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IEEE P1817 Standard for
Consumer-ownable Digital Personal Property

Private Goods for the Public Good

There are many ways to view the P1817 project, but perhaps the best way is in the project's name. P1817 will do something never before done &mdash create digital equivalents of tangible personal property, which we call Digital Personal Property.

  1. Digital Rights Management (DRM) emulates unownable services (e.g., rental, subscription)
  2. Plain files emulate unownable public goods
  3. P1817 emulates ownable private goods

Consider how many businesses depend on producing and selling private goods, how many consumers earn a living by working in those companies, and how much of their income is spent buying private goods &mdash tangible personal property. The digital marketplace is simply incomplete without a digital equivalent of private goods. Every child learns early on what "mine" means. To satisfy the expectations of consumers, "mine" must imply the freedoms of personal ownership that consumers intuitively expect.

DRM

DRM systems deliver services that inform, educate, and entertain us. Service delivery involves digital objects that are delivered with the service, but are not owned by the consumer. The digital objects come with usage and sharing restrictions, which are perfectly reasonable for a service but are inconsistent with the consumer notion of product ownership. It is not the presence of service restrictions but the absence of any ownership alternative that leads consumers to see DRM as intrusive, annoying, and even unjust.

Plain Files

Plain, unprotected files provide consumers with almost all of the benefits of ownership. Here are some things you can't do with plain files:

  • You can't give a plain file away so that the receiver can know that it was an act of generosity, involving a gain for the receive and a loss for the giver.
  • You can't share access to a plain file without potentially contributing to the flooding of the market with unauthorized copies.
  • You can't resell a plain file; it has no monetary value because it is indistinguishable from a free copy.

The drawbacks of plain files are real, but subtle, and those drawbacks are nothing compared to the inconveniences of usage restrictions for buy-to-own products. Consumers happily embrace plain files as the only alternative that feels consumer-owned.

Generic Private Goods

P1817 doesn't discriminate between a movie and a book. It doesn't care what the product is, how it is used, or with whom it is shared, only that the product remain a singular item and that human consumers, not suppliers or machines, make usage and sharing decisions.

The full value to society of the digital marketplace is only achieved when that markeplace includes services, public goods, and private goods.

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Copyright ©2011 IEEE-SA
(info@dppnow.org)
URL: http://grouper.ieee.org/groups/1817/
(Modified: 25 February 2011)
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