a new marketplace for media

mediAgora defines a fair, workable market model that works with the new realities of digital media, instead of fighting them.

  • Creators should be credited and rewarded for their work.
  • Works can be incorporated into new creative works.
  • When they are, all source works should be credited and rewarded.
  • Customers should pay a known price.
  • Successful promotion of work should be rewarded too.
  • Individuals can play multiple roles - Creator, Promoter, Customer
  • Prices and sales figures should be open
  • Relationships are based on trust and reputation
  • Copy protection destroys value
Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Is your DRM Honourable?

Eric: Okay STOP THE TRAIN. I thought we were debating DRM. Are we debating DRM in its largest sense? or are we debating Microsoft and their actions in the field of DRM?

Lets debate DRM in its broadest sense, but define different names for the different things it encompasses.
DRM in its largest sense grows to encompass a lot. The Association of American Publishers document on DRM from 2000, which is a well written summary of what current publishers hope and expect from DRM, uses it as a very broad umbrella term that covers payment and identity too.

So, if you don't agree with my definition. Then why? I don't think that disagreeing with *my* definition based upon what *microsoft* says really means anything (ie, i'm not msft).
Eric, you mentioned them first, and I went looking for their public definitions, and found a discrepancy from what you said. Debating DRM 'setting aside Microsoft' reminds me of debating the merits of Communism in the mid 80s setting aside the Soviet Union's large body of practical experience in the consequences of its implementation.
But that is getting a little close to a Godwin's law dismissal, so let me back up.

DRM: in my mind -- digital "rights" management. Why can't this just as much be about the person's rights? And why can't that include the right to NOT have conditions on an interaction? And how the hell does any of *that* interfere with the Constitution? (i don't think it does). After all, the courts have already recognized arguments regarding Privacy "rights" of the individual -- thus, Digital Rights Management could include that.

OK, while we're defining, lets define some narrower terms to distingush the cases that trouble me from the cases that enthuse you:

DRM means any digital mechanism for negotiating rights over an interaction.

Honourable DRM means that the resulting agreement is in good faith, is based on trust, and disputes settled in a court of law.

Computer Enforced DRM means that the terms of the agreement are enforced by software (or maybe hardware software combinations) in the customer's computer.

Surreptitious DRM means that the enforcement software is installed along with an OS or playback program, and is implicitly executed.

Hobson's Choice DRM means that one party sets terms and the other's choice is take it or leave it.

Coerced DRM means that any contractual violation or attempt to work around the DRM is a criminal act, as opposed to a civil contract dispute.

Vigilante DRM means that parties have immunity from prosecution if they enforce their claimed rights without the other parties consent.

Totalitarian DRM means that Computer-enforced Hobsons Choice is mandated by law, and any attempt to circumvent it, poseesion of a tool that could conceivably be used to circumvent it or even talking about circumventing it is a criminal offence.

Defining DRM

Eric responds:
let's begin by defining DRM.
Here's my take: Digital Rights Management (technologically speaking) is concerned with a mechanism by which two parties (individuals, systems, corporations) are able to reach a technologically mediated and negotiated agreement as to what each party's rights will be in the course of an interaction. This *could* mean Sony saying "if you want to listen to this song, you must agree to X." It could also mean Kevin saying, "if you'd like to email me about purple slippers, you must do X." In other words, DRM is a negotiated agreement that allows for contextual conditions to be placed on the interaction.

But I don't want to negotiate an agreement every time I read something or comment on it. One of the great attractions of the US model (and I speak as a fairly recent immigrant here) is that the Constitution sets a baseline of rights that are not subject to being negotiated away.

I know that Microsoft is gradually realising that no-one wants to buy locked up content, and is trying to redefine DRM to draw in Digital Identity believers like yourself, but there is a difference in kind between trusting your counterparty and encrypting the communication against eavesdroppers, and not trusting your counterparty at all, but running code on his computer that you do trust.

Compare the definition on the Windows Media page:
DRM is a technology that enables the secure distribution, promotion, and sale of digital media content on the Internet.
with the more nuanced statements made to congress by Will Poole
The phrase “digital rights management” commonly refers to technical measures that help companies and individuals manage their rights in digital content.  In practice, the term is often applied broadly to almost any security measure that protects digital content, including access and copy control mechanisms. 

and later on
Nevertheless, DRM technologies alone cannot solve the piracy problem.  As Microsoft and others in the industry learned from their technical protection efforts in the 1980s, using DRM protections as an anti-piracy club, without adequate regard for consumer convenience and expectations, risks alienating lawful consumers and impeding the growth of legitimate distribution channels.  Instead, content owners must combine the effective use of DRM tools with new business models that give consumers realistic and attractive alternatives to piracy.  Digital distribution mechanisms and P2P networks have tremendous operational cost advantages, which – if combined with high-volume availability, top-tier content and easy access for consumers at appropriate price points – are just as important to combating piracy as technological solutions.  In short, if it is roughly as easy for people to buy something legitimately as to obtain it illegally, most people will opt for the legal alternative.

The flawed assumption is that digital devices can enforce the law, with all its subtleties, nuances and check and balances. Instead what is happening is that the law is being changed to reflect the simple binary dichotomies easily expressible in computer code.

The links above are to copies of Microsoft's webpages that you can add marginal comments to, like the mediAgora forum - I've done this for ease of citation of paragraphs, and to make it clear that I'm not quoting out of context. It also demonstrates a great use of technology that may not be adequately covered by precedent, and certainly not considered by MS's 'terms of use' linked from the end of those pages. It illustrates the mediAgora concept of including source works and charging the same price for tham as I paid, discussed at more length here and here

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

The trouble with DRM

Eric is asking for a sensible debate about DRM - here are his stated assumptions and my responses:
DRM Assumptions
1. The Entertainment industry is *going* to find some way to charge for their wares. (this may not be the way they want, but it will be some way -- i.e., music, books and movies are not suddenly going to become free)

Some will be free, as they are now; some will be cheap, some will be expensive. I believe absolutely in the Creators' -mediAgora is about exactly that.

2. Technology will play a role in the above way.
3. If it is simply a malicious tricking of the marketplace, it will not work.

With you so far, but you haven't mentioned DRM yet.

4. DRM is not simply about file-swapping. It is also about individuals regaining the power of a negotiated agreement about who can contact them and under what circumstances.

No, that is privacy. It can be accomplished with encryption, identity and trust. DRM is different.

One of the reasons DRM is doomed to fail is becasue it abandons trust - it explicity trusts software running on the customers' computer more than the customer. It is an abuse of encryption and identity.

Because DRM is built on the assumption that customers are untrustworthy thieves, the outrageous legislation we are seeing at the moment - suspending the contitution for the sake of copyright holders - is a natural and predictable outcome.

Saturday, July 27, 2002

Now there's an idea...

Paul Ford projects a future online marketplace led by Google. Well worth reading.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002


Jonathan, the tipjar idea isn't too far from mediAgora, but it is missing some subtleties.

Songs are generally the work of more than one person - in particular, there is usually a difference between the songwriter and the performers. mediAgora's model makes this explicit.

A song is not the same as a digital representation of it. A more useful idea would be a reference id for a performance of a song (a work in mediAgora parlance). This could map to alternative file repesentations of the same song - different qualities, formats, prices.

Instead of sending files around, you send playlists of song ids. If you have already bought the song, or got a promotional version, your client plays that. If not, it plays the promotional version and you can upgrade to the full version if you like it.

The person sending the playlist get the promoter credit. This maps to both friends 'making tapes' and radio stations quite well.

Saturday, July 13, 2002

DNS troubles is not responding at the moment - please use this mirror instead.

DRM Meeting protest group

A group from New York, including Richard Stallman, are going to attend the congressional hearing discussed below. details here.

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Congessional hearing on DRM

The US Commerce Department is holding a workshop on DRM on Wednesday 17th.
The usual suspects are there - Jack Valenti, Mitch Glazier, Vivendi, Disney, Microsoft and Intel.
If you can't go, send in your comments (mention mediAgora's alternative approach if you like). My comments have been submitted; here they are in full:

SUMMARY: The United States Department of Commerce Technology Administration (TA) announces a public workshop on digital entertainment and its availability to consumers. The workshop will help gather data on such issues as the status of technical standards that provide the framework necessary to enable legitimate digital media distribution and the present state of strengths, weaknesses and availability of current and imminent technological solutions to protect digital content, barriers that are inhibiting movies, music and games from coming online.

Topics to be addressed at the workshop include:

The effectiveness of efforts to pursue technical standards or solutions that are designed to provide a more predictable and secure environment for digital transmission of copyright material;

This is odd phrasing - the TCP protocol provides a highly predictable way of transmitting copyright material, and end to end encryption can readily ensure that information is not intercepted in transit - this is used by millions of people every day for online banking, online purchasing and remote access to company networks.

What I surmise you are asking about here are so-called 'Digital Rights Management' schemes or DRM. Instead of discussing specific efforts, I'd like to point out general principles that apply to all such attempts.

Firstly, this is a misapplication of encryption. Encryption is for sending a secret between two trusted parties so that it cannot be intercepted by a third party. What DRM attempts instead is to make the remote device a trusted counterparty, as you don't trust the person owning it.

Secondly, there is a fundamental principle of computer science known as the Church-Turing thesis, which proves that any suitably powerful computer can exactly recreate the results of any other one. The implication of this is that any remote machine could be mimicking the correct responses, but still copying the data. These efforts are doomed to fail. If you talk to any DRM technologist, they will admit this, which is why their schemes provide for 'repudiation' and self-replacement.

Thirdly, encumbering the copyright material with digital locks and limitations makes it far less attractive - people like the freedom to read, listen, view and edit in the order and at the times they want, and will pay less for less convenient, technologically limited forms.

Major obstacles facing an open commercial exchange of digital content;

As the President wisely said yesterday, you can't have a market without trust.

The major obstacle that an open commercial exchange faces is the fact that the publishing industries don't trust their customers, and that in many cases they have forfeited the trust of the creative artists they represent.

The second major obstacle is the cartelisation of existing media publishing with price fixing and discriminatory pricing.

The third obstacle is the difficulty of sending payments, though PayPal makes this less of an issue. The effort for the customer of keeping track of these payments and not being 'nickeled and dimed to death' should not be underestimated either.

What a future framework for success might entail;

A future framework for success will entail building a marketplace based on trust, that does not discriminate against any creator or customer, and that rewards promoters for achieved sales. I have outlined just such a framework at

Current consumer attitude towards online entertainment.

The notion of a 'consumer' is wrong here, as digital works are not consumed - they are copied as needed, but do not wear out.

If you examine the web, you will find that it is mostly composed of web pages by individuals - more than 2 billion of them. People entertain themselves by reading others pages and writing their own, filled with their thoughts, jokes, deeds and dreams, passing ideas from one to another, chatting in chat-rooms, playing games with one another, and sharing music they care about.

The attitude is that the whole world is only a few clicks away, and they won't be forced to watch advertisements any more.

In closing, I'd like to quote Thomas Jefferson:

It would be curious... if an idea, the fugitive fermentation of an individual brain, could, of natural right, be claimed in exclusive and stable property. If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property. Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from anybody... The exclusive right to invention [is] given not of natural right, but for the benefit of society."

Kevin Marks, July 11th 2002

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Tip-Jar plug-in

Here is an interesting idea that works for both public-domain and copyrighted content models. The addition of a "music creator" signature in the ID3 information attached to an MP3 would allow a "tip-jar" plug-in to make a paypal (or other transaction processor) payment. The ID3 information can be in individual files or in streams sent from (presumably overseas) internet radio stations.
I like this idea, the development cost for the plug-in is trivial, the implementation cost (for an artist is trivial), the number of artists that would be willing to do it is probably at least comparable to the number posting their music at The secured repository of signatures and trusted transaction processing is non-trivial, but not that difficult. There seems like a lot of resonance with the ideas behind mediAgora, yes?

Another precursor

The new art will be public art. Since more contributors make a (potentially) better work, network effects will encourage the creators to allow all comers. The essence of encouraging multiple contributions eliminates the purpose of ownership (an artist's control over his or her own work) and derivative works will be the norm.

And how can you copyright an ever-changing work? What allows you to say that the image you copyrighted last year gives you rights over another created today? The rules will have to be entirely different--which is reasonable because means for rewarding the artists will have to be different. Payment is an issue that still needs to be worked out, but micropayments are not likely to win out.

Andy Oram said this (and more) in March. I think this fits exactly with mediAgora's goals

if you're so smart, why isn't someone else rich?

Eric asked that if this is such a smart idea, why hasn't anyone done it already? This is a fair question; most good ideas occur to several people simultaneously, and most of my other good ideas have been, so why not this one?

I think that the answer is that in order to look at the problem the way I do, you have to turn a few 'obvious' truths on their heads. Doing this for one at a time is possible, but to do it for 3 at once is not going top get past the VC's or publishing industry board.

Inversion one:

Letting people edit your work is a good idea. They value it more that way. Just make sure that you get paid if they sell it.

Inversion two:

Copying is a good thing. Trying to prevent it is futile anyway, as if someone can see the work they can copy it.
Copying spreads the word. Encourage it by cutting in those doing it, but only if it leads to sales. Give them a stake in your success.

Inversion three:

Trust and respect your customers. Don't assume they are all thieves or pirates. If your accounting is transparent, they'll understand why they should pay the creators.

There are a lot of seductive temptations along the path to this idea. Janis Ian describes the musicians dilemma well; the other half of this is the hubris endemic in industries that believe they can outsmart the market. Publishing is just as prone to this as fund management. Independent films have afar better ROI than Studio pictures.
For technologists, the temptation is the illusion of perfect control of other people's machines, which though impossible is a very tempting what-if, especially when the glamourous film industry so want it to be true.

To step back and reconsider how the industry works, and to try to make a transparent market goes against the games everyone in 'the biz' plays.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Dave: It's about the music

Dave Winer said:
Music industry, it's time for you to propose a plan for users of high integrity to get money into the hands of the artists, with you getting a small cut. The users renegotiated. You don't get to keep all the money anymore. I can't believe they're so blind they don't see this.
(well, he said it 2 years ago, but he republished it today). I don't think waiting for the music industry to propose a plan is going to work - that's why I'm proposing one instead of just complaining about theirs.

Monday, July 08, 2002

Good question

Eric, that is a good question, and I'll think on it and post more later. I think that the focus of the various efforts has been on helping the incumbent media publishers preserve their model at one end, and on enabling a free-for-all without payment at the other end.
Trying to establish a market you don't control is alien to the former; enabling copying and discovery without worrying about payment is easier and fits with the 'free' mindset.

just a quick note...

i'm in; and plan to participate, but my bandwidth is really tight for the next 14days.....overall: i think this is a truly interesting idea. my first question: why hasn't anyone done this yet? ie, what market forces are holding them back?

Idea, meme, group, community...

At the moment, mediAgora is an idea, and the beginnings of a conversation. I've set up 2 kinds of discussion list as well as this weblog, and I'm going to keep an eye on all of them,as well as direct email, and see what peopel want to talk about, which bits I need to spend more effort explaining, and what I need to change.

Doc has linked here, so welcome anyone who came in that way, and please join in the conversations - if you think this stuff is incomprehensible, wrong-headed or confused, I want to hear that too.

Sunday, July 07, 2002

Is MediAgora A Group? . . . . .

"People support or join groups because membership brings some
amount of personal benefits such as learning new skills, access
to resources, exposure to a broader world, getting useful
services, etc.; because the group provides a way to be connected
with other people who share similar interests; and because they
see the group as an effective vehicle for dealing with personal
or societal problems."

"Technology can help organizations attract and keep loyal
members, a vital ingredient for success. The value of membership
increases if organizations are the vehicle for computer skills
training and for access to the world of on-line resources.
At the same time, local organizations will be better than some
central group at recruiting network users from a broad range of
the population."

From "A Model for Networks in Community Activism", by Steven Miller, in The Network Observer ; Last visited July 6, 2002.
With the Internet, and the fact we're smack in the middle of the Digital Age, this 1994 quote needs to be updated to include business, the market place, and continued emphasis on community, or local control, don't you think? . . . .

discussion lists added

I've set up both QuickTopic and Topica discussion lists. QuickTopic is nicer, but the Topica one is bit easier to set up for those who like email lists. I'll talk to anyone any way they want about this.

Initial comments on the Cluetrain list

Here's my first mention, closely followed by comments from Tom Poe.

Better printing

I've just added CSS print alternatives for the main pages, and updated the sources page with more links and thanks.

Saturday, July 06, 2002

just tidying up

OK, this isn't quite ready yet, but in the spirit of transparency and of thinking in public, I'm telling a few clued individuals about it.