Social Distribution Network

The Internet with its pervasive presence is becoming an ideal platform for quickly distributing digital content such as music, movies, games, and books to end-users. One of the key challenges of using the Internet as a platform for digital content distribution is protecting the content from piracy (i.e., unauthorized copy, use, and distribution). So far the techniques for protecting content have relied on technical measures that focused only on imposing copying restrictions on the content. This strategy hasn't worked very well because pirates have always found circumventing techniques to remove the locks and non pirates have found the technical measures undesirable as they prevented many fair usage scenarios. Anti-piracy measures such copy restrictions are meant to increase the cost of pirating so that end users are more likely to choose buying over pirating. While their effectiveness reduces dramatically after circumvention is discovered and become known, they are still widely used by content publishers. To cope with circumvention, content publishers use legal threats to raise the effective cost of piracy even further.

Recently, several studies have investigated an alternative to raising the cost of piracy: reducing the cost of purchasing. So far, this line of research has been theoretical and have dealt with issues such as pricing and taxing. Our research is interested in developing a practical distribution strategy that incorporates targeted incentives in the form of discounts to making purchasing a favourable option.

Project Description

Figure 1: Simplified SDN architecture.

The social distribution network (SDN) is a new distribution strategy for media objects such as ebooks, movies, and songs where incentives are incorporated into the scheme to encourage users to respect digital rights. Unlike normal distribution channels that do not distinguish between pirates and normal users, the SDN localizes rewards and punishments such that users respecting digital rights are rewarded for their behaviour.

It is a new strategy for distributing copyrighted digital objects to users. The key innovation is to localize rewards and punishments using an online social network such that users demonstrating a purchase history without piracy incidents gain higher price discounts for their loyalty. The network through a self selection process separates the users into pirates and non-pirates.

In this project, we develop a new approach for rights management on the Internet. Our approach includes social factors into the rights management problem. The goal is to increase flexibility offered to the end user and deploy economic incentives along with social pressures to dissuade users from piracy. This project focuses on designing and implementing new mechanisms and analyzing them using game theoretic models and simulations. The eventual outcome of the project is a framework that can be deployed on the Internet.

Figure 2: Incentives the distributor and end user have for upholding digital rights.

People

  • Bader Ali
  • Muthucumaru Maheswaran

Ongoing Research

Our research so far in SDN has focused on designing the mechanisms such that incentive mismatch between the end user and distributor can be aligned through incentives. We have relied on game models for developing the incentive mechanisms. Using simple utility models for the end users, we have simulated the agent activities for evaluating SDN and comparing it with normal content distribution. While the game models and simulations allowed us to develop SDN mechanisms, definitive evaluations need user studies.

Because SDN involves digital media and managing their actual distribution is very complex, we intend to develop a massively multiplayer online role playing game to represent the activities of the SDN. The trick is to develop a game play that is entertaining so that online social network (e.g., Facebook) users can be engaged in the simulated SDN. This approach to user study should provide more control over the SDN processes and the ability to observe user actions at a finer level.

Publications

  • B. Ali and M. Maheswaran, “Aligning the Incentives for Social Media Distribution,” Technical Report, School of Computer Science, January 2010.

ABSTRACT - One of the key challenges in digital media distribution is digital rights management (DRM). DRM is a classic example of a problem that arises due to incentive misalignments that exists among transacting parties in a network. Because of misaligned incentives users have the inclination to break DRM if it becomes technically possible. This paper draws upon work in group lending and social psychology to develop a novel social media distribution scheme. The key objective is to x the incentive misalignment that exists between the users and media distributors. Using game theoretic modelling, certain conditions that should hold for social media distribution to work are educed. Tech Report (PDF)

  • B. Ali and M. Maheswaran, “Analysis of the Anti-Piracy Properties of Social Distribution Networks,” Technical Report, School of Computer Science, February 2010.

ABSTRACT - Digital rights management (DRM) is one of the key challenges facing many digital media distribution systems on the Internet. Existing solutions for DRM predominantly rely on technical measures that increase the effort required to copy digital content. However, the effectiveness of the technical measures diminish once circumvention techniques are discovered by pirating users. Until recently, threat of legal prosecution has been the sole anti-circumvention technique relied on by digital rights holders. Because digital media distribution on the Internet can involve users in many jurisdictions with not necessarily DRM friendly legal statutes, the effectiveness of legal threats in strengthening DRM is limited. This has motivated several recent thrusts developing anti-piracy measures based on economic incentives. This paper introduces a novel approach for using online social networks in the fight against piracy. Our idea is to use online social networks to distribute economic incentives such that users are rewarded (given economic incentives) for non piracy and punished (economic incentives withdrawn) for piracy in a localized manner. We use extensive simulation studies to analyze the impact of localized economic incentives on the utilities users gain from different actions such as buying, downloading, and pirating. The simulation results show that (a) social distribution is effective in separating pirating users and non pirating users, (b) social distribution can route the incentives to the groups consisting of non pirating users, and © average utility gained by buyers is higher than illegal downloaders in groups that do not have active pirates. Tech Report (PDF)

 
sdn.txt · Last modified: 2010/03/15 23:38 (external edit) · [Old revisions]