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IEEE P1817 Standard for
Consumer-ownable Digital Personal Property

Consumer-ownable downloads always include a GIVE button and a TAKE button

The vendor who intends for you to truly own your downloaded purchase of a movie, song, book, or game adds two virtual buttons to your download: a GIVE button and a TAKE button. These buttons are inseparable from the rest of the data; they cannot be removed.

Make backups and give copies to anyone using the GIVE button

Pressing the GIVE button creates new copies of your purchase and delivers them to whomever you may choose. You can use the Give button to make backups for yourself or customize copies for each player device you might have. Anyone who receives a copy can also press the GIVE button to make more copies and share with anyone they may choose. Such copying and sharing is not limited &mdash GIVE buttons always work.

Pressing the TAKE button makes all other copies unplayable

Everyone who has a copy also has a TAKE button. Whoever presses the TAKE button first causes the product to become unplayable on any player other than the one whose TAKE button was pressed. By this means all existing copies truly represent a single product instance, and anyone who might dare to share with strangers is guaranteed to lose his property &mdash TAKE buttons always work.

Buy to Truly Own

The IEEE P1817 Working Group is developing a content protection standard for downloadable, buy-to-own digital products such as movies, music, books, and games. The standard will prevent counterfeiting and content ripping to protect the profitability of supplier businesses, but will also preserve the features that consumers associate with personal ownership, including the ability to share, to lend, to give, or to resell what they have bought.

Public Versus Private

Under P1817, the boundary between private behavior and public behavior is defined by individual consumers, not by digital rights management systems or online Big Brothers. Each item is available to its particular circle of trusted sharers. The owner draws that circle by directly interacting with sharers. They can redraw the circle at will, without asking permission, without registering devices or product items, and without having to maintain lists of approved sharers. No technological breakthrough is required, just an emulation of the same mechanisms that enable us to share our physical property while naturally leading us to prudently share only with those who we trust to respect our ownership.

Implications for Society

The P1817 Working Group is also studying the social, business, and legal issues surrounding the concept of consumer-ownership of copyrighted digital products. The Working Group does not advocate public policy, but serves as an information source for those who are dealing with the legal and societal implications of consumer ownership of copyrighted digital objects.

Project Status

The P1817 Project Authorization Request was approved on 10 May 2010. Working Group meetings began in July of 2010. Work has begun on a first draft of the standard via online collaboration.


There have been four meetings to date. The next face-to-face and teleconferenced Working Group meeting will be announced soon to review the initial draft. Interested parties are invited to attend. IEEE membership is not required. Please RSVP at

Copyright ©2011 IEEE-SA
(Modified: 25 February 2011)