As promised in my last blog post, the focus this time is very much around the challenges of Intellectual Property, (esp. copyright), in a cloud context. Content protection is one thing, but establishing exactly what one can and can’t do with content in the cloud is equally as important, if not more so, in an environment where geographic location is almost irrelevant. The key question is if and how copyright will survive and thrive in the context of cloud.
The answer currently tends towards ‘not so well’. At least, not without a major overhaul of copyright, and its various regional incarnations, to work seamlessly in a global context. Last week’s Copyright and Technology 2011 conference (see great recap here by Bill Rosenblatt) provided much food for thought, and some insight on the key challenges facing copyright in the highly mobile, cloud enabled, information intensive content usage scenarios of today and tomorrow. Below are 3 highlights from the event, in my opinion:
- The brilliant keynote address by Microsoft’s Tom Rubin spelt out some key policy considerations for achieving what he describes as “copyright at the speed of light”, which addressed several vital topics including: clarity on orphan works; need for copyright registry / licence databases; improved metadata; better policies to address the divergent focus of copyright (i.e. territorial outlook) versus cloud (i.e. global outlook); as well as the need for frictionless cross border licensing. He concluded with 3 areas of focus for policies to help prepare and optimise copyright for the cloud, including: 1) appropriate enforcement; 2) robust metadata; and 3) streamlined licensing. These he claims will go some way towards realising the potential for “fantastic user experience with creative works in the cloud”, and I wholeheartedly agree.
- I moderated a panel session which focused on the lessons from real world implementation of DRM, and which provided some good insight from three speakers who already earned their stripes implementing DRM for clients. For example, my question about how to provide fine grained control over user access to specific content within a certain building/location elicited an answer, with examples, of how this was already being designed and implemented for clients in the airline and hospitality (e.g. hotel) industries. I imagine there are great opportunities here for events and venues (e.g. conferences, concerts, major sporting events, art galleries, educational and other public institutions). By the way, the simplest approach involves exclusive content access, via Wi-Fi and browser, which cuts out once a user moves outside the area of coverage. However, the level of sophistication can increase dramatically when this is also aligned with DRM secured content, and location based functionality (which is readily available on most smart mobile devices), plus a dash of Augumented Reality, for that added vavavoom. The possibilities are mind boggling.
- Finally, I found out some people were seriously creating real world applications for Digital Personal Property (DPP), which is probably best described as a way of making digital content to be more like physical property). DPP involves creating ‘unique’ digital copies of content (e.g. music, films or books) such that once a copy is lent, resold or otherwise given to another party, the original will no longer be accessible to the lender, seller or giver, respectively. Hmmm, whilst on the one hand this makes a certain kind of sense, particularly from the ‘property’ side of Intellectual Property (i.e. think digital property or currency in virtual worlds and online games e.g. Second Life or Farmville); on the other hand, it appears such a mind numbingly daft, futile and King Canute like venture to try and force digital content into an analogue world view, operating within a digital environment! It brings back to mind the spectacular failure of previous attempts to enforce highly intrusive DRM mechanisms over digital content. Having said that, I somehow get the impression that this will be a most interesting development to watch, mainly because of the potential for surprising outcomes from such apparently ‘foolish’ endeavours. A little lateral thinking never hurt anyone. For more information about DPP and the two interesting / controversial initiatives, just click on IEEE P1817 and/or Redigi (the latter is already embroiled in legal tussles with the RIAA, but then that is not surprising!). I’d be very interested to hear about any other DPP projects going on out there.
In conclusion, I think it is fair to say that copyright in a cloud context brings to very sharp relief to some of the key challenges that need addressing for that next step in cultural and socio-economic evolution. This includes: the need for some fairly significant adjustment of the Intellectual Property mechanism within the digital environment; a rethink of physical geographical or territorial boundaries in a digital world; and perhaps an exploration of other, better ways to assess the true value of digital content, in light of usage and context. Like I said earlier, lots of food for thought indeed.
Note: This post is brought to you in partnership with Intel(R) as part of the “Technology in tomorrow’s cloud & virtual desktop” series.