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Forcing Pirates to Plunder is SO 20th Century

September 8, 2009

Is “stealable” digital property the way to end piracy?  I don’t think “stealable” digital property is a viable alternative at this point, even though the IEEE is touting such encryption technology as a viable substitute to consumer-reviled DRM.  The idea is that if digital files were rivalrous goods, people might not leave their files out in the open for all to take since they might actually lose the good through the process, though consumers might not whine so much if they were allowed a bit more freedom to “loan” these files to a friend.

The whole mechanics of the internet are based on copying mechanisms, not transferring mechanisms, which make such digital goods “non-rivalrous” in economic terms–that is, you don’t have to take away someone’s stuff in order to get your computer to do the same thing.  The fact that there is a functional zero-cost way of reproducing content means that competitive forces will continue to drive these costs toward zero.  The fact that such media would have to be viewable means that there is some bitstream containing the data that comprises that property, and such data can always be removed from whatever system of DRM is superimposed on that data.

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