Touching hands
3.5.4Superdistribution and digital containers

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When you effectively want to implement brokering, a mechanism is needed where consumers can be sure that the information they receive is authentical and that is has not been altered in any way, and where suppliers or publishers can be sure that the information they provide is supplied and distributed without any danger of copyright infringement or loss of revenue.
What is needed is a system where documents can be distributed in such a way that they cannot be altered, read, copied, printed or otherwise processed without permission. Superdistribution and digital containers can offer such a mechanism. A digital container is an envelope around a document which handles all processing of the document contained inside it. With the aid of this wrapper, the author (or publisher) of the document can set the operations that can and cannot1 be performed on the document. The wrapper also acts as a certificate of authenticity, so that the recipient can be sure that the contents of the document have not been modified or altered. The electronic enevelope will also make it (nearly) impossible to simply copy the file several times and give it to others; this feature can also be used to take away an important fear publishers have to distribute (to be paid-for) content via the Internet.

What’s more, when digital containers are combined with a concept called "superdistribution", it can become very profitable for them.
What is "Superdistribution"?

"Superdistribution is an approach to distributing software in which software [or other content] is made available freely and without restriction but is protected from modifications and modes of usage not authorized by its vendor [or distributor]. [...] Superdistribution relies neither on law nor ethics to achieve these protections; instead it is achieved through a combination of electronic devices, software, and administrative arrangements [...]. By eliminating the need of vendors [or publishers] to protect their products against piracy through copy protection and similar measures, superdistribution promotes unrestricted distribution of [software or other content]."
quote taken from "Superdistribution: The Concept and the Architecture"
by Ryoichi Mori

The concept of superdistribution was invented by Ryoichi Mori in 1983. It was first called "software service system", hence the software-orientedness in the above description of the concept. Since then, the concept - or parts of it - have been used for various superdistribution(-like) mechanisms.
Superdistribution provides a mechanism that meets the demands and needs of both the suppliers (vendors) as well consumers (users) of information and software. The main idea is that content (software or information) can be distributed and forwarded to others freely: by using some kind of digital container, it is not possible to make illegal copies of the contents nor to tamper with the contents. Where traditionally publishers or providers lose revenue on (and control over) content when it gets copied and passed on to others by consumers of the content, in superdistribution this kind of behaviour is encouraged; people tend to look at content much eagerly when it is commended or passed on to them by people they know, i.e. the content gets ‘superdistributed’.
What happens is that publishers give content to consumers. Part of this consumer group will pass it on to others, as they think those other persons will find it valuable or interesting. And those other persons may pass it on to others, and so on. "Passing on" in the context of superdistribution (and digital containers) means that a copy of the container is created (usually with the aid of an application), which is identical to the original and which possesses the same (access) restrictions that were imposed on the original piece of content. As a reward for passing it on, some superdistribution schemes will give people a direct reward or discount on new content whenever they give a copy of superdistributed content to others.
What’s more, this scheme creates possibilities for all kinds of value-added services that can be provided to consumers. For instance, an organisation can collect content and review it. They can then add a small fee to the total costs of every individual piece of content for this service, which they will receive from every person that gets a copy of this content (no matter how far ‘down the stream’ this person is).

Other important advantages of using superdistribution and digital containers are:
As content may be expected to be consumed and passed on a lot, the price per copy of the content can be kept low: prizes may be expected to be in the order of micro payments, which should be more than acceptable for the average consumer;
As the price per copy is low, tampering with the content is discouraged as a person doing so will end up making higher costs (in terms of time and money spend) than what it would cost to just pay for a copy of the content;
Consumers do not have to take a subscription to get high-quality content. What's more, requiring someone to subscribe would be an overkill if someone only wanted to have one specific piece of content. Subscriptions scare people away for exactly those reasons, which results in the consumer being unhappy as he did not get the content he wanted, and which will mean a loss of revenue for the supplier of the content.
Another problem with subscriptions is that authors who want to link to other sites for background information, will rarely chose to link to subscription sites because they will know that the majority of the people will not be able to follow the links. Similarly, search engines are (usually) not able to index subscription sites; all the content on such sites will not turn up in the search engines’ query result lists.

1= Where "cannot" can mean "not at all", but also "not until you have paid a certain amount of money via a payment mechanism that is part of the container".
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Chapter 3 - From Internet to Online Market Place "Desperately Seeking: Helping Hands and Human Touch" -
by Björn Hermans