OK, so here is where we are headed and what we have done so far regarding the marketplace and content protection:
At a high level, what we intend to do is to implement a secure tagging system that allows anyone to easily confirm for certain that a piece of content they find in the world (for example an object or avatar) was actually purchased from the High Fidelity marketplace. This is partially implemented today: you can right-click on an entity and see either a link back to the marketplace where it was downloaded, or the message “No Marketplace Info”. Without going into the nitty-gritty crypto details, this type of tagging is completely secure - although there are many different digital copies on different servers, there can still be a single public registry of who owns what. We can even allow that registry to be stored by many people, in a manner similar to how the Bitcoin ‘blockchain’ is stored by many different people.
What this means is, for example, that if someone makes an unauthorized copy of a piece of content and puts it on a server, anyone who happens to see it will easily be able to confirm that it was NOT purchased or downloaded from the marketplace.
As many here have correctly observed, digital world content is just like online music: it’s really easy to make a copy of something if you really want to. This is because, just like audio, the ‘raw’ version of mesh/texture/model content is easily accessible on any computer that is able to view it. There isn’t any way around this or any way to make effective ‘DRM’ systems for 3D content, once it is visible to others.
But that’s OK, for two reasons: First, tagging content from the marketplace with ID’s that serve as a proof of purchase that everyone can easily see will be a powerful deterrent from inappropriate copying. Beyond the stigma of it being publically obvious if unauthorized copies are made, this feature will pave the way for all kinds of ‘Better Business Bureau’ organizations that will certify good behavior and/or take action against violations. Second, because we will operate a single central marketplace that will hopefully be large and successful, we can respect content permissions at the point of submission, meaning that you won’t be able to upload content to the marketplace that violates other people’s content rights choices. So, for example, attempting to re-use content from the marketplace in a new marketplace submission won’t be allowed.
On that last point, another feature that we think will be very effective at keeping well-intentioned people honest and help people build together is an automatic derivative rights system. What this means is that you’ll be able to submit things to the marketplace, and then set the permissions in such a way that your marketplace item will be useable by others in their own creations for either a fixed fee or a percentage of their own sale price. We haven’t started working on this yet, but it should be straightforward.
So that is the summary of what we are doing with content protection. Obviously a very important and complex topic, and it is certain that we will change these designs somewhat as we get rolling and widespread creation of content starts. Discussion very welcome.