I'm not really sure who Brad Hutchings is, but he is a frequent pro-DRM, pro-extensive-copyright commentator on Copyfight. Anyway, in response to my post on Cory Doctorow's Microsoft Research DRM talk, he had a number of comments (Cory on DRM @ Microsoft). Actually, his last comments had portions that I agree with (and, in fact, have said previously). However, I post here to distinguish where he and I disagree. Read on...
Basically, Hutchings is making the argument that if you increase the friction (difficulty in obtaining desired files) in a filesharing network, then legal purveyors of the same files will look correspondingly more attractive. Absolutely! Increase the costs of filesharing and decrease the costs of legal downloading and eventually people will shift to legal downloading. For example, see my post, Defining Speedbumps:
This is the approach I've advocated all along, generally referring to it (somewhat misleadingly) as "carrot and stick." Raise the cost (time, convenience, legal bills) of illicit filesharing and lower the cost of legal filesharing (lower prices, broad library, open formats). Once the cost of illegal filesharing is more than the cost of legal filesharing, people will choose the legal alternative.
It is important to realize that there are different costs for different demographics. For example, college students generally have more time than money. The costs to them of searching through spoofed files for a good rip are lower relative to the costs of a harried thirty-something who is actually earning a salary. The issue is to design systems that raise or lower the appropriate costs for particular demographics. In the example above, one policy response might be to increase surveillance of and legal attacks on filesharers at university ISPs (raising the costs of illicit college student sharing) and/or to provide reduced prices for legitimate files to university ISPs (lowering the costs of licit college student sharing).
Of course, this is obvious. Any system is going to have to make legal access easy/cheap and illegal access inconvenient/expensive or it isn't going to work. [emphasis in original]
A quick review for you... The paper ignores darknet contamination by "noise", more likely in a global darknet than a localized one to make content unfindable, I don't think that's what they meant by "SPAM", as the purposes outside darknets seem different to me. But it could be they just glossed over it.
Spoofing is not 100% effective, but it doesn't have to be. All Hollywood has to do is make P2P sufficiently onerous to use that most or many people would rather purchase the legitimate product. As the article notes, there will likely be an attempted arms race as P2P networks develop new methods to foil spoofing. However, this is a race that the P2P networks are almost certainly doomed to lose. The reason is that the more control is put in the system (control necessary to foil spoofing) the more legally liable the networks or the users of the networks become.
However, what does DRM really have to do with spoofing? Spoofing does one thing: it increases the time necessary to find the desired file. This has two effects. If the time is great enough, some people will choose to pay for the file from a legitimate source. But only some. There will still be some who will choose to search and find a good copy though it takes significant time. This is the second effect, it increases the time for each generational copy. However, even if you stretch out the period of time for each generation of distribution a bit, DRM still doesn't buy you much in the way of protection. See, Speedbumps On Your Car.
Wall or Bridge?
Next, Hutchings looks at the network architecture:
To your contention about effectiveness, I quote from the article: On the other hand, if the darknet is made up of isolated small worlds, even BOBE-weak DRM systems are highly effective. That pretty much makes the point I have been making all along if you step back and realize that not everyone has or uses Kaazaa. FWIW, I do see DRM strength usually having rapid diminishing returns. The authors identify the meta-issue of DRM-crack techniques on the darknet. Yes, anything can be cracked, both theoretically and in practice. Once a crack is known or made, its spread is not affected by its difficulty. But if you put an 8 foot wall in front of your prospective, er, "borrower", they will often find it cheaper to just buy than to climb or walk clear around the wall. That's my point and I sticking to it.
Interestingly, the prosecutions for violating the DMCA have all been against people who have access to a network. So, even if we assume that you are right and DRM is effective for those not connected to the network, why prosecute those who promulgate cracks on the internet? Isn't that the issue we are really debating? Additionally, let's take music as an example. Apple's iTunes requires you to have a network connection capable of downloading music. With rare exceptions, if you can download iTunes, you can connect to KaZaA. If people who use iTunes aren't using KaZaA, it has nothing to do with iTunes' DRM. If iTunes didn't have DRM, wouldn't it be even more attractive to users of KaZaA and not the reverse? If anything, doesn't iTunes DRM increase the relative desirability of KaZaA? In such a case isn't DRM more of bridge encouraging people to go pirate than a wall discouraging piracy?
Given that Hutchings concedes that DRM has a limited lifespan for benefits, don't DRM's costs outweigh any benefits once that lifespan is used up? Even if DRM is successful in the short term, in the long term it has costs. Unfortunately, no prominent DRM system degrades over time.
Finally, Hutchings looks at the network theory:
Another theme of the paper from a graph-theoretic perspective is "connectedness". Think of as the theoretical ability for me to get some object from a friend of a friend of a friend. But practically, what matters most is "flow", not that I am connected, but that I can find and it can be transfered to me efficiently. The authors give mention to issues around this (bandwidth, storage, etc.) but don't see it as the central issue. I do, because if I want something, an existence proof does not cut it. Again, if it's less difficult to buy than to seek out a "free" copy, decent people will generally do the right thing and buy.
If I had one wish it's that the copyfighters would not blanket call DRM ineffective, because (a) it actually is and (b) a lot more context is needed to predict how effective it might be.