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FairShare anti-piracy

Pay people to 'share' copyrighted files on a P2P network
  (+1, -3)
(+1, -3)
  [vote for,

Let everyone share copyrighted digital content files over a peer-to-peer file sharing network. But create incentives and disincentives to prevent large scale piracy.

The technology: standard P2P file sharing, modified with central payment servers where copyrighted content is registered. Someone wanting the content sees a link to it on a web page or search engine and clicks on the link. Their P2P software automatically scans their "friends and favorites" P2P server systems for the content, but there's a pointer to a server embedded in the link in case they don't find it anywhere else.

Whatever system has the file encrypts it with a one-time key, sends the file to the person who wants it, and sends the key to the payment system. The buyer gets a message asking them to authorize a payment, and once they do, they get the key. When their "tab" hits $20, they get billed. So far, pretty straightforward stuff, except for the use of P2P and web links instead of massive central content servers.

Now the incentives. First, digital content distributed this way can be a lot cheaper than buying it in a store - I would estimate that an hour of music might cost around $5 - about 50 cents a song - and once you buy it, you can store it and play it as many times as you like, on whatever players you have.

When someone "buys" a file from you, you get a share of the payment as a credit on the payment system. You can use your credits to buy other content - or if it accumulates to, say, $50, you can have them send you a check. So you have an incentive to get your friends to use the legal network and put you on their Friends list. And having done that, you'd look like a jerk not to use it yourself.

That may not seem like a huge incentive - but what is your incentive to give the content away for free to strangers? Zero! Even a small incentive easily outweighs zero incentive.

Other incentives - web sites get a new source of income - anyone who can't find the file on a friend's system will probably automatically download from the website that gave them the link to the file. So they should quickly adopt the system, and encourage visitors to their site to use it.

You get professionally produced, high quality digital content - and it is un-protected once you've paid for it, unlike the many digital rights management systems coming down the pike. By signing up for the legal P2P system, you help discourage those restrictive systems, and secure your own "Fair use" rights. And once you've downloaded it, you can "sell" it to as many people as want to buy from you.

Then add disincentives. Announce that after a short grace period, hired bounty hunters will be cruising the P2P nets, looking for anyone willing to give them a pirated/free copy of any file on the "legal" P2P network. Anyone signing up for the legal P2P network within that time and using it exclusively thereafter will not be prosecuted.

Catch some ordinary joe/jane average types and drag them through long and very public trials. Cruel - but they were breaking the law. Beyond those unfortunate few "examples", most users merely risk being banned from selling on the legal P2P system, which will quickly become the only P2P file sharing system with a critical mass of users.

Will this stop all illegal copying? No - but it works on roughly the same principle that keeps a record store owner from creating illegal copies - he wants to make some money, he doesn't want to get in legal trouble, wants to keep a good reputation, and he knows if he makes illegal copies no record company will let him get or sell their music. Most people won't even be tempted to go outside the legal P2P network.

TomRC, Aug 27 2002


       I think that's a very novel idea and could work. (+1) However, I do have some thoughts/comments/etc. that I'd like to bring up:   

       If someone is already using [P2P network name here] and that network has x terabytes of music/video/etc. why would he switch to this new system?   

       I fail to see how there is an incentive to switch to the system. It seems like the only incentive to switch is if the system provides more music than another and/or if the system can provide music not usually found on other P2P networks at a very low cost. I see both of these as unlikely. One can find most things on P2P networks and big services like gnutella or kazaa have thousands of gigs of files.   

       Everyone will still want to trade for free without gaining or giving up money, imho.   

       Secondly, how do you propose to satisfy the record company's concerns about getting enough money and protecting their interests? I seem to get the feeling that record companies aren't comfortable with digital music until it's in a secure file format, not a secure transfer method or at least control -- which means this network will probably have to be monitored by the RIAA, which, could mean, draconian (probably not the right word, but close) protocols/regulations/etc.
wan-fu, Aug 27 2002

       Napster tried this, remember? Bankrupt!
Mr Burns, Aug 27 2002

       How do you verify the advertised content is actually what it seems? I may want an AC/DC song and end up with a John Holmes movie....
phoenix, Aug 27 2002

       Two unrelated comments:   

       The problem with digital music distribution is not that it is technically difficult to construct a reasonable system that keeps track of the money. It isn't. The problem - and this seens to be the only problem - is that the copyright owners of the music, who have strong ties to the traditional distribution networks, feel threatened.   

       There are many incentives for giving away things for free. People are nice to you in the hopes of getting more gifts, pay attention to you, may admire or pretend to admire your brawn at stealing, reciprocate the gifts, can be "turned on" to things you like with low cost of entry.
jutta, Aug 27 2002

       [phoenix] One way to verify content would be for the payment server to request a random block from the encrypted file, decrypt it, and verify it. That plus file size and a checksum should eliminate all but deliberate attempts to distribute the wrong data. But the payment system records both sender and receiver information - so anyone doing this is likely to be caught and banned.
TomRC, Aug 28 2002

       [jutta] I have to disagree with your cast on the problem - the problem is not that record companies FEEL threatened - the problem is that they ARE threatened by P2P file piracy.   

       FairShare is a way to use P2P, but let content companies get what they want - profits for their content. Once FairShare is proven - technically, legally and financially - the record companies will be willing to cautiously begin using it.   

       I agree there are incentives to give stuff to friends - but P2P file sharing is mostly anonymous - giving stuff to strangers. Why waste my PC's time and bandwidth giving a stranger a couple megabytes of data for free, if I could legally give them the data and pick up a few coins in the process?   

       And as far as sharing with friends - if they have FairShare to easily, cheaply, quickly and automatically get music, why go begging others for free music?
TomRC, Aug 28 2002

       [wan-fu] I think record companies are simply reacting to what they've seen happen so far on the internet - namely their valuable content being given away for free. That's the only way they've seen digital content being handled.   

       FairShare is an alternative that would let them see digital content being distributed quickly and easily, yet being paid for. Once they see that, their perceptions of the need for digital rights management should change.
TomRC, Aug 28 2002


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