Digital Rights Management -- A Battle That Can't Be Won?
November 24, 2002 7:39 PM   Subscribe

What is the Darknet? Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Darknet is. Okay, actually, it's a term that some Microsoft computer scientists came up with to refer to all the different ways that internet users can swap copyrighted materials. In a paper they authored [DOC] for a workshop on Digital Rights Management (DRM), these engineers predict that the Darknet will grow ever stronger and more efficient while DRM technologies will make legal right holders less able to compete with Darknet and are ultimately "doomed to failure."
posted by boltman (38 comments total)

 
Our teachers told us to think outside the box, so that's what were doing.
posted by Keyser Soze at 7:50 PM on November 24, 2002


via slashdot I assume.

I do love the term "Darknet".
posted by srboisvert at 7:50 PM on November 24, 2002


If this hypothesis is true (which I suspect it might very well be) then that makes me think that the industry lobbying groups (MPAA, RIAA, etc.) will resort to more and more legal remedies in order to deal with this. I'm afraid that with the powerful lobbying capabilities of these groups, we'll see more legislation like the DMCA and the like.
posted by split atom at 7:53 PM on November 24, 2002


Actually, it was via the BBC but I suppose I should have guessed that it was up on Slashdot as well.
posted by boltman at 7:54 PM on November 24, 2002


It seems to me that, the more people try to protect music, software etc, the harder others will try to crack the protection. This could be because of the extra challenge provided by copyright protection technology, but is more likely that the cost of the technology to protect the copyright adds too much to the price of obtaining the product legally. The copyright holders could ultimately price themselves out of their own market.

Perhaps music copyright holders will have to go down the path that Microsoft (perhaps the most pirated company in the world) has, with product activation or something similar.

I also love the term "Darknet"
posted by dg at 8:01 PM on November 24, 2002


Our teachers told us to think outside the box, so that's what were doing.

Bah, I just opperate under the assumption that there is no box.
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:07 PM on November 24, 2002


I just operate under the assumption that there is no spoon. Unfortunately, this usually leads to soup on my shirt.

And its important to realize what exactly "doomed to failure" implies. If the MS techs are right, that means that it will be very difficult to make money off of intellectual property, period. The incentives for producting any form of content will dramatically decline. I wish the nerds and technocrats would take this into account before bashing Palladium and the DMCA.
posted by gsteff at 8:15 PM on November 24, 2002


Good. Now we can move beyond the illusion that an idea could ever be property to begin with.
posted by 4easypayments at 8:21 PM on November 24, 2002



War on Darknet = War on drugs.

(apologies to www.mnftiu.cc)
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:39 PM on November 24, 2002


Ideas - especially those that create great value - are generally considered property to those that think them. Telling these people that their intellectual work is not their property, and that any right they think they have to them is "illusion" ... hmmmm ....
posted by MidasMulligan at 8:44 PM on November 24, 2002


The incentives for producing any form of content will dramatically decline.

This is something that most seem to forget - the only reason we have software, music, books etc is that publishers et al can make money from the creation and distribution of the intellectual property. If there is no way to make money from it, why bother to create/publish/distribute it at all? You can talk all you want about creators needing to create for the sake of creation, but that will not feed their families and what publishing company runs on warm fuzzy feelings?

4easypayments - ideas are not property, but the code/musical arrangement/novel that is created using ideas is and that is what copyright protects.
posted by dg at 8:49 PM on November 24, 2002



But does the movie "Lord of the Rings" or the latest Oasis album create great value?

If someone invents a really gnarly device, then they're gonna get their financial props. This is not a sweeping argument about ALL intellectual property.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:53 PM on November 24, 2002


The incentives for producting any form of content will dramatically decline.

No. The incentives for producing "any form of content" have, in most cases, little to do with money. Several of my friends are musicians; they make music because they love making music, and they hope to get paid simply so that they can quit the day job and devote themselves to making music. In the meantime, they put as much time into it as they can spare. My wife is working on becoming a professional writer, and knows a couple of people in the industry; the situation there is similar. Creative professions generally do not pay very well, until you rise to a level of stardom sufficient to negotiate a larger share of the profits.

So, what can we expect as internet file sharing takes its little bite out of publishers' profit margins? Not a whole lot, frankly; profits will fall, the megastars will rise a little less far from the earth, and creative people will continue to pour effort into their chosen arts.

Yes, there will be shakeups. Comfortable salaries will be lost, apparently stable companies will collapse, many words will be printed about the death of this or that; and in a decade or two we will scarcely remember what all the fuss was about.

Think about it: "intellectual property" is a notion of the last century. Human beings have made music, art, and literature for millenia without copyright laws. We will continue to do so as long as we are human, internet file-sharing or no.
posted by Mars Saxman at 8:56 PM on November 24, 2002


Why not just call it "Evilnet" or "Devilnet" or "UnAmericanCommunistNet" or "GrimyUnderbellyofALostYouthCultureNet". I prefer "FreedomNet." That's right. I'll jingo you all the way.
posted by four panels at 9:02 PM on November 24, 2002


Music, art, and books have been around for a very long time, while rich media companies and publishers are a fairly new development. The only music that is made as a means to profit is the stuff that sucks. Isn’t the number one complaint about radio these days that thay only play the manufactured crap? Ditto with books and movies. A lot of software is also made by people not motivated by profit as well. Now, I don't mean to imply that content creators don't deserve recompense, but I don't think it is their only motivation. I also don't think that filesharing on "darknet" will be the end of anything except perhaps publishers, and frankly, I don’t have a problem with that. No business is guaranteed relevancy as time goes on, and it may be time for the concept of a large central management of content to fade away. With the largest piece of the pie no longer being taken by a controlling agency, it will be a lot easier for artists to make money, but perhaps not so easy for there to be "superstars" who make most of it.

on preview: What Mars said.
posted by Nothing at 9:03 PM on November 24, 2002


This is not a sweeping argument about ALL intellectual property.

It sure is. The computers don't care what the data represents in the real world. If intellectual property can be turned into one's and zero's, the Darknet (duh duh dunnnnn) can let have at it. The specs for gnarly devices (such as, for example, XBox hardware interfacing) can be shared too, and the control and often compensation that gnarly inventors expect will vanish too.

Human beings have made music, art, and literature for millenia without copyright laws.

Because the real world cost of owning a printing press constituted a de facto copyright law. That's why artists would sign with publishers- the publishers owned the presses, the CD stamping facilities, the darkrooms. The printing press is free now. If you think the free distribution of content will not reduce the quality of that content, you need to talk to Salon.

I, too, think that publishers, in any format, tend to game the system for their own profit, at the expense of content variety and quality. But consumers are gaming the system too. And soon artists will begin gaming the system- by not making art.
posted by gsteff at 9:11 PM on November 24, 2002


I don't think that anyone should be putting a deathwatch on intellectual property just yet. A new model will develop to help creative industries stay afloat, or at least the creative artists. It's turned into a pretty hot topic so you know someone is thinking it up.

Any of us could go get movies and albums and books online. But I still like the look & feel of books and I can't draw or typeset, I like going to the movies to watch on the big screen and will pay for an evening out and I will buy entire albums, I just don't buy albums for one song anymore.
posted by Salmonberry at 9:17 PM on November 24, 2002


Oops, I forgot to add that this - "In late September five music companies and three music retailers were fined more than $143million after being found guilty of fixing CD prices too high." may explain why so many people don't feel guilty about downloading music. Yes, I know two wrongs don't make a right, but when companies do things that they know will piss off consumers, it makes it tough to defend their position.
posted by Salmonberry at 9:21 PM on November 24, 2002


But does the movie "Lord of the Rings" or the latest Oasis album create great value?

The market says 'Yes', because large numbers of people were prepared to pay to access them.

Also, there seems to be a tendency to consider 'intellectual property' in terms of music, literature and other art forms when this topic is discussed, but it's much, much more than that. There's also patents, for example, or trademarks or other forms of proprietary information. I've yet to hear a convincing proposal for the abandonment of intellectual property protection that wouldn't destroy most industries by removing any incentive to bring innovation or improvement to the marketplace.
posted by normy at 9:29 PM on November 24, 2002


Feh. All the internet does is dramatically decrease the costs of publishing and distribution ("All" he said!). I operate under the assumption that there is no Darknet.

(In addition to all the other uncharitable things I think about this, I also think it's a stupid term.)
posted by wobh at 9:35 PM on November 24, 2002


Telling these people that their intellectual work is not their property, and that any right they think they have to them is "illusion" ... hmmmm ...

I wouldn't tell anyone that their thoughts do not exist, but ideas by thier very nature are not property in the same way that a physical object can be, though we have attempted to treat them in the same manner. If one wants to 'own' an idea, they must be willing to refrain from sharing it with others. The only truly 'owned' idea is an idea kept secret.
posted by 4easypayments at 9:48 PM on November 24, 2002


War on Darknet = War on drugs

except people at my work talk about where to download music, and my dad uses gnutella...
posted by rhyax at 9:50 PM on November 24, 2002


I thought one of the paper's most insightful points was that DRM technology, if it is incorporated into all ditigal media, will actually make the unprotected files available on the Darknet even more sought after by consumers, since Darknet will become the only place one can go to get content that doesn't have bothersome restrictions. In other words, DRM may actually drive people onto Darknet, which in turn increases its power.
posted by boltman at 10:14 PM on November 24, 2002



gsteff, it ISN'T a sweeping argument about all intellectual property. You are wrong.

For example, how can anyone possibly steal the intellectual property of Dean Kamen's Segway over the internet? And if they do, how long will they get away with it?

…And what everyone else said about musicians and the "creating" of music. The notion of celebrity and making massive amounts of money off music is a very recent notion.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:34 PM on November 24, 2002


Anyone who has ever signed a recording contract has already given up the rights to their own ideas.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:28 PM on November 24, 2002


And similarly, if you start a company to develop your software idea and get finance from a VC, then you also lose the rights to that idea (or why else would they provide the funding). Ironically, you're likely to have more subsequent control by releasing software as open source.
posted by kerplunk at 3:53 AM on November 25, 2002


Don't download if you are in the Naval Academy..
posted by konolia at 4:53 AM on November 25, 2002


[eddie and the cruisers]

On the Darknet....oh yeah..On the Darknet

[/eddie and the cruisers]
posted by jonmc at 6:20 AM on November 25, 2002


dg: This is something that most seem to forget - the only reason we have software, music, books etc is that publishers et al can make money from the creation and distribution of the intellectual property. If there is no way to make money from it, why bother to create/publish/distribute it at all? You can talk all you want about creators needing to create for the sake of creation, but that will not feed their families and what publishing company runs on warm fuzzy feelings?

I'd rather succumb to Darknet (or the abolition of copyright) and risk a cultural wasteland than continue down the DRM road and the loss of rights it entails.

But copyright's hardly the only system that allows content producers to get paid, so I don't think this would happen.
posted by skryche at 6:24 AM on November 25, 2002


I'd rather succumb to Darknet (or the abolition of copyright) and risk a cultural wasteland than continue down the DRM road and the loss of rights it entails.

Exactly what "rights" are being lost? And by whom?
posted by MidasMulligan at 6:44 AM on November 25, 2002


i miss napster...........luckily im an indie fan so i can hear
a lot of stuff on the net...
posted by sgt.serenity at 7:47 AM on November 25, 2002


Exactly what "rights" are being lost?

Fair Use for one.

And by whom?

You. Me. Academics. Critics. Folks with Betamax VCRs.

And I also feel that heavy handed DRM enforcement on corporate controlled content would also have a chilling effect on the creation of non-corporate cultural content.
posted by ursus_comiter at 8:31 AM on November 25, 2002


that means that it will be very difficult to make money off of intellectual property, period. The incentives for producting any form of content will dramatically decline.

Damn it, there go my plans for living the high life in the ludicrously overpaid field of writing. Oh well, maybe I can move into something more lucrative. Like selling my plasma.

Get real. Most artists could make more working in fast food. Whatever the incentive is, it's not money. Yes, Dave Eggers may lose millions. Cry me a river. And as to the distribution — funny, but somehow people keep printing Shakespeare, and Boethius, and Goethe, and Homer, and ... well, you get the point.

And Darknet? Darknet? It sounds like the sequel to Tron. More proof, as if we needed any, that Microsoft couldn't give a decent name to a housefly.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 12:24 PM on November 25, 2002


I'd call it a chaswalla.
posted by yerfatma at 1:50 PM on November 25, 2002


You. Me. Academics. Critics. Folks with Betamax VCRs

It doesn't change the simple fact that, if someone creates something original and tangible with their own efforts, it belongs to them and they have the right to charge for or to prohibit its use as they see fit. They also have the right to pass on those rights to someone else, for a profit or not.

Anyone with a Betamax VCR deserves whatever they get ;-)
posted by dg at 4:03 PM on November 25, 2002


Only because the law grants such a right and specifies penalties if their privilege is violated, dg. There is such a thing as a law whose time has gone; a law that cannot be enforced might be a good candidate for such a designation.
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:48 PM on November 25, 2002


THE SKELETOR NET
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:29 PM on November 25, 2002


Mars Saxman, maybe it depends on your point of view - I believe that that the right exists outside the law in a moral sense. The law can be enforced - it is the length that they may have to go to in order to do this that could end up being unacceptable.
posted by dg at 5:10 AM on November 27, 2002


« Older Three Dog Eves--They really do understand us--even...  |  Roswell Smoking Gun?... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments