350
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Originally Posted by CWatkinsNash View Post
This is kind of insulting to those who strip DRM for non-nefarious purposes, you know. You make it sound like one inevitably leads to the other and that is simply not true.
Ooops! Sorry, this was not my intention at all. Wise people will strip the DRM from their files...

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Originally Posted by CWatkinsNash View Post
Your system gives a reason to strip DRM too. Those who want to share without being paranoid about it would do so to reduce the risk.
Maybe, but they will not be sure that MetadataRemover.exe, that they downloaded from the internet, really works with 100% efficacy. So the people who are sufficiently paranoid about not being paranoid to bother stripping metadata from all their files (with all the associated hassles and -let's not forget that- thus violating the contract with the media vendor) will probably NOT tell the people who get the copies that they did. So those people (who, as I explained, care about avoiding troubles to the file owner) will not share them just as if they still included the metadata.

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But that's really irrelevant, because it doesn't matter what the typical user (aka, non-pirate) does with the DRM - the people who want to pirate it will still strip the DRM / watermark from the file the second it's possible to do so.
Yes, but they have to get the file to pirate first! And, as I tried to explain, my scheme generates a strong socialpressure towards not letting the wrong people get the files. In this context, the "wrong people" (who include those who will illegally distribute the files or who will give them to someone who will do) are those who (i) don't care if the file owner risks getting into trouble or gets fined and/or (ii) are not perceived as trustworthy by the file owner.

Ah, I almost forgot:
Quote:
Originally Posted by CWatkinsNash View Post
DRM-stripping is not a gateway drug to piracy.
made me grin so hard that it almost hurt!

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Old 11-15-2012, 03:28 PM   #351
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So where do you think existing uploaded content comes from?
Some (certainly not all) is indeed from people doing exactly that.
I'm pretty convinced that uploaded content usually comes from someone else than the original media buyer, for the reasons I wrote in the post you are citing from. As I said, current DRM systems strongly encourage media consumers to strip DRM from their files as soon as possible. Moreover, the DRM has to be removed to use a file if you are not the original buyer, even if you are his/her spouse. So ALL media file that get shared is guaranteed to be without DRM, and there's no reason to avoid illegally distributing it.
...except not wanting to violate the law and/or the publisher's license, of course. However, today getting DRM-stripped files already requires illegal and/or prohibited actions, so distributing the file on the internet won't be the first one of these, which lowers the barrier. Moreover, current laws and policies related to DRM are so patently unjust that most media consumers -me included- have a latent desire to see media publishers pay for such abuse. (BTW, this also strongly lowers social disapprobation towards illegal media distribution.)
My proposal for "social DRM" seems to me to be much more fair, and thus should not elicit a thirst for revenge.

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Old 11-15-2012, 05:08 PM   #352
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Originally Posted by BoldlyDubious View Post
I'm pretty convinced that uploaded content usually comes from someone else than the original media buyer, for the reasons I wrote in the post you are citing from.
So wind back a few years.
MP3 posted on the internet are coming from people ripping their own CDs and uploading them.
eBooks posted on the internet are coming from people taking the time to scan their own books and upload them.
Ditto comics.
Your conviction seems unfounded in reality.
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Old 11-15-2012, 06:57 PM   #353
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I'd be willing to bet the number of DeDRMed retail ebooks initially uploaded (for the express purpose of mass distribution) to torrents/websites by someone other than the original purchaser is quite small.

That's not to say that I think all DRM-strippers are dirty little uploaders, mind you. Quite the opposite in fact. But I certainly believe that the vast majority of DeDRMed retail ebooks pirated today were probably initially uploaded by the person who "bought" it.
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Old 11-16-2012, 04:36 AM   #354
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BoldlyDubious View Post
Yes, of course. I'd say (but I'm not a lawyer, and I'm open to suggestions) that under my scheme "illegal distribution of a file" can be defined as any form of publication of the file on the internet.
I would like to add reasonable exceptions (such as: if you and I share a Dropbox folder, I can put the file there) but I could not think of one that is not open to abuse :-)
Thanks for the answer. I think this and not the social DRM aspect is the biggest change from current laws. At the moment you're either allowed to copy or not and law is pretty much agnostic about the method (at least AFAIK). This would need to define and prohibit specific methods, the problem with which is that it would create unforeseen loopholes. There would almost certainly be ways developed that are as convenient and easy as the internet but which avoid the legal definition of "the internet". And as with your Dropbox example you'd have to prohibit cases of exactly the types of sharing you want to encourage just because they use the wrong method.

Anyway I suspect people would ignore the "don't use the internet" clause because once it becomes accepted that copying to friends is ok (for those that don't already think so) then they won't see how it's somehow wrong if they do that via email rather than a memory stick.

It's not that I don't like the underlying goal behind your idea I just think you'd have an uphill battle convincing enough people that it was practical to get the law changed.
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Old 11-16-2012, 05:23 AM   #355
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murraypaul, DiapDealer: you are right.
We can assume that -as it has always been in the past- there will be people who buy media, strip the DRM and then (for whatever reasons) illegally distribute them. Let's call these people "buyers-uploaders", and my proposal has to deal with them.
I'll try to demonstrate that, though my proposal does not affect this kind of illegal distribution, it will have positive effects on all the other types of "piracy", thus reducing it AND increasing the quality of life and satisfaction of media customers.

Let's suppose that in the future my "social DRM" becomes the standard for copy protection, and let's see what changes.
  • Media buyers who are also uploaders will continue their "work", so the damage they do to publishers and authors will remain the same.
  • Most of the media buyers who are not uploaders, but today are stripping the DRM from their files (because of the absurd limitations this imposes on them) will stop doing that. In fact almost everything they want to do with their files will be not only possible in presence of the "social DRM metadata", but also authorized.
Let's assume that in the future buyers will continue to give away more or less the same number of media files to other people (actually my system tends to reduce this number), so the amount of files that are given from media buyers to someone else will remain the same. In the future where my social DRM is the standard, most of the shared files will retain the embedded data, while today all of the files that get shared are DRM-stripped.
So, shifting from the current license-based DRM system to my proposed one:
  • Damage done to publishers and authors by buyer-uploaders (those considered by murraypaul and DiapDealer) remains the same.
  • The number of DRM/metadata-stripped files going around is reduced. Most of the files getting shared around include metadata. So any person getting a media file someway and considering the possibility of uploading it will have to choose one of the following: (i) upload the file and certainly damage the unknown person who, by sharing her/his purchase, allowed them to get the media file in the first place; (ii) personally perform the (prohibited and maybe not technically straightforward) operation of DRM stripping.
    As a result, the number of people who actually perform the upload is reduced.
  • People who get copies of media files from the buyer know that the buyer trusts them not to share them with others, so will do it less than today (now, in fact, the buyer doesn't have any personal reason to oppose further sharing: so there's no social pressure against it).
    So, the number of files subjected to "second-level" sharing (i.e., which are shared by people who got them from the buyer) is reduced.
  • People who buy media files will stop being treated like "borderline criminals" by media vendors which do not trust them with anything, even the possession of their own media. Media consumers will also stop being forced to strip DRM to be able to do things that (in theory) seem normal and acceptable even to media publishers, such as letting your spouse or kids read your books.
    So people will feel better, and enjoy more their media libraries. Possibly, they will buy more media. And possibly less people will feel so disgruntled with media publishers to become a buyer/uploader in revenge.

The net effect seems clearly positive to me.
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Old 11-16-2012, 06:01 AM   #356
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I think this and not the social DRM aspect is the biggest change from current laws. At the moment you're either allowed to copy or not and law is pretty much agnostic about the method (at least AFAIK). This would need to define and prohibit specific methods, the problem with which is that it would create unforeseen loopholes. There would almost certainly be ways developed that are as convenient and easy as the internet but which avoid the legal definition of "the internet". And as with your Dropbox example you'd have to prohibit cases of exactly the types of sharing you want to encourage just because they use the wrong method.
Excellent point latepaul! Thanks! Now let's see if I can make my idea survive :-)
The new and improved version of my social DRM proposal is the following:

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, the original buyer of that file is considered responsible of that 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 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.

(*) A media publisher can ask that fines are issued for illegal distribution of file X if a police officer is able -following the instructions of the publisher- to get a copy of the file without contacting anyone that the officer personally knows.

Note: I modified this post to incorporate a simpler definition of "illegal distribution" that I developed later (see post #358 below).

Last edited by BoldlyDubious; 11-16-2012 at 08:51 AM. Reason: simplification
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Old 11-16-2012, 06:17 AM   #357
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It's all getting rather Rube Goldberg-ian, don't you think?
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Old 11-16-2012, 06:45 AM   #358
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Originally Posted by DiapDealer View Post
It's all getting rather Rube Goldberg-ian, don't you think?
No, I don't think so. After all, I am trying (in an admittedly very amateurish way, and thanks to the invaluable help of the other people in this thread) to define a comprehensive copyright control policy valid for all types of media. The complexity of the result still seems reasonably low to me compared to that of the problem...
However, you got me thinking about how the definition of "illegal distribution" can be simplified and made more clear, and I came up with this simpler, "operative" definition:
(*) A media publisher can ask that fines are issued for illegal distribution of file X if a police officer is able -following the instructions of the publisher- to get a copy of the file without contacting anyone that the officer personally knows.
I have also updated my previous post introducing the new definition.

By the way: this new definition completely bypasses the issue of defining sharing means that are forbidden. Everything is permitted, provided that the media buyer uses it sensibly. Dropbox shared folders are now OK :-)

Last edited by BoldlyDubious; 11-16-2012 at 10:44 AM. Reason: added new definition
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Old 11-16-2012, 11:39 AM   #359
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Originally Posted by BoldlyDubious View Post
I'll try to demonstrate that, though my proposal does not affect this kind of illegal distribution, it will have positive effects on all the other types of "piracy", thus reducing it AND increasing the quality of life and satisfaction of media customers.

Let's suppose that in the future my "social DRM" becomes the standard for copy protection, and let's see what changes.
  • Media buyers who are also uploaders will continue their "work", so the damage they do to publishers and authors will remain the same.
  • Most of the media buyers who are not uploaders, but today are stripping the DRM from their files (because of the absurd limitations this imposes on them) will stop doing that. In fact almost everything they want to do with their files will be not only possible in presence of the "social DRM metadata", but also authorized.
  • People who are not tech-savvy, and do not know how to strip DRM will be able to share ebooks with their friends, when they cannot do that at the moment, so increasing piracy.
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Old 11-16-2012, 12:26 PM   #360
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Originally Posted by BoldlyDubious View Post
Let's assume that in the future buyers will continue to give away more or less the same number of media files to other people (actually my system tends to reduce this number), so the amount of files that are given from media buyers to someone else will remain the same. In the future where my social DRM is the standard, most of the shared files will retain the embedded data, while today all of the files that get shared are DRM-stripped.
Emphasis mine. This does not compute. The average person doesn't currently give them away at all. Why? They don't know how and aren't interested enough to learn. Most people don't strip DRM as a matter of course. The majority of their purchases are DRM-protected and can't just be shared except within the systems currently provided for that purpose (lending, multiple devices, etc). On top of this, the average person isn't interested in sharing because it's currently illegal. While it may be hard to see in today's world, this really does matter to most people.

I fail to see how there can be a reduction in casual sharing when you go from "sharing takes effort, requires doing stuff and breaking the law" to "easy to legally share just by handing off a copy of the file". Yes, there will be some people (like me and catlady) who won't, likely because they refuse to take on responsibility for other people's actions, and so will bow out of the whole deal. But others will eagerly share under the new system, at least until the first time someone screws up and it comes back on them, at which point it's too late because it's already out there.

While I was off playing Skyrim and New Vegas, it was pointed out that you seem to have an inaccurate impression of how piracy starts. The Point of Origin is usually a purchase, bought for the purpose of stripping and uploading. Everything follows from there. That first copy was bought (or scanned or what have you) by the person doing the uploading. Reducing the free copies roaming in the wild from "the casuals" won't reduce the likelihood of something being pirated because it only takes that first one, and that first one had to come from somewhere.

But, in fairness, you have since revised your proposal to note that damage by "professional pirates" (for which numbers are in question anyway) may be unchanged under your system. However, reducing piracy was one of your initial selling points, and it's now not.

I see nothing in your plan that will realistically reduce lost sales in any form. I see casual sharing (now legitimized under your plan) increasing, thereby directly affecting actual sales (as opposed to the mythical "every copy is a lost sale!" that the pubs think piracy must be causing them but are impossible to actually quantify at the moment).

As I have said before, I don't usually side with the publishers, and I'm really not in this case either - when you do something that reduces overall revenues from book sales, it has a negative affect on the market, which then affects the buyers. I'm not just talking about damaging the big pubs - the small pubs and self-pubs would be the most immediately affected. Not everyone thinks about the author in the equation. They liked a book, it's legal to share, so they do. I think that few would stop and compute the income the author won't be getting, then decide it would be better to recommend that others *buy* the book instead of sharing it. It's not that they hold any ill will or don't think the author deserves it, they just don't think about it at all.
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