Data Universe Logo

Intellectual Property
and the

Data Universe™

Sponsored By Logo

Brian's Tirade on Censorship and Intellectual Property Rights

I belive this document represents a fair analysis of the current situation in Intellectual Property Law. I have tried to anticipate the ramifications of both current technology and the implementation of the Data Universe concepts. I would appreciate reasoned feedback from any viewpoint.

Back to Basics

Intellectual Property protections are guaranteed by a single clause in the United States Constitution.

Section 8 The Congress shall have the Power [...] To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries [...]

This brilliantly concise instruction, penned over 200 years ago, has evolved into a bewildering array of well-intentioned but conflictory and frequently misguided rules. Entering the twenty-first century it is time to completely reevaluate the goals and structure of intellectual property protections. Too much protection of Authors and Inventors has been granted while overlooking the most important goal of the entire system: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts".

Make no mistake, I am all in favor of creative individuals being able to benefit from their creativity. They should not, however, be allowed to impede the efforts of others who want to build upon their foundation, or who want to make the works more widely available. Also, they should not expect to live forever on the glory of a single work - they should continuously strive to better themselves.

Types of Intellectual Property Protection
None ("Public Domain")An Invention or Work has been released by its author to the public, or the protections have expired.
CopyrightCovers a creative work and assures the Author the rights to their work.
PatentCovers physical inventions or processes and assures the Inventor the rights to their invention.
TrademarkCovers manufactured goods and assures the consumer that a product is not counterfeit.
Trade SecretCovers any intellectual property that is not intended to be available to the public.

Examples of Abuse of the System

The patchwork of laws and international treaties have led to a number of bizarre situations. Unfortunately, these misguided or short-sighted decisions have led to entire industries predicated on the status-quo.

  • Copyright Duration - Every time Walt Disney's copyright claims to Mickey Mouse are about to expire, congress extends the duration. Sorry. Retroactive, protectionist changes should never have been allowed. If the duration was not appropriate it should be changed for future works. Disney claimed the copyright under the original rules, and the public is being penalized by the change. How does extending the duration of the Mickey Mouse Copyright "Promote the Progress of Useful Art"?

  • Software Patents - Patently Ridiculous. Sure there is gray area depending on whether there is a "physical embodiment" of the software. If it's hardware, patent the hardware. If it is a complete program, claim a copyright. If it's just an algorithm, the effect is tantamount to claiming the concept of "Lovers commit Suicide". It is not "Romeo and Juliet" until it is a finished Work.

  • CDs, DVDs and Bloated Software Bundles - Sorry. Conspiring with other Authors to compel a customer to purchase other copyrighted works in order to obtain one of yours is not in the best interest of the public and does not "Promote the Progress of Useful Art". Anthologies and collections clearly have creative value of their own, but the constituent works must also be available individually. Preventing the consumer from purchasing individual works at a fair price should be grounds for complete revocation of the copyright. Add value by enticing the customer to be happy with their purchase, don't browbeat them into paying for something they don't want.

  • Available for a Limited Time Only - Wrong. If you refuse to make available a work, your copyright is not "Promoting the Progress of Useful Art". Once the copyright is claimed, the work must be available in perpetuity. If you chose to stop selling it, the copyright should be void and the public should be free to acquire the work from any available source.

  • Recording Labels and non-creative Middlemen - The exclusive right to the work is guaranteed only to the Author, not the Author's marketing company. If another publisher feels he can promote a work profitably he should be legally able to as long as each publisher compensates the Author. This implies that the amount of compensation received by the Author for each sale should be publicly available information, so all publishers of the same work would pay commensurate royalties. Rules like this would go a long way toward ending the abuse of artists by record promoters. Authors may contract for exclusive marketing services, but copyright laws must not be used to block other publishers.

    My advice to music promoters: Promote something tangible. Live concerts. Album art. Posters. Something your audience can take pride in owning. If counterfeit copies show up it is now a Trademark issue. Stop whining about people finding alternatives to buying overpriced CDs with 20 songs when they only want to listen to one.

    The same applies to DVDs with unskippable advertising on the front bundled with meaningless "Extra Features" on a second disk. Nobody wants it, it is not worth anything, and consumers will find alternatives to paying for it.

  • Claiming Copyright Infringement before works are available for sale - This should not even be a copyright issue. If it is not for sale, it should be a trade secret. The crime would be theft or industrial espionage. If, however, you tried to sell in one jurisdiction but not in another, then you are not playing by the rules and you should lose all copyright protection. In other words, "Regional Coding" for movies has no merit, and should have no legal status.

  • Obfuscation and Blending Multiple Works - Every copyrighted work should be clearly identifiable and marked so everyone (other authors, consumers, and the courts) can identify it. If a software program consists of a set of files, each file should be marked with at most one copyright claim. None of this "Portions copyright(c)1995 Microsoft Corp" nonsense. Be explicit. That's what .DLLs are for. If it is someone else's work, keep it separate and give them credit.

  • Shrink-wrap Licenses - Should be disallowed. (1) They are not an enforceable contract, since no negotiation between parties is involved. (2) If payment is for a "Right to Use", but not ownership of an instance of the work then it is not a copyright issue - the work should be a Trade Secret. (3) If the validity of shrink-wrap licenses is ever upheld then it should be forced to its absurd conclusion: No computer shall ever be sold by one person to another with licensed software installed, and no corporation shall convey to another any computers with licensed software. Every corporate merger or bankruptcy requires "buying" all new software. You pay for software, but it is not an asset with value.

  • Out-of-Print Books - In order to claim the protections of copyrights or patents you must strive to make the work or invention available. You must do your part to "Promote the Progress of Science and the Useful Arts". If the public cannot, in good faith, compensate the author or inventor and make use of a protected work, then the protections should be voided by the courts and the work should become public domain. Books, for example, that are Out-of-Print from one publisher should be available from another. Under no circumstances should a work be unavailable simply because a particular production or marketing company chose not to sell it. The physical instance of a work (say, leather-bound first edition) might be unavailable, but the intellectual form (say eBook text) should be available in perpetuity.

Many of the concepts implied by the Data Universe will tend to render moot these legal decisions and the industries that depend on them. I look forward to exploring the legal ramifications of this technology with open-minded individuals from each of the multiple opposing camps.

Privacy and Censorship

The concepts of data integrity, anonymity, security and universal access are inherent in the design of the Data Universe.


The operation of the Data Universe is non-deterministic. Some Queries may take longer than others to return the requested data. The data returned, however, is guaranteed to be intact. The chance of corruption is impossibly remote.

The automatic, continuous, random replication of data blocks and the propagation of queries throughout the network will eliminate the possibility of a "traffic analysis" attack on individual privacy. Computers with small disks and slow connections will be (slightly) more vulnerable to end-point snooping than large, fast systems. This is great news for hardware manufacturers and communications companies: the demand will continue to grow.

From a network standpoint it will be virtually impossible to identify the origin of a particular file or block of data. The continuous "stirring" or replication of blocks throughout the network will diffuse the data like a raindrop in the ocean.

To counter this inherent anonymity in situations where the user desires to claim authorship, there is the Public Key Signature. Such a signature, voluntarily added to the File Description block, would identify the author and guarantee the authenticity of the data.

Universal Access

In order to understand the implications of true universal access many of the current perceptions concerning data locality and control must be revisited. Concepts such as "my software on my computer", "my music on my iPod" or "my web site at this IP address" lose their current meaning. Inherent replication and "holographic" distribution of data is what allows universal access and prevents data loss due to hardware failures, natural disasters, or deliberate attempts at censorship. Copies of this data scatter in an uncontrollable manner throughout the Universe. It is true that there will be a single, ultimate source for each piece of data ("my copy of Microsoft Word", "my music play list", or "my biography") but, each time it is updated, a new version splashes into the sea of Universal data. This means that the loss of a computer is transformed from a personal catastrophe to an inconvenience as the hardware is replaced and the network re-acquires any needed data and programs.

It is anticipated that automated web crawlers will place pages from anywhere on the web into the Data Universe. This means that virtually the entire web will be archived on a continuous basis. Network failures will not prevent access to these historical versions of each site. E-commerce sites will continue to provide real-time transactions via the World Wide Web. Static or informational portions of a web site will be more broadly accessible, proof against disaster, and free of bandwidth or storage constraints.

New features, such as "historical time travel" will be available. Queries that return "the most recent version of a file before a given date" would allow review of a web site, online catalog, or particular document.

Law Enforcement Issues

For more than a hundred years telecommunication systems have allowed one to simply "pick up the extension phone" in order to listen in to a conversation. This primitive concept has been the basis of all current wiretap laws. Attempts to preserve this archaic capability have caused developers to implement progressively more arcane, elaborate and expensive systems. These systems simply cannot keep up with progress in the areas of digital technology and cryptography.

It is time for a major rethinking of communication strategy, such as the Data Universe concept.

Law enforcement should focus their attention on the end-points of the communication. It is well known that poor key management and carelessness are the greatest enemies of secure communication. Law enforcement should focus on the individuals at the end-points and not expect a free ride from technology by tapping the transport media. In the future the end users will be vastly easier to target than the technology.

Unfortunately, all that I have said about law enforcement also applies to oppressive political regimes. Political activists, take heed.

This "focus on the end-point" argument applies equally to political speech, pornography, organized crime and terrorism. The technology is a neutral tool, its use is subject to legal and moral interpretation.

Security and Intellectual Property

It is recognized that the Data Universe will be used for the distribution of all types of data. The distribution and ready availability of data from anywhere in the world is one of the fundamental tenets of the entire Internet.

Certain jurisdictions and organizations attempt to exercise arbitrary dominion over what they consider proprietary, copyrighted or unlawful sequences of data bits. The Data Universe architecture is designed to protect storage and transport providers from arbitrary legal or regulatory action. All data files in the Universe are separated into at least two parts: a File Description (FD) and the User Data (UD) Block(s). The Description and Data need not reside on the same host, but both are required to re-create the original data file. This insulates the Host computer and its administrator from any claims that it contained proscribed data.

A series of policies enforced on the Host can provide any desired degree of protection from such claims.

  1. At the lowest level, the host may ignore all semantic issues and simply participate in the Universe.
  2. A host may adopt a policy to never simultaneously have resident in its repository all of the Blocks required to re-create a particular file.
  3. A host may choose to allow File Descriptions (FD) or User Data (UD) but not both in its repository.
  4. When adding files to the Universe, a host may choose to break even small files (less than the maximum single Block length of 65,500 bytes) into multiple data Blocks.
  5. When adding files to the Universe, a host may choose to encrypt the User Data (UD) Blocks. The key information required to decrypt the data would be stored independently within the Universe. This adds a third component (in addition to the FD and UDs) that must be present at a single machine to extract the original data.
  6. When adding files to the Universe, a host may break the original file into multiple Blocks in Stripes instead of blocks of consecutive data. Arbitrarily elaborate extensions could allow redundant encoding (for example, Reed-Solomon or Digital Fountain) to enable reconstruction of files with missing blocks.

Contact Us • 13261 Ridgepointe Rd. • Keller, TX 76248

Phone 214-232-3198

Get Firefox!   Valid CSS!   Valid HTML 4.01!
Created on ... February 18, 2005
© Copyright 2005 Brian McMillin