[E-Lang] OpenCola's digital rights management

hal@finney.org hal@finney.org
Thu, 25 Jan 2001 10:11:05 -0800

Ben writes, regarding OpenCola's audit-bots:
> Oh yeah? And how is this going to crawl my in-car MP3 player? Or,
> indeed, my home network? If they think I'm going to let their software
> sniff around my machines, they're on a rather different planet than the
> one I inhabit.

I think they are only talking about the OpenCola "world", that is,
the software which is downloaded and accessed via OpenCola servers.
However they have ambitious plans that eventually and ideally, all
software would be accessible in this way.

As far as monitoring who you are interacting with, I have a better
understanding now of how this works.  OpenCola combines peer to peer
networking with collaborative filtering, using a notion of "buddy lists".
These are other users who share some of your interests.  Association of
users into buddy groupings produces virtual communities which share
data such as files and search results.  There might be a community for
capabilities researchers, for example.  When anyone in your community
finds or creates a new document that is of interest, you automatically
get access to it.  And at the same time, your software is constantly
engaged in a low-key effort to search out new buddies and communities
that share interests with you and that you could join.

Buddy lists are public, apparently, which facilitates this community
building effort.  Files are public as well, as with napster and other
P2P systems, which is also what makes the collaborative filtering work.
You benefit from the efforts of other members of your community to locate
files and people who are interesting to you.

It is this public data which allows OpenCola to apply content management.
Outsiders can see what files you have and whom you associate with.
This lets them enforce penalties if you have illegal data, and/or if
you associate with others who do.

Of course there is no guarantee that you will keep your contraband on
public display, but if you take it off the OpenCola network then it will
be less accessible.  Pirates are faced with a paradox, which is that they
must make their data publicly visible to share it, but in doing so they
make it visible to those who would punish them for breaking the rules.
OpenCola exploits this difficulty very explicitly in order to enforce
digital rights, but the same thing can ultimately happen with Napster and
other P2P networks.  Even supposedly anonymity-based systems like Mojo
Nation are designing mechanisms to clear contraband data,