proposed implementations of neutral but legal

A comment from Len Lynch on how ‘neutral but legal’ might be implemented:

There is contextual data that can help point toward “possible” (cough, “probable”) infringing content distribution. http://ha.ckers.org/blog/20091008/css-history-hack-used-to-ban-torrent-users/ is an example. But I doubt if it is the “tip of the iceberg”. When non-infringing content distribution deals turn toward torrents to save on network distribution costs, they’ll need a way to tell the difference between them and the rest.

Legal processes might favor solutions like creating “distribution registries” with a goal to disambiguate non-infringing content distribution. It would have to work with other assisting technologies.

Licensed providers like Rhapsody already have this kind of registry, though the ISPs would have to do something much larger. The ISPs would need to know who is uploading, who is downloading, what contractual rights the uploader has, what the term of the contract is, whether the parties who granted those rights had the right to grant them.

Or am I complicating things? Is there really no way to cut through the mess and find a simple 80/20 solution?

Crosbie Fitch proposes the Adams’ A/B Ark manoeuvre.:

Propose the creation of a second Internet that is designed from the ground up to be provably assured as being incapable of duplicating or transmitting anything except in accord with any licenses provided by the copyright holders thereof.

Promise that as soon as this new Internet is demonstrated to be at least 95% as efficient as the existing one (ceteris paribus), that there will be a legally enforced migration.

3 thoughts on “proposed implementations of neutral but legal

  1. Trying to make my previous example more useful:

    At any given time, I am driving in my car and carrying a hard drive with 100,000 files of “content” on it. Let’s say it’s possible though some technology to pretty much know my starting point and my destination, and to scan all of the data on that hard drive.

    The law enforcement task is to make my car stop or limit my speed, and alert the authorities, if my possession or activity (e.g., distribution–if I am driving the files to someone else) is copyright infringement. And the larger law enforcement goals are to prevent people from infringing copyright in the first place, and to reliably catch people who infringe.

    So, you need some kind of DRM / “flag” on every content file, which somehow encapsulates all of the rights someone has, and you need to also tie those rights to someone’s identity. And, you need to know intent and context in many cases (e.g., am I driving the hard drive to someone else’s house for offsite storage, or to distribute files?).

    And, if it all works really well, our driver can never even pull out of his driveway in the first place, because his car stops before he drives anywhere.

    That’s sort-of the fantasy scenario, right?

  2. Don’t forget:
    Any item of ‘content’ may have an attached license, may have a variable license available from the current copyright holder that may have specific conditions, the possessor of the ‘content’ may also have a license, the purchaser of the ‘content’ may also have a transferable license that they have passed onto the possessor. Also, there may be fair use/dealing defences available that exempt any infringement.

    It’s never a good idea for a technologist to helpfully attempt to bend over backwards to demonstrate to religious nutters that the posture is impossible. They will demonstrate that it is indeed possible by breaking your back.

    Copyright is an unnatural privilege and an anachronism in the face of technology that reveals quite how unnatural it is. No-one has ever had the supernatural power to constrain the use of their work at a distance. Reproduction monopolies have certainly been granted by the crown, but these require very expensive policing – as the recipients of those monopolies are finding out (and the poor victims who find themselves made salutary lessons).

    To explore how communications systems can be made less efficient in order to enforce 18th century monopolies intended for the printing press that require all copies to have been produced under license is a joke that will greatly amuse our grandchildren.

  3. I’m with you, Crosbie.

    I don’t see how real copyright terms can be systematically applied across all use cases on the Internet. And, I don’t see how copyright terms can be applied against even a “good set” of use cases, because we “users” keep adding new uses as the technology and content evolve in relationship to each other.

    That said, I can imagine some more limited (draconian) set of terms that some might want to assert, e.g., “only Big Corp can transfer this file over the network–everyone else, in every other case, is in violation.”

    I thought Lucas was suggesting something along the lines of: if the technology needs to slow / stop use violations on the Internet (assuming there’s an indicator by which accepted use can be determined), how / where should the “stop” technology be applied?

    I hoped my analogy above might suggest that the “stop” can’t really be applied effectively in the network–I think, almost by definition, its effectiveness would be at the end points. Or, put another way, if the mechanism is effective, it’s effectiveness stops people at the end points, rather than in the network.

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