Resources from the Digital Right Management conference at Berkeley. This page contains a wealth of general DRM background, news, opinion, and the like, as well as more specific resources on the impact of DRMs on innovation, competition, and security.
The centerpiece of the page is a paper by Lionel S. Sobel on “DRM as an Enabler of Business Models: ISPs as Digital Retailers”:
- I. The quest for better business models
II. DRM-based business models
A. Anti-copyright model
B. Beyond copyright models
C. Copyright based models
1. Statutory license models
2. Models giving copyright owners discretion and control
III. ISPs as Digital Retailers Model
A. The role of control
B. How the Digital Retailer Model would work
1. Enabling DRM technologies
2. Implementation of technology by ISPs
3. Statutory license
C. The Digital Retailer Model compared to the Tax and Royalty System
D. Objectives satisfied
E. Problems requiring solutions
2. Intra-industry conflicts
4. Pay-per-use, fair use and non-infringing uses
5. Unregulated royalty rates
In a perfect world, technology companies would be able to design their products as they think best, and copyright owners would be able to market their products as they think best. Digital copying and redistribution have made these objectives incompatible, at least in part. The quest is for a business model that best accommodates these conflicting objectives.
As a general rule, copyright owners are opposed to statutory licenses. Some, I am sure, will object that the Digital Retailer model is a statutory license, and be suspicious of it or even hostile, for that reason. Their objections ought to be soothed by their freedom to set their own royalties. But some copyright owners may say that the Digital Retailer model – tied, as it is, to online redistribution – simply will promote unlicensed (and uncompensated) CD and DVD burning, and a return to the “sneaker net’ of disks and tapes that “were handed in person between members of a group or were sent by postal mail.” Indeed, it may; and if it does, the issue of blank media levies will take center stage again.
Today, though, I am more concerned that the Digital Retailer model will draw objections from consumers and their advocates. (Hardware and software companies are relieved of all burdens by the Digital Retailer model. And ISPs should be satisfied – indeed, pleased – with their share of the retail take.) My concern is that even if the implementing technology works perfectly, so consumers are charged only for what they choose to buy and only at prices they’ve agreed to pay, they or their advocates will view the Digital Retailer model as one that gives copyright owners too much control.
Any argument that copyright owners would have too much control is one that would overstate the extent to which copyright owners have exclusive rights to their works. Copyright law gives copyright owners very thin protection. It does not protect ideas or concepts or theories or the facts on which they are based. This means that although “Mickey Mouse” belongs to Disney, “Mighty Mouse” does not. “Mighty Mouse” belongs to Viacom. And while copyright law does not permit others to make exact copies of “Mickey” or “Mighty Mouse,” it does permit unregulated breeding of other animated mice, by all who wish to do so. It also means that copyright gives no one the exclusive right to tell stories about archaeologists in search of artifacts hidden in snake-infested caves while simultaneously confronting dangerous human antagonists. Anyone who wants to tell that story, may.
In the music business, copyright law doesn’t give record companies the ability to obtain exclusive recording rights to songs. Instead, all who want to are permitted to make and sell their own recordings of popular songs – even sound-alike versions – simply by paying license fees to music publishers at rates set by law. (MP3.com could have started its own record company – producing sound-alikes or original recordings – for less money than it agreed to pay in settlement of copyright infringement lawsuits filed against it by record companies.)
There has been debate over the appropriate scope of the derivative work right (the right to make new versions of copyrighted works). But the derivative work right is not at the heart (or edge) of the digital copyright controversy. Digital copying and online redistribution involves exact duplicates of copyrighted works.
Given – and this is a “given” – that copyright law permits anyone to breed new animated mice, tell new stories about adventuresome archaeologists, and make new recordings of “Oops! I Did It Again” using vocalists who sound just like Britney Spears, it hardly seems too much to ask that they do so, rather than make unauthorized digital reproductions of works whose copyrights are owned by others.