CNet reports that the RIAA is shooting new threatening letters across the bows of numerous colleges and universities coast to coast in what must be a failed attempt to deter piracy.
Critics charge that the letters are just a scare tactic, and the RIAA has admitting to goofing on identifying copyright infringers in the past. But the music industry still views its prelawsuit campaign as an important deterrent. Without such action, "an emerging legal marketplace...would have struggled to gain traction," spokeswoman Cara Duckworth said in a press release.
To quote a Pete Seeger song, "when will they ever learn, when will they ever learn."
The record industry business model is broken. The music industry is alive and well. The labels and their trade association had better figure out something different than alienating the very people who sometimes buy their products.
CNET reports that Voice-over-IP service Skype is being used for P2P filesharing and Skype-casting.
There's a growing number of people sharing their iPod digital music using freely available software and Skype, a free Internet phone service.
The enthusiasts are borrowing heavily from another personal broadcasting phenomenon called podcasting, in which digital recordings are posted on a Web site for download to Apple's popular digital music players. Skypecasters, as they call themselves, use Skype's peer-to-peer telephone network to distribute recordings over the Internet directly to each other for free.
I want to suggest that superdistribution is evolving in 3 stages and that we are presently moving from Stage 2 to Stage 3. In part 1 of the Chronicles, I outlined the evolution of thinking about superdistribution. We can now say that the evolutionary stages are probably these: (1) Broadcast Superdistribution; (2) P2P Superdistribution; and (3) Incentivised Redistribution. Let me elaborate.
Media Rights Technologies ("MRT"), a software company developing and implementing content-control solutions, has announced the worldwide availability for licensing of its suite of intellectual property. MRT's voluminous portfolio of pending patents covers a wide range of digital rights management ("DRM") solutions designed to control unauthorized ripping, copying and burning of DVDs, CDs, software and peer-to-peer content. Effective immediately, the technologies will be made available to interested industries for licensing. Designed to easily integrate with other architectures, the technologies embodied in MRT's IP portfolio are tailored, but not limited to, the paramount needs of the entertainment and software industries. Implementations of the IP portfolio can be seen in MRT's current DRM-component products: SeCure DVD, SeCure CD, and SeCure X1 Recording Control. In addition, MRT's online digital radio service, www.BlueBeat.com , has used X1 to effectively prevent digital content piracy since 2003.
The IP portfolio allows for the effective superdistribution of all media types while hardening existing content protection technologies such as Content Scramble System ("CSS"). "MRT's unique intellectual property is designed to exist with other content control technologies," says MRT founder Hank Risan. "The IP portfolio addresses vulnerabilities in the current DRM technologies and contributes to a superior consumer experience."
It appears that the IP portfolio includes seven published US Patent applications, which are listed here:
Superdistribution was coined by Ryoichi Mori in a 1989 article entitled "What lies ahead". Reduced to its essence, superdistribution refers to turning consumers into (re)distributors.
Using DRM systems, superdistribution promised--depending on the preferences of content producers, distributors, and redistributors--to increase revenue for rights holders and create revenue opportunities for consumers. In short, superdistribution turns the liability of nearly instantaneous reproduction and distribution from a commercial liability to a commercial advantage.
In the 1990s, a number of people worked on business models, technologies, and services that in various ways enabled superdistribution. Brad Cox wrote a book on the topic which is still in print and available from Amazon here.
At IBM, Jeff Crigler, Marc Kaplan, and others implemented the InfoMarket service and Cryptolope ("cryptographic envelope") DRM technologies. As implemented, the Cryptolope approach enabled a client/server rather than peer-2-peer (P2P) version of superdistribution. Nonetheless, it was generally possible for consumers to pass on protected content.
At Intertrust, Victor Shear, David Van Wie, Karl Ginter, and Frank Spahn wrote a big book eventually published as issued patents that described, among other things, a Virtual Distribution Environment (VDE). A text copy is here.
Although the technologies described in the Intertrust "book" could be used to implement an extraordinarily broad range of business models, here I want to talk about the book's relevance to superdistribution.
The Shear team deconstructed what might be called the supply chain or value chain requirements for efficient distribution of digital goods. In this view, the world had to become distributed P2P. An effective DRM platform had to address the varied interests of producers, distributors, consumers, redistributors while providing a clearinghouse infrastructure for (micro)payment and usage information (if collected and reported).
One key concept coined by the Shear team is a chain of handling and control, which may be thought of as the ability of a participant to control not only how others may use protected digital content, but whether and to what extent downstream participants can modify rules relating to use and use consequences.
So a content distributor can include rules controlling whether a consumer can add to the rules such that the consumer gets a (micro)payment when the consumer redistributes the digital goods. Put another way, the distributor can choose whether or not to enable superdistribution of its content. The consumer can decide whether to pass along the content (or not) and if redistributed, whether the consumer is able and wishes to add to the associated rules.
Example: I receive a published and protected report from a market research firm. I pay $10.00. I believe that there are two people who might benefit from reading this report. I send it to them but modify the rules so that I receive from the publisher $1.00 of the $10 collected from those who receive the content from me and who agree to pay for it. This is one version of superdistribution.
Rightsholders are not required to enable this kind of "payment for pass along". Content consumers are not required to modify the rules, and those who receive content further down the chain of handling and control are not required to use and thus pay for the content. Markets, not technologies, will prevail.
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