hey there - I've been lurking on this list for a few weeks, since meeting
Kevin Lee when he came to Vancouver with Damo Suzuki. (hi kevin!)
I've recently been involved in trying to define and develop a system of
voluntary payments for music and cultural products in general, as I feel
pretty strongly that this is the way out of the current "intellectual
property" impasse. I'm using the term "potlatch network" to describe a new
economic structure based on gift exchange - see http://www.potlatch.net
The basic scenario Im sure you're all familiar with: as bandwith and
storage costs plummit, restrictions on the use of these resources become
increasingly artificial and anachronistic. Maintaining these restrictions
against the rising tide will become continually more expensive, both in
terms of technology and in policing and enforcement costs. Instead of
building walls we should be building boats. This is not just about sampling
("recombinant art") or fair use - it's all about the future of cultural
production and distribution.
>From the point of view of *all* artists and creators - assuming that their
art is translateable in some way into digital form - once something has
been released it will be impossible to keep it out of one or another
filesharing system - hotline, napster, etc - if even *one person* likes it
enough to want others to experience it - but surely this is the whole
point of creating it in the first place.
What we have now is one-half of a gift economy, in which creators are
bestowing gifts of their vision, effort, and talent upon the rest of us.
The basis of gift economies of the past has always been some form of
more-or-less obligatory reciprocity - (for the classic treatment of the
subject, see http://www.spacegroove.com/efotiou/mauss.html ) What we need
is an easy way for fans/audience/friends to give back to artists -
directly, with no middleman. The return stroke of a new economic engine.
We're convinced that if it was easy and convenient to give artists small
amounts of money, many people would do so - enough to make it worth doing.
I've heard that Steven King's voluntary payment experiment was considered a
failure, because after 6 installments the percentage of "payers" dropped
below 75%. I consider that an incredible success, I wouldn't have
predicted half of that rate in my most optimistic scenario. It's like
seeing a car levitate and then saying, "big deal, it only levitated 3
Last year it was SDMI, this year it's CPRM - they are equally doomed. If
you haven't yet, check out John Gillmore's "call to action" -
http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/2/15686.html. "These people are
lunatics, who would destroy the future of free expression and technological
development, so they could sit in easy chairs at the top of the smoking
ruins and light their cigars off 'em."
Obviously the entertainment cartels are getting desperate, they are used to
being able to dictate the rules, but they can't dictate *mathematical*
rules, which is what software and computer technology is based upon (if not
it tends to not work very well!) We can stop all this nonsense cold if we
endorse a business model that *requires* peer-to-peer filesharing networks
in order to function. By offloading all of our storage and distribution
requirements onto the network, the cost drops to nearly zero. What we need
is a shared accounting system that makes use of these same "network
effects" - a means of transferring small amounts of "credit" between
members, which would operate on a strictly voluntary basis. (which is not
to say that rewards and incentives are un-necessary, in fact that's the
whole point - to keep the gift from stagnating. In our ancestral gift
societies, a gift that stopped moving turned to poison.)
There's an open source project called Espra - http://www.espra.net - that
is developing a user friendly front end client for finding and retrieving
music files from Freenet. (Freenet is a 'viral distribution' p2p
shared-storage network, see http://freenet.sourceforge.net.) Their
intention is to build a voluntary payment system into this client app. Some
other initiatives devoted to voluntary payments include Tipster
(http://tipster.weblogs.com) and Fairtunes (http://www.fairtunes.com). And
then there's Mojo Nation (http://www.mojonation.net) which has a
micropayment system built in, although AFAIK this is based on network
resources and not content, so that's begging to be plugged into this as
Anyway, we're starting up an experiment with some local musicians - our
hope is to establish some ground rules and open interfaces so everyone can
play, and nobody owns it. The details are still fairly sketchy although I
plan on devoting the next couple of days to a systematic overview of where
we've got to so far.
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