First, thank you to all who attended the inaugural meeting of the Distributed Computing Standards Coalition (DCSC) and to those who provided follow-up during the process of developing this document.
In the past four years, we have all witnessed the torrent of controversy surrounding the introduction of distributed computing.
The widespread consumer adoption of digital file exchange on a peer-to-peer basis has been overwhelming. In some cases, it has held our imaginations hostage and prevented us from focusing our intellectual energy on creating innovative and constructive commercial opportunities based on this exciting technology.
Most new technologies require enormous resource to drive marketplace acceptance, unlike P2P where consumer behavior has seemingly outpaced industry’s ability to respond. Rather than coming together, industry segments have gone on the defensive, attacking each other at every turn.
However, our organization has come to believe the challenges that have arisen as a result of the enormous popularity of peer-to-peer technology do not overshadow the opportunities that have also become apparent.
One of the most basic needs we have identified is for a neutral forum where industry leaders can come together to find solutions, working together constructively to maximize the business opportunities for all affected parties.
Rather than focusing additional capital and energy on further battle, one of our basic precepts, therefore, will be to foster business relationships for identifying and developing an environment in which the legitimate commercial applications of distributed computing can flourish.
During recent months, we have heard the acknowledgment from leading authorities in both the public and private sector that P2P is here to stay. This is not to say that the challenges have been overcome, the issues resolved, or the corner turned on harnessing the power of this technology for business purposes. In fact, the problems stemming from its abuses continue to take center stage.
Today, there is greater interest and, some say urgency, to find common ground in approaching peer-to-peer as first, a technology that is not going away, but rather, is becoming more popular, and second, as a technology that presents incredible commercial opportunities.
Peer-to-peer networks are growing rapidly. The number of P2P users has grown from 0 to an estimated 100 million in just a few short years. That’s fast.even by Internet standards.
Consumers clearly like the P2P experience and seem to be getting what they want from it. But we all know this is a flawed perception, and not sustainable unless all benefactors of peer-to-peer networks contribute to support the production and distribution of quality content.
The initial “pre-scrambling” surge in the popularity of satellite television resulted, in part, from the faulty value proposition, that with a backyard dish you could receive pay cable television programming free forever. This was supplanted in time by legitimate, competitive, and innovative satellite programming offerings that have now become a very robust category of subscription television. So to will content distribution by means of P2P technology.
For now, however, the environment remains more like the 19th century Wild West than the 21st century Information Age.
But just as the development and implementation of standards-and-practices have successfully shaped other areas of the World Wide Web for business and commerce, together, we can do the same for distributed computing.
We can develop a framework to further legitimate uses of peer-to-peer networks. We can lay the plans to provide the types of services that will be embraced by consumers and provide for business success among all participating industry segments.
With each passing day, new business sectors are drawn into the fray, and as a result are forced to look at peer-to-peer opportunities but are stymied by the lack of standards-and-practices and by disjointed if not haphazard industry participation.
Where once, only recently, the principals were content providers, IT companies and peer-to-peer developers, now we have retailers, electronics manufacturers, ISPs, and others seriously exploring the potential and the difficulties associated with peer-to-peer file sharing, and the implications of expanded broadband adoption, wireless networks, and similarly enabled devices adding more complexity to an already confusing set of issues.
The time is now for our organization to provide the forum to develop new P2P business models and consumer opportunities. The bottom line is that we will vigorously pursue solutions to the challenges at hand.
We have had much input into what to call ourselves. Our original working name, DISTRIBUTED COMPUTING STANDARDS COALITION (DCSC) was questioned from several perspectives.
Some suggested narrowing the term “Distributed Computing” to “Grid Computing” or “Digital Distribution” or even “Digital Media Distribution.” Others suggested the specific descriptors “Peer-to-Peer” or “File Sharing,” which are in fact our current priority focus.
But in the end, we came back to the phrase “Distributed Computing,” which is at once broader in scope, as is appropriate to our mission, and more accurate terminology to truly define the technology with which we are involved. While sharing files is a part this, tapping the power of networked devices with new kinds of software that we can only begin to envision today, will go much further. We believe that, in the fullness of time, implementations beyond what we have seen manifest so far will continue to be best described by the umbrella term “Distributed Computing.”
There was pointed criticism of the term “Standards,” both by those who objected to its implied restrictiveness and unintended connotations of control on the technical side, and by those who believe we should operate with a broader mandate than generating white papers seeking compliance with certain to-be-determined codes of ethics.
One of the most positive suggestions was to use the word “Industry,” not only because it is more expansive, but also because it can serve as a reminder of our first principle – to bring together the various business sectors and segments more cohesively as an industry.
Without false modesty, on the highest level we intend to help create a “Distributed Computing Industry.”
Finally, there were also objections to the word “Coalition” as carrying implications of the embattled state that we must overcome to be successful. And also that this word suggested a smaller stature and scale than is reflective of our true scope.
So, as in many other familiar trade groups that aim to reach a certain level of acceptance, we adopted the word “Association.”
And so, with thanks to all who weighed in with their opinions and convictions, and with no pride of unilateral authorship, we will now be known as the DISTRIBUTED COMPUTING INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION (DCIA).
You will undoubtedly ask yourself whether you should be involved in DCIA. Here are a few suggestions:
- First, you should be involved only if you believe that peer-to-peer networks represent a technology that offers vast untapped business opportunities.
- Second, you should be involved if you have an interest in finding a balanced solution and working in a positive direction to build a framework for commercial peer-to-peer networks and services.
- Finally, and most importantly, you should only be involved if you believe that copyright owners are entitled to compensation for their copyrighted works.
DCIA members should first define what a legitimate, widespread, file-sharing network should look like. And further, determine what is required to define and adopt those standards-and-practices that will create and maintain viable business models which fairly compensate all parties.
The DCIA will be a consensus-based forum to address the wide range of vital issues affecting our membership’s ability to create commercial business opportunities using peer-to-peer file-sharing platforms.
DCIA will work:
(1) To establish business practices, and possibly, in some cases, technical standards, to commercialize distributed Internet computing networks, including file sharing peer-to-peer networks, while protecting the interests of stakeholders;
(2) To encourage the voluntary adoption of such standards and related codes of ethics in affected industry segments;
(3) Where deemed necessary, to oppose proposed legislation that would impede commercial development, and/or to pursue legislation that will establish legal enforcement mechanisms for adopted standards-and-practices.
(4) To provide information to shape public policy and promote public awareness of key issues affecting distributed computing.
The solutions must be constructive and our processes must be collaborative, representing all affected, interrelated business and consumer interests.
The bottom line remains that with all of the issues at hand, the DCIA must first identify the characteristics of a legitimate commercialized file-sharing peer-to-peer network.
To do that, the issues surrounding the challenges to actually create such a network or networks must be understood, and as a practical matter, this must be done from the perspective of what each member organization can offer to help meet these challenges.
In contributing to DCIA’s work, it is essential to set aside what you know, or what you think you know about digital distribution over peer-to-peer networks and with an open mind listen to concerns, proposed solutions, practical limitations, and alternatives. We must be able to openly discuss the challenges in order to understand the opportunities that commercializing peer-to-peer will create.
Input that it was premature to advocate the sophisticated organizational structure originally contemplated, which included multiple cross-segment working teams and intricate checks-and-balances in governance areas, led to our vastly simplified first-year structure. There will be three membership groups providing equal representation to our three key industry constituencies: platform, operations, and content providers (as further explained below). While it will still be an option to establish smaller short-term working groups to complete defined projects and to address the specific identifiable concerns and needs of industry segments, we will at first work collectively to reach consensus on broad strategies to address these concerns and needs.
- The DCIA is coming together against a backdrop of various lawsuits. This organization will be of no value if it degenerates into a battle of litigants; and its leaders are committed to maintaining a constructive, open dialogue. To that end, when discussing an issue in a DCIA sanctioned venue, it will be essential to address your questions and comments to the DCIA and not directly to an individual participant or company.
- In order to foster a positive and productive environment, it is important that participants be able to speak freely. The DCIA will treat all discussions as “off the record” and the specific comments by individuals shall not be disclosed outside of DCIA meetings. By attending, you will agree to respect this policy.
- In response to admonitions that our organization, like similarly constituted trade associations, would benefit from having a fast-acting review team of qualified attorneys ensure that participant discussions and DCIA actions steer clear of legal pitfalls, we have begun to gather such a team through Member Services.
- General areas of participant expressed interest:
- P2P presents a massive commercial opportunity that remains largely untapped.
- P2P affects a growing number of business segments and finding solutions to implement commercial standards-and-practices requires cooperation and collaboration from a broad constituent base.
- Primary areas that the DCIA should address in the short term:
- How to package media for sale in a peer-to-peer environment, while maintaining a certain level of control over distribution, pricing, and quality of service.
- How to implement a tracking system to judge performance, and allow copyright owners to see how their media is distributed.
- How to develop and introduce innovative ways to positively influence user behavior.
- What role does DRM need to play?
- How to deploy a platform for testing solutions and pilot programs among DCIA members.
The DCIA will continue to be a voluntary, consensus organization with representation from all substantially affected sectors of distributed computing networks commonly known as Peer-to-Peer (or P2P) networks.
These include companies involved in providing the platforms for storage, transmission, and exhibition of content, file-sharing networks and operators, and digital media rights holders.
DCIA members will vote to adopt a code of ethics and subsequently, business standards-and-practices, and in certain cases, specific technologies, to advance the commercial development of this rapidly growing consumer-based distribution system.
DCIA’s bylaws will serve as the framework to address vital issues surrounding sanctioned distribution of copyrighted content including; (i) establishing business and technical approaches to commercialize distributed Internet computer networks, including file-sharing peer-to-peer networks, while protecting the interests of stakeholders, (ii) encouraging the voluntary adoption of best practices in affected industry categories, and (iii) shaping public policy and promoting consumer awareness of key issues. The DCIA shall address security, protection of intellectual property rights, licensing, royalty, associated public interest issues, technical compatibility, quality of service, and other related technical, legal and policy matters.
DCIA standards-and-practices shall be voluntary, but form the basis of a self-regulating broadly based industry. The DCIA will work to:
- Advocate their adoption by businesses (and Internet standards organizations)
- Monitor their implementation throughout the distributed computing industry
- Ensure compliance among participating companies
- Swiftly resolve disputes among firms and with consumers
DCIA members will participate in DCIA moderated forums where interested parties may exchange ideas and develop recommendations to the membership and ultimately, the public at large, on the establishment of code(s) of ethics and standards-and-practices.
The DCIA shall conduct and publish research and serve as a resource for information, communication, and collective understanding for the benefit of the domestic public and private sector as well as to governments and interested organizations around the world.
The DCIA shall function according to these procedural guidelines:
- Outline alternatives for business and ethical standards for peer-to-peer network operators and digital content providers.
- Conduct peer-to-peer research on topics including —
- User behavior and patterns
- Demographic data
- Usage and growth statistics
- Explore options for leveraging P2P to market, promote, and sell authorized content (including bifurcated free / not-free content offerings).
- Address the usage of DRM and rights tracking in distributed computing distribution models.
- Assign projects to temporarily constituted work teams and/or vendors based on consensus group priorities.
Distributed computing offers numerous opportunities and challenges to a wide range of stakeholders that include:
Platforms Used for Distributed Computing
- Personal computer manufacturers
- Digital media recording and playback systems and devices
- CD/R, DVD/R, hard drive and storage manufacturers
- Blank media manufacturers
- Internet service providers
- Other telecom firms that provide access to the Internet
Operators Involved in Peer-to-Peer Distribution
- Software companies that provide digital media recording and playback products or digital rights management products
- Peer-to-peer network developers
- Destination websites, portals, search engines and subscription services that offer digital content
- Developers of distributed computing technologies
Content Owners and Providers
- Music recording industry
- Film and television industry
- Software gaming industry
- Computer software application industry
- Independent content creators
Public Interest Groups (For Expansion in Second Year)
- Educational institutions
- Computer scientists and developers
- Academic researchers
The DCIA will be established as a non-profit organization whose mission is to (i) develop business and technical standards to commercialize distributed Internet computer networks, commonly referred to as peer-to-peer networks, while protecting business, consumer, and intellectual property rights, (ii) encourage the voluntary adoption of those standards in affected industry segments, and (iii) shape public policy and promote awareness of key issues.
DCIA membership structure will be based on a bicameral system of governance, allowing all of its Members to participate in setting the policies and priorities of the organization.
Initial memberships, during DCIA’s first year operation, shall be for business entities with specific activities related to the focus of the DCIA.
Memberships shall have a term of one year and shall be renewable for Members in good standing. Board of Directors and Executive Committee positions shall initially also be for one-year terms.
Applications for membership shall be approved by the Board Members for their respective Groups as outlined below.
- Recommend DCIA policies, positions, and priorities
- Participate in meetings and on working teams
- Recommend conference agendas
- Suggest projects
- For DCIA’s first year of operation, there shall be three Groups: Platform, Operations, and Content.
- Each Group shall contribute equally to DCIA’s budget and shall have equal voting rights.
- Each Group shall determine its own membership structure within DCIA guidelines, including the number of Members to provide critical mass, yielding true industry segment representation, and set dues based on budgetary objectives and number of Members.
Board of Directors:
- Each Group shall be represented initially by two Members it elects to serve on DCIA’s Board of Directors.
- Each Group shall be empowered reasonably to expand its Board membership for recruitment, governance, and representation reasons.
- Initially this shall be the Board of Directors, representing two Members per Group, and the DCIA CEO who shall serve as Chairman.
- The Executive Committee shall not increase in size or makeup as Groups expand their respective Board memberships.
- The Executive Committee shall set the positions and policies of the organization and provide primary governance:
- Drive strategic direction of the DCIA (Majority Vote) Approve budgets and staff appointments (Majority Vote) Set conference and meeting agendas (Majority Vote) Assign projects and work teams (Majority Vote) Adopt standards-and-practices recommendations (Majority Vote) Approve special initiatives and call for raising funds (Majority Vote)
DCIA’s primary revenue will be derived from participating Member dues, based on a monthly fee assessed annually and collected quarterly in advance, with amounts subject to yearly review and Executive Committee approval. Amounts shall be determined by Groups based on respective membership levels to ensure that Groups contribute equally to DCIA’s overall budget, entitling them to equal voting rights. Dues paid by Members shall be used to fund recurring expenses including conferences, operations, lobbying, press and media activities, newsletters, staffing, educational information, research projects, public outreach, political action, and industry events.