Doopaadoo.com – BUYING YOUR TIME

EXAMPLE OF A BOTTOM UP APPROACH :
Over the past few years, the Tamil Audio Industry has faced several challenges in Monetization. While it is all but easy to put the blame squarely on Piracy, we must also acknowledge a fact that strong life style changes amongst the users has caused a decline in audio music consumption, forget even paid consumption.

While Spotify has been reasonably successful in foreign countries, their Indian counterparts like Gaana.com, Saavn, and Wynk don’t seem to have made that great an impact. Wynk which purchased Dhingana.com, another Music Streaming provider has shut down. Barring a few promotional advertisements by Gaana, and some of these Music Apps being pre-installed as bloatware in some smartphones, i don’t think these services made any major promotions, and I don’t see any major traction or conversations surrounding these names.

Clearly, I think the Piracy Beater model in Music, atleast from an Indian perspective is hitting rock bottom. The issue is not whether these models themselves will be sustainable or not, but rather, if the industry can make meaningful monies to recover the huge investments made in making these songs.

madhan-karky-doopaadoo-was-launched-among-the-music-legends-1
We may now be reaching one of the lowest ebbs of the Indian Music Industry, from which, the revenue possibilities are going down, and possibly not going to see any major growth upwards anymore.
Doopaadoo.com, an initiative co-founded by Lyricist Madhan Karky, is attempting to bring a platform for Non Film Music and a possibility for better monetization. While Platforms like YouTube and FaceBook already drive User Engagement, it is very difficult to bring Visibility considering the huge amount of free content available. It needs more personalised engagement by individual users, and by bringing a share of the revenue pie to the listeners, it is hoping to bring more direct user Engagement. A share of the revenue pie is being hoped to be an incentive for users to spend more time in Doopaadoo.com, rather than say YouTube or elsewhere, where they do not receive any direct remuneration.
This cannot work for main stream Film Songs at the moment, considering the huge investments in artists salaries and the need to recover this money. This model might work for Indie music, as the Huge salary paid to Artists and the Huge Labels involved is taken off, and one of the important needs here from the artists’s perspective is to drive User Visibility and Engagement in a chaotic digital world. This is a classic example of A ‘Bottom Up’ approach, and in theory sounds good.
In its current form, Doopaadoo.com has several shortcomings. It is still Beta, so we need to give it some time. First, the catalogue currently available is very limited. What is likely to make it even more difficult is that, Doopaadoo claims that the content available is exclusively available on Doopaadoo.com, thereby stifling the possiblity of the creator to monetize it on other platforms. So, how many people would be ready to provide content exclusively for Doopaadoo.com is questionable?
Secondly, it is extremely unlikely that people would sit there all day listening to DoopaaDoo songs, just to make some money. I don’t think it is going to work that way, since DooPaaDoo does not have something like Facebook, an engine that keeps on generating new information to keep users engaged. So, possibly at some point, an API integration may be built by Doopaadoo, to help users listen to DooPaaDoo content either via a FaceBook integration or a webbrowser integration, where they can keep listening to a preset PlayList or something like that, while they continue their work.
Given the wafer thin revenue streams expected, it is quite unlikely that DooPaadoo.com may tie up with larger players of this segment like Saavn, Wynk or Gaana ( They offer all kinds of content including main stream Music and Offbeat Music and Audio Files as well).
But it remains to be seen, if in practice, if all these things will work out. Time will give us the answer.

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Understanding ‘Internet Piracy’ concepts via Our Own Tamil Cinema..

One of the feedbacks that I had recently got from a respected individual is that , he had given me was that the blog was too technical and difficult to grasp from a common man’s view point. I agree. I had planned that the English version be a little more technical, but the Tamil translation to be a diluted version and talking in even more layman terms. So, keeping this in mind, i have decided to do a simple illustration to explain a concept, which i have spoken in another Video. I am trying to explain, How Decentralisation of the Internet largely benefits Piracy. I have also added the ‘Ramana’ Footage for Reference.

 

Ramana_Centralised

 

So, as the Yugi Character mentions, you can see in the Image that probably Kumaresan and Zakir Hussain probably don’t know each other, yet there is a centralized node that connects both of them, without themselves knowing each other. The centralized Node ( Professor Ramana) instructs them and is clearly hierrarchially much higher than the others. So, a collapse of the Central Node, will destroy the system, so, by tracking the smaller nodes and mapping them together, eventually, Professor Ramana comes out and reveals himself and with that the ACF network collapses, which is what the conclusion of the movie, also is.

Unfortunately, the Movie industry may have wished that Piracy and Internet Piracy in particular worked in this fashion. Sadly, it is not. It works in an entirely de-centralized fashion, something like this.

Ramana_Decentralised

 

You can see in this kind of network architecture, again Possibly, Kumaresan and Zakir Hussain do not know each other. They may not even know Professor Ramana, because, each node can independently operate on its own, yet seek support from its nearest node. Typically beyond one or two levels, communication is not accessible for a single node.  The advantage of this system in the context of Piracy, is that there is no single Professor Ramana here. Even Zakir Hussain and Kumaresan themselves have the power of Professor Ramana. Zakir Hussain, Kumaresan, Ramana and everyone in the network may be doing more or less the same kind of work. So, at some level, they act as competitors, yet they also share knowledge and common resources, which are distributed, so that, there is no single point of failure.

The typical pattern that we see is by the time, Law and Enforcement catches up with one or two nodes, hundreds of new nodes are created else where. More over, a single node may himself not know beyond one or two nodes himself, so, this complicates the situation, even more.

 

 

Digital Rights Management and its impact in the Current ‘CopyRight-Piracy’ Conflict..

The first half of the decade, the years 2000-2006 were the years where the legitimate industry bore the brunt of the Piracy onslaught. The legitimate industry simply was too confused as changes were happening at such a rapid level and ordinary users were getting sucked into Piracy, at a growth rate, possibly never seen much, before by mankind.

At that point in time, The industry itself was internally faced by several dilemmas, themselves. It could never bring itself to the fact that things (or media) could be sold entirely in a digital format and believed that users must and should consume legitimate physical products and it was much more legal and ethical. But it failed to realize that content entirely digital had a certain convenience that physical did not provide.

Another possible reason was that physical sales, in the short term were still not being impacted, and switching entirely to digital could hurt physical sales. This dilemma continues even today, and exists in various forms, when one sees the over all ‘Copyright-Piracy’ conflict. This particular issue, i like to refer to as a ‘Seesaw Conundrum’ ( when you try to raise one end for a benefit, you end up losing something on another side). The ‘SeeSaw conundrum‘ in itself, i see as part of a larger ‘External Variable conundrum‘, a phenomenon that is beyond control of an individual or an organization and happens due to the totally diverse and potentially overlapping regions of the Internet.

Another problem faced by the Industry was that if it even decided to move towards a ‘Digital’ only model, as most of them have today, there were no proper digital payment infrastructure in the banking and Economic transaction system, as stable and relatively secure as we see today. Following 2006, Piracy continued to grow even faster, especially when Internet Piracy began to outclass traditional Disc based piracy, but by then the Industry had overcome the early shock and had produced several limited counter attacks and potential ‘Revenue generative’ attempts to fight Piracy on price. While most of them may have produced ‘short term results’, several of them have sunk and are slowly being lost to obscurity.

But amidst all this, one move seems to be clearly one of the tools that the ‘Copyright Industry’ will use as a weapon which is already in contemporary use and which is out to stay in the long term. Although DRM can be used for multiple applications including Audio* and Video**, it is primarily associated with Books.

So, this blog post will focus primarily on how DRM is applied to Books, and try to dissect its role in the phenomenon. Back then, even in the Analog world, Books were duplicated, some through Xerox and some through cheap copies. But the economics of that time meant that only ‘Best sellers’ were likely sold through such counterfeit books. This phenomenon even continues to this day, and one can find cheap copies of such books in M.G.Road or majestic circle. They cost typically around Rs.50-100 and are quite cheap when compared to an original book. The quality of print and paper is typically very poor, and is virtually uncomparable to an original.

But the rate and scale of copying offered by Digital Technology and the sharing infrastructure that the Internet enabled made this a much more serious issue. In all fairness, Book Piracy was relatively low in the ‘2000-06′ era and the brunt was borne by the Movie and the Music Industry. This could be explained by a simple logic that the hardware form factors – be it a Desktop or a Laptop were not suited to reading Books, unlike today’s Ereaders or Tablets.

If one looks at most of the research done over the Internet after spending possibly millions of dollars – inevitably, most of them draw one of these two conclusions – “Piracy boosts Legal sales’, or ‘Piracy destroys Legal sales and costs millions of jobs and millions of dollars in taxes to the Government”. This loop goes on with each new research trying to outprove, its counterpart’s conclusions.

But in an era of 2000-06, it may have made some sense, for the ‘Pro Piracy’ advocates, who said that Pirating book users go on and buy legitimate physical books, because the Pirated copy allowed them to read a sample. The logic may have held water back then. There were also links that this famous author advocated Piracy and said that it boosted his sales. ( I believe it is his official blog).

But today, in a world of EReaders, Tablets and Kindles, it is that much more likely that a pirating Ebook user would pay to buy physical content, because in many ways, the digital experience is much more convenient than the physical one, and how many would want to buy a physical one, which is less convenient, when they get the more convenient digital version for free?

So, this is where DRM comes in. It relies on a logic that a pirated copy will originate from a unencrypted legal Ebook copy, and that is why it needs to have some measures to avoid copy. The logic is good at one level, but fails, because unlike its other cousins, which have almost long since and almost are on the fringe of abandoning physical products, physical books still hold ground. Maybe, there is really is something about Paper.

So, DRM technically stops or makes it difficult for a legal Ebook to be duplicated and pirated, but there is no proven theory that it helps boosts book sales. It is just a ‘Piracy Stopper’, but in no way, unlike say ‘Saavn’ or ‘Moser Baer’ , a revenue generator, which by themselves, become ‘Piracy Stoppers’.

While DRM has to protect the rights of the Copyright Holder by preventing duplication of digital copies, it also has to protect the rights of the buyer, many of whom want the freedoms and flexibility that physical books offer them. So, DRM has to balance the needs of both users. So, let us see, how this works out in today’s Digital ECommerce, App Ecosystem and the Cloud.

 

#1

Depending on the case, a user may have permanent or temporary access to a Ebook. A user may choose to permanently purchase a copy of a book via Amazon Kindle or Google Play. This entitles them to access the book through their own various stock clients across multiple Operating Systems that ‘sync’ information about the book’s position and gives the user a seamless experience. Another alternative application that DRM offers is similar to renting a physical book from a library. While I am unaware if this feature is available through traditional Ebook stores, it is available if you are a member of the British Library.

Once you pay for an online membership( The Library has several schemes that allow users to rent Physical Books, Optical Media like DVDs, Magazines, Children’s comics etc), the British Library gives the user, the availability of Ebooks that can be rented. The user can choose the book, and click download and which leads to a temporary file that contain metadata like the Date Of Download. This Temporary file can be opened in an ‘Adobe Digital Editions’ Application ( the normal Adobe Reader won’t work), which reads the details in the file and starts the download process of the file. The user will also need to have a registered ‘Adobe Account’. The file is downloaded and can be seen and viewed in the Adobe Digital Editions Application like a normal PDF. The only difference is that after the period ( typically 14 days), the file will stop working, and the user will have to repeat the original process and get a new rental key from the British Library server.

#2

Once the book is purchased, the user can download the book offline on the client. In most cases, a copy of the most updated version of the book rests on the Service’s server. The user has the option to add Annotations, while some services offer a ‘One Touch’ integration to share select ‘quotes’ directly on Twitter and Facebook. The Kindle Edition also offers a direct integration with the Book Review and Dedicated Book Social Media website – Good Reads (?)

#3

once the book is downloaded and authenticated, users can add their notes, bookmarks and highlights. Although, the device gives the appearance of over the top, imprints, it is a digital mirage. The device handles both these info seperately, and only momentarily places the annotations at specific co-ordinates over the book. This is the reason, why an Annotation made in 1 client, when sync’d over the cloud, can be deleted over the other. Users who use the ‘Image Annotation’ Feature in Evernote/Skitch across multiple devices can also understand this concept better.

Citing from the book, Multimedia Systems Design by Prabhat.K.Andleigh & Kiran Thakrar  – “Image Annotation can be performed in one of the two ways ; as a text file stored along with the image or as a small image stored within the original image. The annotation is over layed over the original image for display purposes. While this may sound simple enough, it is not without complication. It requires tracking multiple image components associated with a single page, decompressing all of them, and ensuring correct spatial alignment as they are overlayed.” 

Once this process is done, the annotated book is sync’d across the cloud. The details of the book can be download on another client via the same process. So, now having described a simple technically on how DRM works, let us consider a Socio-Ethical Debate on where DRM lies today. As with almost every technical development over the Internet, there are Pros and Cons.

#4

 

As you can see from the graph, the first function that any paying user wishes to have is that all his rights of an Analog book should be translatable in a digital version. The advantages that Digital Technology provides over Analog should be fully available, without any hassles.

  1. For instance, Digital Technology easily allows the ‘Copying of Text’ for citation purposes much more easily rather than Physical Text.
  2. Digital Technology allows the possibility of ‘Text to Speech’ which can particularly be useful for people with special ‘Attention, Viewing and Reading Difficulties”.

On the other side, DRM’s main function is to Stop a legal copy being Pirated. Although, there are other ways how Pirated copies will come out, as explained below, and which is way beyond the scope for DRM to help.

So, in addressing both these world’s, where does DRM fail or where does it Win? Let us consider a small example, of a book that i purchased?

1. Copying of Text – “The need to resort to a song in a given situation is perhaps a continuation of a literature-oriented aesthetic where versification or poetry…” This is a citation from one of the books that i am currently reading. ‘The Eye of the Serpent – An Introduction to Tamil Cinema by Theodore Baskaran”. While the app allows me, a paid user to copy a citation ( which is about 1-2 paragraphs into Evernote, which i index with other data), the app limits the copy to a mere 140 characters. The larger irony is that not even a complete sentence could be copied, and I am not using it for Twitter, for me to limit my text to 140 characters.

So, in the absurd logic that a pirating user may copy away reams of pages, using ‘Copy&Paste’ logic, DRM has put a fix of 140 characters, in the hope that it will be too big for a pirating user to copy a book. Since, it isn’t helping a legally purchased user anyway, i suggest making the copy limit to 14 characters, which will make it 10 times even more tougher for the pirate to copy. It isn’t helping a legal user much, anyways.

2. Intercompatibility of Playback Clients – The beauty of the PDF format was that one need not necessarily use the Adobe Reader to read it. The Foxit reader is faster, consumes less Resources, has more features and is also free like the Adobe. This gives the user the freedom of choice. A similar logic can be applied for movies. Play a movie in VLC, or any other player, which you like.

But DRM sadly is not. In most cases, the DRM implementation is proprietary and not compatible. For instance, if i Purchased a book via Amazon Kindle, and i like the IBooks reader better in the Ipad, i cannot play it. I have to only use the stock Kindle App. Big Nuisance, this is. It gets worse, in other conditions. I like to use the ‘Voice Dream App***’ which is a dedicated player, customized for individuals with ‘Attention and Reading difficulties like i do”. Its ‘TextToSpeech’ is seriously out of the world, and it plays non DRM documents really really well, as if a real Human was reading out to you. But sadly, these DRM books won’t allow you to open in such players.

3. The Monopoly – There have been allegations that when a famous Ebook services company purchased an ‘Audio Book’ company, it purposefully killed its automated ‘TextToSpeech’ app, since now users would be forced to pay for the much higher priced Audio Books, if they wanted to simultaneously access Reading the book, while parallely listening to a Voice reading the book in the background.

So, my conclusion is that while DRM has achieved some of the attributes of a physical book in the digital domain, it has failed strongly when it tries to balance the needs of legitimate Paying users and trying to stop Pirating users. This was an example of the ‘Seesaw Conundrum‘ that i was referring to earlier.

And the larger absurdity of the equation is that as long as Physical Books are in Sale, there are much easier ways to convert a pirated Ebook than to break a DRM code, or manually copy data from a licensed DRM encrypted Ebook. See below.

Potential_SourceFeeds_For_Pirated_Content

 

Audio* – You can locally download a song from a Saavn Server on an Ipad, if you are a Pro user, but cannot offload, like a non DRM’d music single .mp3 file.

Video** – Several YouTube and Google Play files can be cached locally on a device and played, but cannot be removed offline easily.

Voice Dream Reader*** – Under the ‘Book Share’ program, individuals like me are entitled to get limited access to Copyrighted books for a subsidized fee which can be read via the Voice Dream Reader app. I had sent them a link that i would prefer to register under my pseudonym and linked them to my Virtual world accounts, but i got no response. If i have to register my real name to get access, thank you very much. I get enough of Spam already and i have no frickin idea how my personal data will be used.

I feel like an Old Man today..

I feel so very old today. The book should have been up by now, where I was rushing up things when suddenly, something went wrong. I had ADHD, this I knew. But I guess my brain had taken the limit of its strain and it couldn't take the load anymore..crashhh..

I am now on doctor recommended tablets. More than the function of keeping me alive, they are keeping me sane. Maybe, I hope it is his 'will' that I have enough mental energy to get the KTP project to its eventual goal.

Today, I chanced to have a look by chance at some old engineering books, and I was shocked. When we read and learnt them, they were all theory. We knew nothing about the radio spectrum, 2g, EDGE, Optical communication, Frequency Modulation, White Noise, Signal to Noise Ratio , bandwidth etc..

Did anyone of us even know what was the practical value of 2 Mbps, back then ? Today's, engineering students are that mich more lucky in that sense, that they can see practically see what they learn.

Not just that. We learn a bit about computer hardware design, Economics, about Ethics. I laughed at the system back then saying what does ethics have to do with engineering?

I was a fool. Yes, today, I admit it. But although I admit I was a fool, I am not an ego headed idiot. My feet are firmly rooted in the ground. But in a sense, the KTP project touches on all these concepts at some level, radio spectrum, optical bandwidth, signal processors, multimedia codecs, operating systems. And the underlying subject about KTP is itself about Human Ethics. None of us ever saw Chernobyl, the Titanic or Mr.Peter goal, but we see piracy every day.

We all know that it is wrong at some level, yet how did society accept this phenomenon en masse, although it is morally incorrect?

Today, I realise that engineering didn't teach me engineering. It taught me about life, my future and about being human.

The original aim of the work was to make this readable and understandable for any layman. I think I will to a certain extent manage that. But I also want to add a bit of technical stuff from engineering theory and apply it to the book, but when I read one, I couldn't. My brain is already fuzzy with the drugs and I am already slower than ever. I just couldn't. At this point, I have almost reached the limit of my endurance, and atleast the first version cannot go on for ever.

I am confident that I will finish the first version, which itself will come into the public domain under Creative Commons Non commercial license, and if for some reason, I am unable to rewrite the book practically in an engineering theory context, hopefully someone else will and release it under the same Creative Commons Non Commercial license.

 

So, what do we have for Dinner today?

In many ways, the Internet gives you the knowledge and the willpower to move on, when you feel that an invisible force is pushing you through and guiding you. I have felt this for the past three years. I am really feeling hurt today, and i feel like ranting, but more than the will to rant, brood and point fingers, there is a stronger urge to complete, possibly what i was destined for. And everyday, this feeling gets clearer and clearer, atleast to me.

Looking up at some recent videos on Youtube, on Piracy happenings in recent Tamil cinema, led me to the name ‘QUBE’. The information potential that i see is huge… really really huge.. It gives me more data and stats to prove my view points, or debated, dissected and over thrown. I am perfectly fine with that..

And here, is just a sample.. I just glanced through the QUBE website and it has enough data to write a mini-work in itself..  Subsequently, more stats about QUBE will come out, as i go through more about it, in its website..  I have also discussed with a colleague the possible ways in which QUBE’s Antipiracy solution ( developed from Civolution?) works in this blog. QUBE_Movie_Release_2013_2014_Statistical_Analysis

God Bless the Internet..

Four Basic Attributes of the Internet, that Piracy uses to its advantage..

The Internet was built on some basic principles, but as the Internet has grown widely into an alternate economic space rather than sheer exchange of 1s and 0s, some of these principles have come under threat, non necessarily always with evil intentions, but sometimes, since it has placed the economic survivability of some players. This aspect of the discussion is typically called as ‘Net Neutrality’, but its discussion is beyond the scope of this blog. For now, let us focus on some basic attributes that the Internet offers that Piracy is attempting to use to its advantage.

  1. Decentralisation – The Internet in its original form was always de-centralised. De-centralisation is a process where several people contribute towards a common work, and there typically is no differentiation between the contributors unlike a Traditional Top-Down Centralized Corporate Environment. We can learn some lessons about Internet Piracy and its complexity by looking at some of our own movies. For instance, how did Professor Ramana get caught eventually? Because, he ran a centralized network.                                                                                                                                              

  2. Open Source and Free Sharing Principles – It was Open Source principles that run a substantial portion of the Internet. Engines like Wikipedia and Mozilla FireFox are built entirely based on these principles. The Philosophy of Open Source is that anyone can take an existing work, build upon the work and offer the adapted work for free ( can commercialize the work sometimes). But, sometimes, this Principle does get abused in the case of Piracy, where allegedly Pirated Code of a website or Technology developed using Open Source Software is thrown openly on the Internet, to be adapted by several other Allegely Pirating websites. Although, technically, they are competitors, sometimes, they can also allegedly be ‘Partners in Crime’ as well.
  3. The Internet is like a Road Network – If the main highway connecting two cities is blocked due to a Traffic jam, people are diverted through alternate routes. But, by design of the Internet itself, a single chunk of information can be split up and travel through various routes, before the entire file is assembled at the receiving end. For better understanding, see the Animated GIF File here.
  4. No One owns anything in the Internet – The Internet belongs to no body. Virtually, every aspect of the Internet is given only a temporary usage rights or a common resource is shared across several people. An owner of a Website does not permanently own the URL of the website, He has to pay a fee for periodically renewing the website. There can be several people accessing a common IP address via a Public Wifi Hotspot, or Internally within a Home Wifi. There can be millions of users who use the same shared  hosting space etc.
    All of these principles are incorporated at various levels, to help Piracy continue the ‘Cat and Mouse’ game that has gone on for several years, and that is the reason, why the Internet Piracy menace has still continued to linger. Beyond just a question of a ‘Demand and Supply’ market, Piracy has used underlying principles and masked itself which makes things that much more difficult for law enforcement to catch up with it.