Dynamic concentration and file-sharing

Could dynamic concentration make copyright enforcement feasible?

When Beau Kilmer and I developed the “dynamic concentration” model of deterrent enforcement (described in this PNAS paper and, less technically, in When Brute Force Fails) we were thinking mostly about the criminal sanction.  But l ogically the idea applies to any situation of many potential violators and a relative shortage of sanctions capacity compared to detection capacity:  to regulatory enforcement, for example.  MacRonin at Privacy Digest points out a potential private-sector application:  to the RIAA’s copyright-enforcement problem.

It’s worth noting that if RIAA took this idea seriously, it ought to offer the file-sharers it targets very cheap settlements.  Once a sanction is swift and certain, it needn’t be severe.  $200 should be ample.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

3 thoughts on “Dynamic concentration and file-sharing”

  1. Yes, bullies have used the 'pick out individuals' approach for a long time.

    It woudl probably be easier to just buy a streamlined legal approach from their congresscritters, to making their extortion line of business more profitable.

  2. I don't think the dynamic concentration analysis works on RIAA and file-sharing. The main assumptions are that the enforcer has reasonably good information, and that each player has only 2 choices – to cheat or not. In this case file-sharers have a third game option, which is to completely invalidate the information available to RIAA, be it through onion routing, dark pools or whatever else the clever kids will come up with, once there's enough pressure to do so. Yes, it decreases your gain, since you sacrifice speed for anonymity – but short of installing a rootkit on every PC in existence, RIAA will again have zero information on who shared what.

  3. To make this work, the RIAA would have to clean up its act substantially, e.g. use investigators who are actually licensed in the states where they operate, implement bulletproof chain-of-evidence procedures, ensure that the evidence its investigators gather actually shows the tort in question being committed, and so forth.

    Because what we're talking about is a monetary offense, it's also not entirely clear that a lower settlement amount would be effective even then. $200 is a dozen albums, or a little more than a year of $15-a-month subscription to a music service.. So it's not at all implausible that some people would consider settlements of that size a cost of continuing to act as they do. (Of course, larger settlement demands shift the calculus toward fighting the cases.)

    Ivan's comment is important, because (at least as it's been written about here) dynamic concentration works by having something clearly observable that you can sanction. The many different avenues for transferring files over the internet make that difficult to achieve.

    It seems that dynamic concentration works best when you have a small fraction of the population (albeit larger than your enforcement resources) offending at a relatively high rate. If you have a large fraction offending at a relatively low rate, it seems that the squeezing-a-balloon effect might dominate.

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