Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Digital rights management: Desirable, inevitable, and almost irrelevant

[Here a couple of pointers to the issue of DRM. The first is by the famous iconoclast Andrew Odlyzko titled "Digital rights management: Desirable, inevitable, and almost irrelevant".

The second pointer is from Paul Budde who was privileged to follow a presentation by the award-winning Canadian essayist and novelist, John Ralston Saul.

Both are well worth reading on the issue of DRM and the related topic of Identity Management Systems (IdM) which, in many cases, an essential component of DRM and is an equally unproven, illogical and has the potential to be undermine some fundamental freedoms we take for granted in society-- BSA]
Digital rights management: Desirable, inevitable, and almost irrelevant

DRM is attractive for several related reasons. Content providers feel they can get more control over their wares. Such control is comforting in general, and could enable new methods of charging, which might provide greater revenues. More generally, the Internet is enabling sellers to ¯nd out much more about buyers' ability and willingness to pay, and also (through DRM and other techniques) is providing sellers with tools to control usage (and thus prevent arbitrage), leading to unprecedented opportunities and incentives for price discrimination [8, 9]. Thus it should not be surprising that extensive e®orts have gone into research, development, and deployment of DRM.

Yet the record of DRM so far is not too inspiring. And a rising chorus of voices (including Steve Jobs of Apple) is urging the content industry to give up or at least relax its insistence on DRM. The lecture summarized here will review the arguments of DRM skeptics. This abstract provides a very brief overview of some of the main points. References are given to my papers, where those points are explained in more detail, and citations are provided to the extensive literature on the subject.

The fundamental issue that limits current use and future prospects of DRM is ... to maximize the value of your intellectual property, not to protect it for the sake of protection.

DRM all too often gets in the way of maximizing the value of intellectual property. To someextent this is the fault of the DRM technologies. We simply do not know how to build secure systems. The last half a century demonstrates this conclusively.

Changing societies and the role of telecoms

I was recently privileged to follow a presentation by the award-winning Canadian essayist and novelist, John Ralston Saul. He was lecturing at the same conference at which I was speaking – the annual local government management conference (SOLGM) in Wellington New Zealand.

John has been hailed as one of the great thinkers of our time. He gave an awe-inspiring presentation, full of new ideas and philosophies about our society, culture, economic developments, the environment and aboriginal values.

John mentioned that our western societies still had not adjusted to the new economic order. Our modern economic society started somewhere around 1770 and was based on competition for limited resources, capital, labour and also the products we produced – food, clothing, luxury goods and so on were scarce. However since the 1960s the economic order has changed from one based on scarcity to one based on surplus.


The fallacy of Intellectual Property rights
As we have moved away from agricultural and manufacturing societies we have changed into a society that is based on ideas and information. It is therefore unforgivable that we are limiting the growth, and the flow, of ideas and information through Intellectual Property rules and regulations.

According to John, the inclusion of Intellectual Property into the WTO is severely hampering the flow of new ideas and information; it is attempting to control the dissemination of ideas, thus making the spread and sharing of them increasingly difficult. This is damaging the new economy!

In the digital media industry we see this happening through Digital Management Rights (DMR). This is a totally unsustainable state of affairs and needs to be changed.

There must surely be better ways to protect Intellectual Property.

At the BuddeComm Digital Media Roundtable in August clear evidence was given that people are prepared to pay for Intellectual Property, but that it needs to be based on conditions that are acceptable to society as a whole, and not on power of the few who want to protect the scarcity economy.