Talk:Parallel Distribution

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This page is for comments and discussion of the position statement on Parallel Distribution written by Benjamin Mako Hill and James Grimmelmann. Please feel free to edit this page and add any feedback on that article. Please try to leave your name on any comment that you make.

Hello, I have a rather "theoretical" comment regarding your position paper. You write:

"PlayStations, like cell phones and many other consumer technologies, are inherently and intentionally [...] less empowering than other technologies. It is silly to consider banning the distribution of CC-licensed works to devices that are unable to take full advantage of the freedoms to modify and redistribute under CC licenses"

I find this confusing in light of your freedom-based critique of some of the CC licenses. It seems that while you are against legal limitations to user freedom, you support technical limitiations to user freedom. Shouldn't a freedom-based position be critical also of technologies that make content un-free? We can hypothetically imagine a legal document, heck even a moral principle that is against the use of technologies such as cell phones when a fully empowering technology like the internet exists? - the way you find use of licenses with the ND argument, for instance, unsatisfactory since pure BY / BY-SA licenses exist...

-- Alek Tarkowski, Creative Commons Poland

I don't *support* technological limitations. In fact, you can see that I've spent a lot of time working on projects like OLPC specifically because I think they help address important imbalances in access to more flexible and empowering information technologies.
In fact, I am extremely critical of technologies that make content non-free. I have been at least as active in opposing DRM as any of the opponents of parallel distribution through Defective by Design, through iRony, a RockBox installer I wrote, and through organized anti-DRM install parties. It's unfair to conflate advocacy of parallel distribution with support for DRM. I will support DRM only in situations where users have a non-DRMed version and where I feel that the important negative effects of DRM are totally mitigated.
I think that the benefits and freedoms that parallel distribution gives users (e.g., the ability to copy, redistribute, remix the parallel copy on any non-DRM platform) outweighs the benefits to the institution of DRM introduced by the ability of the same work play on a device like a PlayStation. Others have disagreed with me.
-- BenjaminMakoHill

We would never want it to be a license violation to send someone a CC-licensed work via mobile phone, and we doubt that Mr. Peabody would, either. This sort of a restriction would be a serious incursion into users' freedom to use their CC-licensed content where they wish and how they wish.

This is a straw man as far as my position goes. If any general user can apply the DRM free of charge to my BY-SA works, I have no problem. Parallel distribution is fine in that case. I have a problem if someone can apply the DRM for a platform and I am forbidden from doing so or charged to do so. If you can find language to solve that issue, I am all ears...

drew Roberts -

We try to describe this position and respond to it in the paragraph that you quote from. The example we use is an admittedly extreme one but we were taking your argument to a logical extreme. Here's another way to think about it:
While DRM-enabled technology creators have the power to keep some modified CC works from running on their systems in a world with PD, without PD, no CC works will work at all! Works and creators are not free with PD but there is more freedom than there is without it.
Of course, PD doesn't erase power imbalances and the solution you are asking for is to do that. But it does allow freedoms that are important in some corner cases and it doesn't make things worse. Our point in the article is that users and content creators have less access to technology than that technology's creators and that this is inevitable. To some degree, technologists will be able to decide what types of works can and can't run. That's true with DRM in a particular stark way but it's not unique to DRM. Free software is one great way to mediate the effects of this but we don't make it a requirement that only free software can play CC works. -- BenjaminMakoHill
There is not more freedom with paradi than without. There is simply more opportunity to remove freedom. Paradi allows Tivoisation of culture as long as DRM vendors also provide a version that no-one can use on their devices. Which ironically does not preserve the freedoms of DRM users. Unless they can rip the non-DRM version, in which case why do they need the DRM version? Or unless they have another, non-DRM device, in which case again why do they need a DRM version?
With or without paradi I have the freedom to purchase a non-DRM device or to install free software on it. We should help people do so rather than help them get trapped by DRM systems.
If I get a job at a proprietary software company then start complaining that I cannot modify Debian software and resell it without releasing the sources (or that I cannot remove the headers and sell the work as my own), Debian will give me short shrift. I can try to persuade my bosses to allow me to switch the company to writing Free Software or I can get a job at another company that does already. But it is not a moral or practical failing on Debian's part that they refuse to promote my unfreedom. Yet with DRM, it would seem that it is a moral and practical failing on the part of CC. This does not make sense.
Regarding Drew's proposal and various interpretations of the existing language there is also the issue that Mia raised of whether non-copyright holders can apply DRM on work. -- Rob Myers.

"Put simply, Creative Commons and the movement for free cultural works have much more to gain through parallel distribution than DRM has to gain."

And this I strongly disagree with if the parallel distribution treats all DRM systems equally and allows those which disadvantage the very authors of the Free works.

Let me just say that I don't really care too much for CC licensed works as a whole. I care especially for BY-SA licensed works and also for BY licensed works, the others I think generally hurt, especially when confused under the same umbrella as the two mentioned. I have called repeatedly on the CC lists for the formation of something along the lines of a Free CC logo and all that would go with it under which BY-SA nad BY works could be promoted. I have heard nary a word back on this.

So, as an author who releases works under the BY-SA license, I do not care to be locked out of trading in my own works on platform X while the owners of platform X or those they approve of can sell my works on that platform for a profit.

Can you find language to solve this problem and still allow paralled distribution?

all the best, drew Roberts -

There is a flaw in parallel distribtion that is not present in anti-tpm.

DRM Dave can use DRM plus DMCA to create a hardware platform monopoly. Think of printer manufacturers who use encrypted ink cartridges and smart printers that only print if "approved" cartridges are installed, and then use the DMCA to prevent circumvention of the encryption.

The difference here is that CC-SA content is the "ink" and DRM-Dave's DRM-only platform is the "printer". The monopolistic scenario is that the CC-SA community creates a project of content. DRM-Dave pulls this into his platform and wraps with with DRM. The community is forbidden to do this themselves without Dave's permission, and Alice and Bob must pay Dave for a DRM-enabled version of the work to play on their printer.

Imagine that you are part of a Free community that creates inks and cartridges, but the printer manufacturer uses DRM/Encryption/DMCA to prevent you from putting your ink in a printer you bought from Dave. While at the same time, the printer manufacturer uses your ink, and your cartridge designs, puts encryption on it, and because of the DMCA, the only way you can use your ink in the printer you bought from Dave is to buy the "free" ink cartridge from Dave wrapped in DRM.

This is the platform monopoly, and how it monopolizes the CC-SA content.

Parallel distribution does not solve the monopoly. It allows Dave to maintain the monopoly, and only requires Dave to distribute a parallel copy that will not play on the platform. You have to get the DRM-enabled version directly from Dave and you can't share that version with Alice or Bob or anyone else. The rights to that copy of the work are restricted by DRM.

The anti-TPM clause prevents this monopoly because it prevents Dave from using DRM to restrict the rights to the work. Because of the DMCA, you must get Dave's permission to DRM the work, or Dave must DRM the work himself. If the work is DRM'ed and distributed, whatever DRM is applied must allow all rights to the work allowed under CC-SA to be exercisable by everyone in the community.

So, DRM Dave can sell a copy of the DRM-enabled work to Alice, but Alice must be allowed to copy, distribute, derive the work, including giving a copy of the work to Bob. If she is prohibited from doing this, the anti-TPM clause will flag this as a violation and Dave will not be allowed to maintain his monopoly.

anti-TPM also allows you to apply DRM locally, but not distribute it, and this even allows TPM that DOES restrict the rights to the work. You just aren't allowed to distribute this copy of the work.

What this means is that you are allowed to play with the work, apply DRM locally if Dave allows it, and have access to nearly all the rights you get with parallel distribution.

But one important difference is that if DRM is applied to a work, that DRM cannot restrict the rights to the work. Meaning anti-TPM says you cannot use TPM to make the work less Free, and monopolize your hardware platform.

From the CC license list. 4 October 2006

We've tried to respond to this in the article on this page (this is the argument that drew Roberts has made if I understand correctly).
This argument says that the ink maker, or the community as a whole, is more free if they can never install their ink into controlled printers than if they can install their ink into printers on the terms and at the whim of the person who manufactures the printer cartridges. It argues that people are more free if they can't run works on DRM-encrusted systems at all than if they can under the, admittedly restricted, terms of the DRM system.
This highlights a real disparity in power. But it's one brought on by the DRM system and present with or without the PD. I agree that this is bad but I think that the way to oppose it is to oppose DRM and I've been very active in doing that over the last year. PD doesn't solve this problem or rectify this imbalance, but it does a tiny bit.
In any case, is has zero effect except in the ShareAlike licenses.
-- BenjaminMakoHill
This is not true as all the CC licenses allow noncommercial distribution. With DRM this can be prevented and the license broken. There is also the matter of Fair Use, which the CC licenses all support.
Paradi doesn't solve the problem of CC works not running on DRM systems. It solves the problem of CC works running anywhere else. In a nice candy coated way.
"people are more free if they can't run works on DRM-encrusted systems at all than if they can under the, admittedly restricted, terms of the DRM system."
Yes. If I have one work that I am free to use then I am more free than if I have a thousand works that I am not.
With the DRM system you are "free" until you want to move the music to another device. Paradi makes CC accomplices rather than protectors. -- Rob Myers.
Except that with parallel distribution, you are free and able to move the unencumbered version distributed in parallel to another device.
I think you just used a bad example. The corner case you probably meant to suggest is if you want to move a modified version of a version distributed to you in a DRM form and in parallel, and if the only keys that your DRM system will respect are held by another entity, and' if that entity refuses to sign your modified copy or charge a prohibitively large price. -- BenjaminMakoHill
If you are free to move the work you are free to use it and therefore do not need dual distribution. The circumstances that make dual distribution possible also make it unnecessary.
The "edge case" you feel I am using includes iTMS, Playstation games, Plays For Sure (fnarr), Zune and every other real world DRM that media consumers encounter. That's quite an edge case.
The case where the user is the copyright holder on the work and so has the right to add DRM, where they hold their own keys rather than the keys being provided by a third party (and we'll assume the keys cannot be invalidated), and where the user's DRM is not strong enough to prevent them recovering work if needs be, is the ticking clock scenario of DRM: it is nowhere near among the most common scenarios and it does not excuse them. But it *is* allowed by the CC licenses as they stand. -- Rob Myers.

The criticism made in this article were discussed thoroughly and answered earlier in the debate. Terry summarised most of them here:

I would add that, as someone who has installed GNU/Linux on my iPod, who has recently read the Yellow Dog Linux announcement for the PS3, who uses their PS2 as a CD and DVD player, and whose son seems to get MP3s, images and movies onto his PSP OK, I do not understand the argument that the best way of "helping" users is to assist third parties in trapping them under DRM regimes rather than assisting users in installing and using free software. -- Rob Myers

We linked to and responded to the arguments in that article. Of course, as we say in the article, the point of this argument is not to convince you, drew, Greg, or others who have already provided more than ten percent of the messages on cc-licenses each, but to reach out to new people.
I am fully aware of ways to modify DRM-encumbered system. I've written an installer for RockBox for iPods and helped organize an modification party for PSPs. I'm a core developer for two major GNU/Linux distributions. If thought I was, "assisting third parties in trapping them under DRM regimes rather than assisting users in installing and using free software," I wouldn't be arguing this. -- BenjaminMakoHill

There is a business model in the GNU-GPL community where people take a work and release it under the GNU-GPL license. They (or a small group) do the entire application code. They do not accept outside contributions. They then license their work under GNU-GPL.

And then they make their money by selling proprietary licenses to that very same code.

For those of you who are willing to allow someone a commercial monopoly on some particular platform, I suggest that you take your content and do like the dual-licensers do. License your work CC-SA and contribute it to some larger community, and then when some proprietary company wants the exclusive rights to use that content on their DRM-Only hardware platform, dual license your content. Give the proprietary vendor a CC-BY license to use your work on their platform, let them have sole right to commercial advantage on that platform, and everyone should be happy.

Oh, wait, you want EVERYONE to sign their rights away to this proprietary vendor????

I think I see the problem....

Greg London

Let's ignore DRM for a second. Pretend it doesn't exist. Say you've got some content. Any content. Pick something.

Say it's licensed CC-SA

Say its something that thousands of people have contributed to over the course of years to get it to the point where it's soemthing really great.

Say, George Lucas comes along and discovers this content. He wants to put it in a movie. A major block buster movie.

But he can't do CC-SA because he can't figure how to make the numbers work so that it will be a profitable block buster movie.

So he comes to the community and makes an offer:

"Look, I like your stuff, and I'd really like to put your stuff in my movie. But I can't afford CC-SA. But I'll tell you what. If you let me use your stuff in my movie and let me make the movie All Rights Reserved, I'll give you any of the modifications I make to your stuff. You won't get my whole movie, but you'll get any modifications I make to your content. Deal?"

And you are so damn eager to see your content in a block buster movie that you're willing to toss Copyleft to the ditch.

No one in the CC-SA community can afford to turn their stuff into a major block buster movie released in teh theaters because the distributers have a stranglehold on what goes into their pipe. Major theater owners get to pick from what their distributer offers them. And distributers only offer movies that will make them money.

There is no way a CC-SA movie will ever be released in the current environment of the movie industry.

But you're willing to ditch copyleft and let Lucas have full copyright on his derivative work because you want to see your work on the big screen.

That ain't how it works, pigeon.

You don't get to sacrifice copyleft to get into a theater. You don't get to sacrifice copyleft to get onto the community's content on DRM-only hardware. You don't get to sacrifice the community just because you want to see your content up on the big screen.

You don't get to sacrifice the community.

You want your stuff in Lucas's movie, then you can dual license it. Put your stuff under CC-SA and give it to the community. and simultaneously give Lucas a license to use your work in his film under CC-BY or whatever.

There is no difference between the Lucas scenario above and DRM-Dave's hardware, other than semantics.

You are advocating escape clauses to copyleft simply to get the community's content into proprietary channels, whether its a DRM-only player or a movie theater chain.

You want to vote that with your wallet, go for it. Put a dual license on your content.

There are people who write applications and release it under GNU-GPL and also sell the rights to put the code in a proprietary program.

You want to do that, go for it.

Just keep your hands the COMMUNITY's wallet while you're doing it.

Greg London

I've posted a summary statement of my issue with par-dist here:

The source code requirement for GPL gives you a parallel copy, but you are also able to compete directly, commercially, with the person who distributed the original binary. Parallel distribution with DRM gives you a copy of the content, but allows Dave exclusive commercial rights to sell the work on his platform. The rights to the work must transfer to everyone, and in this case, only Dave gets commercial rights to the work on his DRM-only hardware.

This is a deal breaker.

Greg London