Mud-wrestling with teenagers

One of the responses to today's DaveNet, Hollywood wants the right to hack your computer , comes from Digital Identity World's Eric Norlin, who says : "Palladium can prevent the Bill that this DaveNet is disgusted with...", and continues:

Allow me to make some assumptions about DRM (and if these are totally invalid, feel free to argue):

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)

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.

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.

If these assumptions are accepted, then I'd submit that it is our RESPONSIBILITY to be in a conversation with the technology companies that are building DRM systems. [ Eric Norlin's Weblog ]

I'm with you as far as point #3, Eric. But I see nothing in DRM generally, or Palladium in particular, that deals either with negotiated agreement or privacy. There are, as Lawrence Lessig keeps saying, four forces in play: architecture, law, markets, and social norms. The Palladium architecture can't be discussed in isolation. It can work in conjunction with these other forces, but cannot and will not stand alone. In the realm of intellectual property, our system has always been a dynamic and precarious balance of conflicting forces. The loss of control that Hollywood fears is no less worrisome than the excess of control that Lessig foresees.

Laws are never fully enforceable; that doesn't make them toothless. Markets don't work perfectly either, but they do function. Social norms are the wildcard. If a reasonable amount of respect for the value of intellectual property ceases to be a social norm, then the system's out of whack -- and will over-correct. That's just what we see happening now. In response to perceived anarchy, this proposed Congressional bill strikes back with reverse anarchy. This kind of arms race can only further erode our social norms.

The Internet will inevitably become more regulated than it is today. Increasingly, users will have to identify themselves in ways that make them accountable for their actions. This is the kind of thing you'd expect a government to push for. Perhaps we're lucky that the government instead seems to want to mud-wrestle with teenagers. It will fail, and lose face doing so. Maybe while that's going on, though, the Internet can get its own act together. It has always been a remarkably self-governing institution. Can the Internet itself find an intelligent and balanced solution to Hollywood's problem? I'd like to think it can, but if so, talking to companies building DRM systems is only a small part of the conversation we need to be having.

PS: Hey, "reverse anarchy" is a Googlewhack. Not for long, though.

PPS: Hmm. Now "reverse anarchy" isn't working through Googlebox, though oddly it still returns one result direct from Google -- does the API hit a different index? I've switched the Googlebox to reverse anarchy.

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