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PaySwarm and illegal sales? With ODRL? Compared to CCN

From: Steven Rowat <steven_rowat@sunshine.net>
Date: Fri, 19 Aug 2011 15:44:25 -0700
Message-ID: <4E4EE749.6090307@sunshine.net>
To: public-webpayments@w3.org
Greetings <public-webpayments> Listers,

Manu Sporny asked me to "kick-start" (his words; I'll do my best) a 
discussion here resulting from emails I sent him over the last three 
or four days. He and I have agreed I can just quote from the last part 
of the exchange so as not to repeat the material. I'll start with this 
(to me) fundamental question:

On 08/17/11 22:27, Steven Rowat wrote:
> I'm excited to see PaySwarm, but still would like to know: how will
> PaySwarm deal with the inevitable problem of somebody using it to sell
> works that they don't own the copyright to?

Manu Sporny replied:
I don't believe that there is a quick and easy solution to this problem
because the system is decentralized by design. It would require some
level of coordination between PaySwarm Authorities (the people that
process payments in the system). For example, you may have to generate a
hash of the digital content being sold in some way, and those hashes are
easy to corrupt. The semantic description of the content is another
place where you could detect if two people are trying to sell the same

The up-side is that the Web doesn't currently have a clean way of
listing content that is for sale. So, at least PaySwarm is a step in the
right direction.

Steven Rowat wrote:
> If ODRL is not hard-coded
> in, then the browser has no way to determine if the person selling the
> work has a right to do so -- is this correct?

Manu Sporny replied:
How does ODRL ensure that the person selling the content has the right
to do so? Why doesn't the thief just lie about the content being sold in
the semantic description?

Steven Rowat wrote:
> If so, then PaySwarm potentially will make the intellectual property
> problem on the Net, already bad, worse. At this point people can only
> easily give other people's things away; with PaySwarm they'll be able to
> easily sell them.

Manu Sporny replied:
Yes, that is a concern. However, there will be a great pressure on
PaySwarm Authorities to stop this sort of behavior and there will be a
great pressure on people to not do this because it will turn a civil
case (sharing for free) into a criminal case (seeking profit from
copyright violations).

I have never seen a technological solution to this problem that is
air-tight. That is not to say that PaySwarm can't express things like
the license associated with the work - it absolutely can. However, the
problem becomes people that just want to steal the work... and in that
case, why are they using PaySwarm to do that? There are plenty of other
P2P networks that they can use for free that allow them to do so.

Steven Rowat wrote:
> I'm hoping you have an answer to this; but if not, then CCN remains the
> best hope for widespread creator-sold digital works, in my opinion.

Manu Sporny replied:
Could you send something to the Web Payments mailing list about this?...

OK, now I (Steven Rowat) am adding fresh content to this.
First, to answer Manu's question about how ODRL could help with 
preventing fraudulent sales: I don't know if it could. Perhaps those 
actively involved in ODRL could answer here on this list. My guess, if 
it could, would be that it would require a secure database where works 
are registered and also the places they are allowed to be sold are 
registered; and ODRL would access that. However as Manu indicates with 
his hash suggestion, it will be difficult to prevent people from 
selling similar works (marginally changed copies). Perhaps impossible. 
And in fact that's one conclusion the people working on CCN (content 
centered networking) have come to; which, among other major 
advantages, is why they are working on it. I spent several weeks on 
this issue in 2009 and summarized the issues in a document which I 
submitted to the TAG of the W3c, that gives 10 use-cases of 
independent creators and how their copyright and digital sale of their 
work was being impacted by HTML5. I concluded that CCN was necessary, 
and included a brief summary of how it operates. Here's that document:


Having gone back and read that document again, I see no reason why 
PaySwarm will improve more than marginally on what HTML4 and 5 have 
not yet been able to do, which is provide a secure, scalable, and 
transparent mechanism for individuals (without deep pockets) to engage 
in commerce in their own digital works. It still looks like CCN is the 
best idea 

In CCN the packet is secure (like a letter, with an address and a 
cancelled stamp) rather than the points of origin and arrival now used 
in TCP/IP (like an old analog telephone call from switch to switch). 
Achieving this architecture change on top of TCP/IP is possible 
incrementally we are told by the PARC people, but still it will be a 
fundamental change in the way the Net operates, and especially in how 
commerce operates.

If this is indeed coming, then perhaps PaySwarm can still work within 
it -- but not likely in the way that it is being developed at the 
moment. So perhaps if a huge amount of work is done on PaySwarm in the 
next year or two, ignoring the coming of CCN, then all that work will 
be for nothing.

Or, perhaps I'm quite wrong and some combination of something like 
PaySwarm and something like ODRL, working together, can do the job. If 
so this list seems like the place for that discussion. Anybody?

Best regards,

Steven Rowat
Received on Friday, 19 August 2011 22:44:57 UTC

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