Mistrust-Based Digital Rights Management

31 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2006

See all articles by Randal C. Picker

Randal C. Picker

University of Chicago - Law School

Date Written: April 2006


The powerful shift in copying technology over the last thirty years has destabilized how we produce copies and the economic arrangements associated with prior technologies. These technological changes have created a broad shift in the ability to make copies moving control away from producers towards consumers. As a consequence, these technologies have altered the practical enforceability of the rights that law assigns to copyright owners.

Digital rights management technologies are an effort to make meaningful the legal rights of copyright owners. DRM faces severe obstacles. For preexisting products like the music CD, it has proven to be very difficult to add DRM after the fact. CDs need to work in standard CD players, and the limits DRM. The firestorm over Sony BMG's effort to produce CDs subject to DRM suggests that we are unlikely to see meaningful DRM for music CDs soon.

But we are switching how we deliver content from products to services. Music CDs and eventually DVDs will be replaced by online services such as Apple's iTunes and Google Video. Both of these come with DRM built-in and both rely on identity-based DRM. Identity-based DRM ties identity to content. Content can be shared widely, but absent access to identity, the content is worthless.

This is a substantial step forward for DRM, but may still be a step short of where we need to be. Content purchasers still have no reason to protect purchased content. Identity-based DRM coupled with bounty tags will create an incentives wedge between content purchasers and stripping/p2p software and with peers in a p2p network. We should want a system where content purchasers are as careful with content as they would be with identity and mistrust-based DRM may be that system.

Keywords: DRM, digital rights management, sony, BMG, rootkit, iTunes, Google Video

Suggested Citation

Picker, Randal C., Mistrust-Based Digital Rights Management (April 2006). U Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 291, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=899155 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.899155

Randal C. Picker (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-0864 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.uchicago.edu/Picker/

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