[E-Lang] OpenCola's digital rights management
Mark S. Miller
Thu, 25 Jan 2001 15:16:37 -0800
At 05:53 PM Wednesday 1/24/01, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
>Will their associat[ion] with Mark Miller and their plans to move to a
>capability based system make them rethink their approach to DRM?
While the details have yet to be worked out, I'm pleased to report that the
answer so far looks to be a resounding YES.
openCOLA practices the openness it preaches to an astonishing extent. As a
result, when I told John Henson (founder & CTO) about Hal's message, he said
"great". When I expressed puzzlement, he said "we don't want to be wrong --
it's great to be corrected." When I asked if I could share with the e-lang
list the current thinking (since the writing of the polemic Hal responded
to), he said "sure". Although we open source folk may all understand why
these were the only rational answers, let's also remember how few
corporations would have elected to be so rational about these issues.
Early in my visit up here at the openCOLA head offices in Toronto, Dan
presented me their "two cloud" model -- legit and illegit. I explained why
this couldn't possibly work, for many of the reasons Hal just reiterated.
(In many ways, Hal also put it better, but we're singing the same tune.)
Dan and I played out some hypothetical adversarial games, which resulted in
Dan being rapidly convinced.
We then pulled in Henson went through the same process again, and rapidly
convinced him as well.
At a later meeting with Henson and Cory Doctorow (founder, chief evangelist,
& award winning science fiction author), and in meetings with Debbie Gamble
(VP of financial transactions), and others, we went back over the
impossibility of copy protection, whether realized InterTrust-style or
two-cloud style. Impressively, most everyone knew of the Kelsey/Schneier
Street Performer Protocol http://www.firstmonday.dk/issues/issue4_6/kelsey/
and understood the logic behind its argument.
Everyone accepted, even if reluctantly, that revenues for content must, long
term, descend to the levels that can be supported by Street-Performer-like
arrangements. These will probably be vastly lower than current revenues for
content, since Street-Performer-like arrangements have an inescapable free
We also went through the distinction between "self revealing media" and
"encapsulated media". The above uncomfortable conclusions apply only to
self revealing media, which includes books, movies, music, etc. These are
media whose bits can only deliver value to the customer by revealing the
bits to the customer. Encapsulated media can use the bits they contain to
provide value without revealing these bits.
Programs are the main example of non-self revealing media, and for these,
scarcity-based revenues could be sustained long term. In today's world, the
main media-entertainment example is a game. The unique ability of
encapsulated media to generate revenues may eventually lead to new forms of
interactive media, such as a jazz improvisationist program rather than a
jazz album, but only after a few dozen Kubricks have had a few hundred
(The great irony is that business models not based around information
scarcity have been explored first for programs, where, in theory at least,
one could maintain scarcity-based levels of revenue. The open source
industry, including openCOLA, are the pioneers in looking for these
non-information-scarcity business models in order to gain revenue for their
own artistic creation -- programs. If it's good enough for them, why not
Nevertheless, in the current world, for whatever reason, there are still
vast revenues to be had for self-revealing content. A logical case that
this will disappear does little to give us any sense for how quickly it will
disappear (my own estimate: anywhere from one to twenty years). While this
source of revenue remains, openCOLA is in a good position to capitalize on
it, and use it to fund the development of a
DRM/erights/title/deed/smart-contracting system that will continue to have
value in a world without revenue for content.
Once this source of revenue starts to drop precipitously, we need to quickly
switch to a non-content-based business model, such as one based on
smart-contracts applied to another realm. Therefore we need to build a
business that will be able to switch when the time comes.
It is a testament to the open mindedness I found here that this disruptive
message was so well and quickly received. It is a testament to their
openness that I can tell y'all the tale, and that they would value criticism