IEEE P1817: a new DRM standard?

In February, I reported about a new concept Digital Personal Property. IEEE is launching a project to develop this DRM, so called Consumer-ownable Digital Personal Property. It is P1817.

The main goal is to mimic the features of a physical good. In other words, if you would be able to enforce the uniqueness of the instance of a digital good, then there would be no serious reason to limit drastically. In other words, you would be able to act like with a physical book. You could lend it, or sell it. In economic terminology, the challenge is to turn a digital good into an excludable good. By nature, digiatl goods are non-rival and non-excludable.

The main technical concept is that the piece of content is encrypted and can be distributed freely. But the decryption key will be

moveable but uncopiable

. Actually, the decryption key, so called playkey, will be double, one in a server repository and the other one for the user. To lend a piece of content, Alice will hand herplaykey to Bob… To return the piece of content,Bob will send back her playkey. Meanwhile, Alice should not have anymore her playkey.

I see several issues with this proposal.

  • – There must be only two instances of the playkey (one in a server, and one at the consumer). The technical challenge will be the moveable but uncopiableplaykey. One of our Holy Grails. Some enforcements are foreseen.

    Counterfeit Handling
    The playkey banking system facilitates the identification of counterfeited playkeys.
    Playkey pair synchronization occurs, during which the system checks the validity of the playkeys with the issuer and the registrar. There are at least two approaches to handling counterfeits: (1) The consumerʼs player is notified, after which the user interface always highlights the item as counterfeited, and (2) the consumerʼs playkey vault is directed to
    invalidate the device playkey, notify players of its invalid status, and refuse to provide further services for that playkey. The first approach leaves the counterfeit usable, and depends on the social stigma of owning and using forged goods to discourage its further use and encourage reporting of the forgery to vendors and publishers. The second approach prejudges intent and guarantees that the consumer victim pays the price of
    the illegal activity. Either way, there exists the opportunity for vendors or publishers to offer rewards for information leading to the identification of the counterfeiters.

  • How to handle the multi format issue? Today, many customers complain about non compatible format protected by DRM content. For instance, if you use different resolution or codec. Take as an example a Blu-Ray disc and a SD file for Windows player. This does not nicely map in the physical world. A book has no incompatibility of format with your eyes. If we would like to push the comparison, the challenge would be to be able to provide the same book but with different languages.Currently, the foreseen answer by the industry is the digital rights locker.

Will it succeed? I don’t know. In any case, I will be very interested to study the solution making a digital data structure “moveable but uncopiable”.

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