Distributed Intellectual Property Rights Common Rights, Collective Rights and Intellectual Property
Distributed Intellectual Property Rights
  Nicholas Bentley Blog
 

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Conclusions
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© 1999-2004
Nicholas Bentley

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Evolutionary Theory and DIPR

Note: The numerical analysis I use in this section in highly speculative and not based on any firm research but I believe it could form the foundation of a theoretical approach to analyzing the distribution of digital information and how environmental factors can affect the results. Some of the conclusions I draw from this analysis are still valid, in my view, because I am just comparing relative values of very similar products; such as comparing two comparatively large data files, one without identifiers and one with identifiers where they have an insignificant size compared with the data size. The real monetary cost of implementing the DIPR system could well be significant and this needs to be evaluated carefully.

Theoretical analysis of Distributed Intellectual Property Rights

In this section I analyze the proposed Distributed Intellectual Property Rights system from an evolutionary point of view and consider all items of information and intellectual products as replicators or memes. I look at each individual piece of information as a replicator whose sole aim is to reproduce or be copied and its adaptation to its environment is the only thing that affects its success. I will also propose that we consider the whole environment of human interaction throughout cyberspace and analyze this interaction in terms of an Evolutionarily Stable Strategy (ESS).

Digital replicators

In general I define replicators as information, ideas, or an item of intellectual property that can be copied or can be considered to reproduce. Digital replicators are the same ideas or information but produced in a digital form that can be distributed over the Internet or some other medium. I only make the distinction because this paper discusses issues centred on the digital manifestation of replicators. Examples are well known: CDs DVDs, MP3 files, text files, software.

Digital environment

Although focused on the Internet, I extend the idea of the digital environment to include digital products however they are distributed, this includes such items as CDs and DVDs. Human information producers and users are also considered to be part of this extended environment.

Simple analysis of some digital replicators

Richard Dawkins has established three properties that can be used to define a replicator: Fecundity, Copying/Reproduction-Fidelity, and Longevity. A replicator that is successful in all three of these areas will be a very successful replicator and will spread far and wide. Conversely, a replicator that has weak properties will be a poor replicator.

For this analysis I use these three properties as coefficients in an equation that predicts a replicator’s success at reproducing and therefore its success at spreading throughout the environment.

  Replicator success quotient = Fecundity * Fidelity * Longevity

Each coefficient is given a value of zero to one based on the replicator’s performance in that area and the result will predict the replicator’s success. (Zero will mean total failure through to one predicting great success).

For example, a replicator that always copies itself with so many errors that it is unrecognisable will have a fidelity score near zero and will not get far as a replicator. Equally, a replicator locked in a file with an unknown key will have near zero fecundity and will not spread.

For the Digital replicators mentioned above and a few others for comparison I have estimated values for the three coefficients and produced the table below.

Medium vs replicator coefficient

Fecundity

Fidelity

Longevity

Replicator value

Vinyl record

0.5

0.7

0.4

0.14

Cassette tape

0.9

0.7

0.3

0.189

CD

0.45

0.95

0.9

0.385

MP3 file

0.95

0.9

0.8

0.684

Music + SDMI

0.5

0.95

0.9

0.428

MP3 file + new PRD

0.7

0.95

0.95

0.632

Table A2.1 - Medium vs. Replicator Coefficient

The coefficient values are somewhat arbitrary but I believe give a good and interesting indication of the predicted success, as a replicator, of each of the media.

Considering the vinyl record (replicator value 0.14): its fecundity is rated at 0.5 because of the specialised equipment required to produce a record. Its fidelity is rated good at 0.7 when you consider the music quality when a new record is played on a high fidelity system but its longevity is rated poorly at 0.4 because vinyl records can wear quickly and can easily be irreparably damaged.

Looking at the coefficients for the raw MP3 file: Its fecundity on the Internet is very high at 0.95 because of its relatively small compressed size and the ease of its practically free distribution. Being digital, its copying fidelity is good (0.9) and its small digital size makes long-term storage feasible once it has been copied (0.8). This gives it an overall replicator value of 0.684.

Now look at the coefficients of the new MP3 file with a Property Rights Descriptor (PRD) field supported by the distributed rights environment: Its fecundity value (0.7) drops in comparison with the raw MP3 file (0.95) because of higher distribution costs in the rights environment (note that I estimate these costs are still less than obtaining a physical CD (0.45)). Its fidelity is improved (0.95) because many copies are made from a master file and its longevity is ensured (0.95) because any lost files can be replaced from the master through the licence system.

A file that degrades or is inhibited after it has been copied once such as in the SDMI [39] environment will have a much-reduced fecundity (0.5) and therefore is a less successful replicator than some of the other formats. (This is obviously the aim of the SDMI and shows that it will reduce the number of file copies but I will argue later that this is not the desired result.)

The following table goes on to expand this analysis over a slightly wider field.

Medium vs replicator coefficient

Fecundity

Fidelity

Longevity

Replicator value

Spoken story

0.3

0.4

0.3

0.036

Books

0.6

0.8

0.8

0.384

E-books

0.95

0.75

0.95

0.677

Film cinema

0.4

0.9

0.3

0.108

Film broadcast

0.85

0.8

0.4

0.272

DVD

0.45

0.95

0.9

0.385

Digital video on demand *

0.9

0.9

0.75

0.607

Digital video on demand + PRD *

0.75

0.95

0.95

0.677

Table A2.2 - Medium vs. Replicator Coefficient (extended)

* Assuming sufficient bandwidth is available in the future.

Conclusions from replicator analysis

First off, if you look at the comparison of vinyl records (0.14), cassette tapes (0.189), and CD's (0.385) it shows why CD's have become successful and vinyl records almost obsolete despite the higher costs involved in producing CD's (more complicated technology and new equipment required). Following that it shows why the current rage in MP3 file (0.684) swapping is more successful. It also emphasises the advantage digital replicators have over the analogue equivalents and so demonstrates why the digital environment is going to be ‘the future’.

The first table shows that the new MP3 file format with PRD fields added and supported by rights and licence offices has a similar replicator value to raw MP3 files. You might wonder what is the benefit of introducing the new complicated DIPR system. The significant point is that at least 50% of music in the MP3 format would 'prefer' to take the new system route, where the product and owner of the product will be identified. The second point, I would argue, is that as the new system becomes established its fecundity will improve (costs come down) and so will overtake raw MP3 files as the preferred route. In the same way, any environmental pressure that promotes MP3+PRD reproduction over raw MP3 files, either moral, legal or technical, would further swing the balance in favour of new MP3's plus PRD's.

Regarding the second table: Assuming portable reader technology improves, E-books (digital text) will become very successful replicators and more so if producers were protected in the new digital rights system. Digital video on demand has the same promising future and, again, I would argue that if the rights system were in place the identified version would far out perform the raw version partly because the costs of local long term storage will be that much greater.

In the table below I introduce a further coefficient, the desirability coefficient, which includes a cost factor to obtaining the product. I consider the product to be a music file distributed in three formats, CD, SDMI protected product, and MP3+PRD, and for each format I compare its distribution against a 'free' MP3 file containing the same music. The desirability coefficient of 0.1 is arrived at by assuming 10% of the population who liked that particular piece of music would pay a reasonable cost to be able own and play the file and always have a perfect copy available should they loose their copy.

Products

Replicator coefficient

Desirability coefficient (cost)

Distribution coefficient

Distribution %

CD

0.385

0.1

0.0385

5.63%

MP3

0.684

1.0

0.684

94.37%

SDMI

0.428

0.1

0.0428

6.26%

MP3

0.684

1.0

0.684

93.74%

MP3+PRD

0.632

0.1

0.0632

9.24%

MP3

0.684

1.0

0.684

90.76%

Table A2.3 – Percentage Product Distribution

Note the predicted increase of sales of the PRD protected product over the other formats under the same market conditions. Assuming the costs of the electronic MP3+PRD product are less than any physically distributed intellectual products, such as CD's, then the purchase cost could be reduced and you could expect even more sales in the same market. Also, under the Distributed Intellectual Property Rights system, most of the MP3 files shown in the last line of the table would in fact include a PRD and so a least the product would be identified and the creator known even if it was not a purchased product.

If you were to perform this analysis on other products which contain information which might be updated regularly or software which is revised or improved regularly the desirability coefficient could be much higher and the PRD identified product would proportionally gain more of an advantage over a non-identified product.

Extended phenotypes at work

As I stated in my main paper, the two fundamental components of the Distributed Rights System proposed here are the Author Rights Office (ARO) and the Consumer Rights Office (CRO). These offices reside on the Internet and work in close collaboration with human internauughts; creators with the rights office and users with the licence office. This close collaboration of the human mind, via the body, with the technological environment has been described by Andy Clark [40] as 'the cognitive equivalent of Dawkins' vision of the extended phenotype'. A phenotype is the bodily manifestation of a genes programming. An extended phenotype is an extension of the genes influence to things outside the physical body.

Hence, a portion of the Internet environment truly becomes an extension of the human operators mind and therefore the brain/technology symbioses allows the Internet to be analyzed as an evolutionary system containing many intelligent individual organisms trading units of information such as the intellectual products described above. The Offices act as unique agents for human users and these agents are always available to act for their hosts. In this way human society is truly extended onto the Internet.

An Evolutionarily Stable Strategy

Dawkins also describes an Evolutionarily Stable Strategy (ESS), a theory developed by Robert Trivers [41], involving suckers, grudgers, and cheats and describes how these societies evolve into stable states. Suckers are defined as being too trusting and will continuously give away their services regardless of how often they are cheated. Cheats will always cheat others given the chance. Grudgers will retaliate if they are cheated but will quickly forgive and make their services available again.

Dawkins then describes how some organisms thrive and others become extinct. A population of grudgers or a population of cheats are the two attractors of a dynamic differential system such as this and he goes on to state that a population that stabilises at the cheat equilibrium is more likely to go extinct. Grudgers are basically nice guys who play by the rules but will react if someone takes advantage and they are more likely to become the stable population. There is selection between ESS's in favour of reciprocal altruism. The prerequisite of this society is that grudgers can recognise and remember other individuals and therefore hold a grudge or not when necessary.

Therefore, to extend society's moral codes, particularly reciprocal altruism, onto the Internet and into the digital age each individual has a fundamental need for a permanent presence (or agent) to act on their behalf and be able to recognise other agents. Hence the need for each individual to have an 'office' in cyberspace representing their interests. In fact I have proposed two types of office, one for the provider (author rights office) and the other for the user (consumer rights office), instead of one generic type that could handle transactions in both directions. The reason for the two types of office is two fold; first it seems a natural distinction (provider and user) and second, it greatly simplifies the structure of each office and the type of transaction it handles.

I would like to believe that the society in which we live today is truly altruistic and could be modelled as simply as I have done above but even if this is not the case I believe this model does point to the direction that has to be taken:

Both suppliers and consumers have to be represented and each product manifestation has to contain a record of the transaction between the two parties.

Virtual ESS – Digital Stability

The ESS described above defines the physical donation of services where there is one recipient; once the service is donated that is the end of it except for the memory of it and the obligation on the recipient to repay. In the case where the service is traded immediately for money, goods, or services, the obligation is immediately repaid.

The donation of an item of information is more complicated! The initial trade between two parties can form part of the ESS described above and the offices I have proposed for digital information can directly aid an honest exchange. The complication is that the information is not dissipated on exchange, as a physical service is ‘used-up’, but is available to be passed on any number of times and the initial creator, who put the work into it, might well not know of future dissemination. The digital exchange of information exasperates this situation. As we saw in the section on replication above this information 'wants' to reproduce and spread and does so more easily in digital from.

In the table below I analyze the different conditions under which the information or a digital product could be transferred and the levels of interaction between the creator and the user or recipient:

Information transfer conditions

Creator gives permission for transfer

Creator knows of recipient

Recipient knows creator

Level of interaction

1

True

True

True

A - best case for fair trade

2

F

True

True

B - possibility of fair trade

3

True

F

True

B

4

F

F

True

B

5

True

True

F

A - good case for fair trade

6

F

True

F

B

7

True

F

F

C never able to trade

8

F

F

F

C -

Table A2.4 – Information Transfer Conditions

If the creator is always asked for permission and knows whom the product is going to there is no problem, the rules for reciprocal altruism can be applied (level ‘A’). The worst case is if there is a transfer of a product without the creator knowing it and the recipient does not know who created it either, under these conditions no exchange payment can never be made (level ‘B’).

An intermediate case (‘C’) is where the creator has no knowledge of the transfer but the recipient knows who the creator is. In this case there is always the chance that some will play the game and pay up. The existence of the PRD, attached to the digital product, allows for this possibility and would always allow a recipient to register his or her own legal copy. Remember, as I have shown earlier, the information with the PRD is just as likely to spread as the information without the PRD. There is no penalty imposed on the PRD identified product.

I should emphasise this point: No environmental pressure should be applied that would inhibit the copying of a product with a valid PRD! Even if there are a billion people using the PRD product without purchasing the rights to it, this is still a better situation than an equal number of people using a non-identified product without usage rights. In addition to this, the widespread distribution of the product is of benefit to society as a whole and at a minimum probably good for the creator's reputation.

An interesting situation arises if each legal recipient were to become a part owner of the information and receives a part payment if they passed it on to another known recipient. In this way reciprocal trade conditions can be spread much further through the population. This idea is described further in the referral process in the ‘Business’ section.

This analysis also highlights the advantages of providing information as a service instead of a product. When the information is part of a service it maintains the one to one trading relationship between two organisms that is so important. In this case the DIPR model provides the environment and structure that records the transfer of rights within the service.

This finally brings me to the end of my argument, albeit in very general terms, that demonstrates the need for this complicated system of both Author Rights Offices and Consumer Rights Offices in the Distributed Intellectual Property Rights system. It is the fundamental need for organisms who extend their society onto the Internet to be able to recognise each other, to have their own individual presence, and know who is playing the game or not. (This need to recognise one-another could point to the advantage of each individual having a unique, secure and persistent identification but that is another project).

 
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© 1999-2004 Nicholas Bentley Updated: May. 2004