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IEEE P1817 Standard for
Consumer-ownable Digital Personal Property

Consumer Notions and the Laws of Copyright and Ownership

The laws of property ownership and copyright are complex, they vary between jurisdictions, and they are subject to ongoing interpretation by the courts. Any attempt to interpret and enforce those laws with a computer program is guaranteed to fail, so P1817 makes no such attempt. Instead, P1817 emulates tangible personal property in order to enable and encourage respect for both consumer ownership and copyright.

What Consumers Think

What do consumers mean by ownership? If asked, they are likely to say, "If I own it, then it's nobody else's business what I do with it."

What do consumers mean by copyright? They are apt to say, "The one who created it gets to make copies and sell them."

What consumers think is not the same as what the law says; however, the consumer view is extremely important to the viability of a marketplace that expects consumers to play by the rules.

Fairness and Enlightened Self-interest

Johnny takes his coins and dollar bills and deposits them a bank account. His wealth is now represented by bits in a digital system. Then Johnny hacks the system and changes his balance to a much larger number.

Consumers have a clear understanding of the fairness of the digital systems of retail banking, which emulate the exchange of physical currency. It is in their collective interest to not participate in the hacking of personal bank accounts, and to assist in stopping such hacking. While the individual hacker benefits, rampant account hacking would destroy the value of the money in the accounts of those who didn't cheat. Retail banking is an example of a digital system that serves consumers, honors their privacy, yet blocks consumers from certain types of manipulation of their own information, i.e., manipulating their own account balances. Consumers don't complain because the system is just emulating the singularness of physical money. The system serves their own self-interest as well as the interests of the banks and of humanity.

P1817 will leverage these same principles of fairness and self-interest so that consumers whose product ownership is respected will reciprocate with respect for the rights of copyright holders.

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