Hand[le|el](s) with Care

Back in the day, Mac programmers had to deal with what their tattered copies of Inside Macintosh called handles: doubly indirected pointers to data structures. Handles made memory management easier — the actual data structures can be created anywhere, and moved around, without software authors having to explicitly deal with garbage collection and other memory management issues. Good Mac programming involved always working on objects only through their handles (^^PictRect for example).

Back to digital media: the progression {unique original to instance of clones, to pointer to — not originals — but architectures in flux, constantly being revisted and tweaked by their authors (c.f. the Web!)}. A culture where this is anticipated requires rapid, near zero-cost perfect distribution. In my version of DRM, content owners effectively license not content, but handles to content: consumers would purchase a signed key which only (doubly?) indirectly points back to the media source. Not only lightweight and respectful of consumer needs, this model supports the current acceleration of mutable media: {remix culture -> director’s cut -> reduxes (sic)}. DRM as secure handles, coupled with a robust versioning and inheritance model, enables many interesting possibilities for content creators, licensors and consumers. And an inheritence model where you can fork version trees also suggests a possible future form of {scarcity -> value -> market}, even with instances: version of Apocalypse Now might still be an object with a specific, market driven value… more on this later…


  1. …incidentally, I strongly suspect that Xanadu’s gordian of forking paths would have supported such a model from day one…

  2. the record industry has survived until recently because, obvioulsy, records are heavy.
    media is getting lighter and more inclined toward cloning.
    cinema is safe for a little while.
    existing DRM models seem to be aimed at making everything as heavy as possible.
    “is the act of listening and watching heavy or light”. There is a local loop between your decrypted media and your senses. I’m not thinking of the soultions here, but the philosophy of DRM I guess should be focused on that local loop space and not everything else …

  3. yeah that’s what i’m thinking. mp3 sites and ipod prove that people don’t really give a shit about having a physical instance, but all the current drm is still about *your copy* — and you only really become acutely aware of that when, say, your laptop dies for the third time and suddenly you’ve used up all your drm ‘copy-to-another-machine-or-restore-from-backup’ count. and then you’re fucked.

  4. the essence of this, which i will probably actually give one a post to, is that once we are delaing with nude media, any local store is a cache and a cache alone — anyone telling you different is simply trying make money from you — and any restriction that enforces you to consider your copies as special/needing care to protect, is likewise trying to exploit you. that’s the point at which i have a problem with conventional DRM — in all other respects i think its probablt a good thing, potentially…

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