IEEE working group forges ahead with ‘Digital Personal Property’
June 9, 2010 | 7:15 am
Last year, I wrote about an Ars Technica article covering a new IEEE study group looking at the idea of “Digital Personal Property”. The idea is to use DRM to make electronic property act more like physical property—you can lend it to a friend, but you lose access to it while your friend has it and your friend might choose not to give it back.
Yesterday, I received an e-mail from Paul Sweazy, the chair of the IEEE working group that is taking over for the study group in question, pointing me to the group’s press release (PDF), call for participation (PDF), and website. Where the study group studied the issue, the working group is actually going to try to write a standard.
The press release states:
The Working Group is developing a standard for the creation, distribution, and perpetual consumer-ownership of downloadable items of copyrighted works such as movies, music, books, and games. We will specify the required behavior of online and device-embedded services and of content player devices and applications in order to achieve the following goals: robust barriers against item counterfeiting, content ripping, and stranger-sharing; de-tethering of product items from suppliers; full consumer freedom of private content usage including backup and restore, annotation, and editing; reformatting and re-encoding for consumer-preferred player devices; simultaneous and concurrent sharing; ownership transfer including lending and borrowing, giving and taking, donating and reselling, bequeathing and inheriting; protection of consumer privacy and autonomy; leveraging of the natural social mechanisms that limit the sharing of personal property to private, trusted parties.
They’re certainly nothing if not ambitious.
But I thought back when I wrote the original piece and I still think now: they’re trying to solve the wrong problem. Why force digital media into the Procrustean bed of imitating physical media? It’s antithetical to the whole idea of progress. Rather, the publishing industry should be looking at new business models that are robust enough to survive people making the uses of digital media that they want to make, and drop the DRM boondoggle altogether.
And whether they want to prevent “content ripping” or not, if someone decides they want to hack the system to allow it they will. DPP is still DRM, whether they want to call it that or not—and if the entire DVD consortium couldn’t prevent people ripping their DRM, I have a hard time imagining how an IEEE working group will do better.
But on the other hand, perhaps considering all possible alternatives is a part of progress. If we don’t try it, then we can’t say for sure it wouldn’t work. Maybe it’s worth a shot after all—though I’ll admit I won’t be holding my breath.