September 14, 2002

The "end-to-end"s versus the means of DRM

Regarding Felten's comments on what is an "end-to-end argument", I took Lessig's reference to "network design" not to be about re-engineering TCP/IP. Instead, I believe the idea was that IF the media industry was given object-control, THEN they'd be happy to go away and not bother about Napster or Aimster or similar, not be concerned about sharing systems. Because they would then feel secure (pun intended) that whatever those sharing systems exchanged, the object-control would prevent unauthorized use. I take this from where Lessig says: "if a technology could control who used what content, there would be little need to control how many copies of that content lived on the Internet"

But to point out the flaw in the above proposition via another way, the statement seems to conflate "content" with "objects". That is, there might be official versions of a song which are controlled objects. But you can be sure, since bootlegs existed even before computers, there will be many, many, unapproved versions in circulation. The technology can control who uses what objects But that's not the same as content.

There's no contradiction at all here in terms of "end-to-end argument". Felten: "If copy-protection is to have any hope at all of working, it must operate on the end hosts". Right. I think Lessig agrees, roughly. The argument is, put the control inside the machines, (via an operating system or hardware which examines objects) AND THEN there will be no problem with the Napster-ilk or other network-based exchange innovations, since the content industry will be able to "trust" that the sharing of controlled content will be prevented ( Lessig: "A different DRM would undermine that push").

But, per Felten: "It must try to keep Aimster ... from getting access to files containing copyrighted material". Right also. That's the flaw in the object-control argument. Because if "wild" objects can still be used and shared, then the network is just as much a threat as before, and still needs to be controlled too (as in Aimster is still a problem).

It's not so much about "end-to-end", but coming to a bad end.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight , infothought | on September 14, 2002 11:24 AM (Infothought permalink)

Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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