Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Stupid Rancher Problem

  I've been thinking about the smart cow problem and how it relates to DRM and piracy, and there's a parallel issue present which I like to call the "stupid rancher problem." Think of it this way: a number of ranchers all share a single field for their cows to graze in, and each rancher controls one gate to that field.  Now, all it takes is one rancher to leave their gate unsecured, and the cows will be able to open it and all escape.  In this sense, there's no incentive for the rest of the ranchers to put much effort into securing their individual gate, because it's not the strongest gate that the cows need to get past; it's the weakest.  To put it simply: only one dumb rancher needs to leave the gate open, then everyone's cows can escape.



How does this apply to DRM you ask?  Well, imagine that you're the copyright holder for some kind of intellectual property.  Say, a song.  There are many ways that your song can reach the consumer: CDs, Vinyl, the Radio, A music video on TV, iTunes, Amazon, and any number of other online distribution services.  Now, even though some of the companies that distribute your music may assure you that they have the most advanced anti-piracy measures in place, it doesn't really matter; your music will just be grabbed for piracy from another source.  Leaning on a rancher to make the strongest gate even stronger will do nothing but waste your time and theirs.  The cows are just going to leave anyways through the gate that's already open (which, in this case, would be CDs).

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