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Friday, February 28, 2003

DRM conference: tollboth proposal
More at the DRM conference: Lon Sobel proposed an IP tollbooth plan.
This model enables compensation, and at royalty rates, but not control of content distribution.

The key point of this system is the consumer, as a downloader. All copyrighted content would be watermarked with metadata describing who gets paid and how much, along with a fingerprint with a unique digital identifier. ISPs can check this watermarked/ fingerprinted information as a sort of toll system, feeding the info into a pool.
People can then rip, mix, and share – but the downloader’s action is logged by ISP at the point of downloading. There's no control over downloading usages, as the
Darknet research argues, but the tolling system operates anyway, as the ISPs pay content owners a fee based on this collected information, and presumably supported by customer surchanges.

Why would ISPs like this? They can "buy" information “retail”, and then mark up how much they like.

Problems: spammers could get paid for spam, if they construe it as copyrighted material (!). Further, there's an "incremental" privacy decay. ISPs would be checking on customers’ usage. But that sort of invasion is happening now at the level of credit card tracking, IP noting, spiders, etc., so it’s only an incremental change.

Some energetic discussion followed:

    Sarah Deutsch: first, ISPs aren't good enough at this level of granular charging yet. Second, what happens when we follow IP law and recognize every person as an IP holder, from personal home pages to emails and IMs – the results would be “the world’s most complicated billing system.” Third, “ISPs would turn into Big Brother.” As part of this, there's a “slippery slope argument, as third parties with less than wholesome intents could be asked to attach their fingerprinting.”

    Sobel responds: IP holders should be able to make decisions about access to their work (can put it out for free, without notice). There's no new tech required, since fingerprinting and usage collection technologies are already out there. There's a related, if different precedent: ASCAP sampling radio play, which suggests a simpler scheme, but probably wouldn’t be attractive to IP holders.

    Bob Blakely (I think): billing is very hard. Better (or worse) yet: “Why not write a worm that goes around the Web, adding a metadata tag to all DRM content including “pay me $ for every usage,” then wait for the money to roll in?”

:: posted by Bryan, 2:23 PM |

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