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On DRM and "digital ghettos"

From: Konstantinov Sergey <twirl@yandex-team.ru>
Date: Mon, 20 Jan 2014 15:41:34 +0400
To: www-tag <www-tag@w3.org>
Message-Id: <26631390218094@webcorp1h.yandex-team.ru>
During our last F2F I made a statement that possible standardization of DRM/EME systems could lead to creating "digital ghettos" for entire countries[1]. Let me explain this thought a bit.

At present moment virtually all content providers ship different content to different countries due to 2 main reasons:

R1. Shipping content to a new country is expensive; you need to (a) localize a content, (b) get a local rating, (c) make other legal actions according to local law. In general, each local market requires either to establish local department or to delegate these duties to a local sublicensee. Please keep in mind that this reason has absolutely nothing in common with DRM and content publishing systems since these steps are required in any case.

R2. Content owners usually set different prices for different countries since developing countries are not able to pay, for example, $20 for a title.

As a result there are many types of content which aren't available legally in developing countries. For example, you can't watch "Doctor Who" in Russia online since there is no provider who ships it.


At present moment each content provider implements its own geo-checking solutions which are in general rather simple. For example, Netflix and Spotify check customer IP-address; iTunes checks country which issued customer's credit card. Each solution is incomplete, so there are many "gray" methods of accessing digital content. For example, some people use VPN's to get access to Netflix or iTunes gift cards to buy content from US iTunes Store.

If we standardized DRM/EME systems, there would be a possibility for implementing geo-checking functionality which has a full access to a customer's computer. It would be capable of checking real IP address, system locale, gps coordinates, etc. Instead of developing expensive full-scale geo-checking system for their own, content providers would be able to use common system integrated into OS. I'm afraid that would lead into collapsing "gray" content markets and, in fact, would significantly cut an amount of legally avalable content. Effect would be like if we had started forcing DVD region check ten years ago.

You may say that implementing DRM would raise content providers' income and at some point they would begin exploring new countries. But reality is exactly opposite. It's obvious that "Doctor Who" would be profitable in Russia right now if some content provider started to sell it. In my personal opinion, main reason of absense of popular titles in developing countries is just "nobody cares", not money. Regional markets are too minor for content owners to care about, and implementing DRM/EME wouldn't change anything.

In my opinion the DRM/EME systems (if we decide to implement them) must be sandboxed with no access to user personal data (include geolocation). Otherwise we would create no new possibilities but new borders and limitations.

[1] http://www.w3.org/2001/tag/2014/01/09-minutes.html#item05

Konstantinov Sergey
Yandex Maps API Development Team Lead
Received on Monday, 20 January 2014 11:42:04 UTC

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