Recently, a lot has been happening in the peer-2-peer space, at least from the legal perspective. The Pirate Bay trial, plus various torrent websites shutting down; TorrentFreak is an excellent news source for all that goodness. While a lot of people scream that RIAA/MPAA (and their international equivalents) are not keeping up with the times and technology, we are not really any closer to having an entertainment distribution system that takes advantage of available technology to make it convenient for consumers and one which fairly compensates the industry that creates the said content. So I propose starting a discussion, by presenting a scheme that pulls p2p technology and current copyright laws closer together.
There are two basic premises:
The latter point is what allows one to sell their used CDs (imagine that, there’s an actual business that does that, with 11 locations in Ontario — The Beat Goes On), borrow CDs from a public library (the Toronto Public Library has 59 838 titles (in multiple copies!) available), or to lend a CD to a friend (just try to outlaw that, and the general public will actually start taking interest in the application of copyright laws, and the next election).
The former point stipulates that a physical CD is simply a token, showing that the current holder has a license to enjoy the media; the recordings on the disk are simply a convenience factor.
So the natural step, at least as it seems to me, is to digitalize this license tokens, and let them be shared over p2p technology, as you would have shared a physical CD with a friend. Here’s what I have in mind:
All of the music is readily available for download (similar to current .torrent approach) and copies could be cached on your device (to save bandwidth), but it is not playable unless a license token is also available on the system. The license tokens will act as unique digital keys, which could be borrowed and released back into the cloud of p2p.
If one had purchased a set of license keys for the latest music album, but isn’t listening to this particular music items at the moment (school, work, sleep.. there are many reasons why ones entire music collection isn’t played 24/7), those keys are available to be given to someone else. Similarly, one could temporary take possession of someone else’s license, while such is available.
To prevent leechers, and make for a fairer sharing experience, a model similar of current private torrent trackers could be applied — those who contribute more keys will get priority status. Bonus points for contributing keys to high-demand or rare media. Maybe preference for own social graphs.
The net effect of automating request-play-release cycle is that a) sharing music will be completely legal, b) ease of use would be on par with current technology, and c) popular content (ones with more simultaneous key usages) will see a proportionally larger share of revenue. Just think back to days of mixtapes, and trading CDs with friends; except that it’s now done every 3 minute, through a wire, and you are friends with the world.
The caveat is that, yes, one would actually have to pay for some of the licenses to take part in this sharing community process. Though ones choice of which artists to support and generalizing the use of granted licenses should make it a fair deal. iTunes and Amazon’s MP3-Downloads show that a lot of people are still willing to pay for very specific music purchases online.
But now, given the fact that “pirates [are the] biggest music buyers”, via Ars, do we really have to implement such an explicit model?
Those who download “free” music from P2P networks are more likely to spend money on legit downloads than those who are squeaky clean, according to a new report out of Norway.