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An Idea Whose Time Has Come · Thursday February 26, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

Don’t just take my word for it. The solution to the copyright crisis is obvious. It’s so obvious that people keep on discovering or re-inventing the same solution.

The latest great minds to join our happy throng are “three (fairly) young European guys working in IT and business consulting” who call themselves TakohaMen and have a site www.takoha.eu.

They now also recognise that they are not alone.

Read their manifesto. It’s extremely familiar to those of us who’ve already foreseen the future – a world in which people pay each other for their intellectual work, rather than printers for copies of it (at monopoly prices).

So, Takoha, welcome to the club! :-)

Who's Going to Pay Me Now? · Monday March 16, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

I suggest that the money for art comes from the customers who want the producer to produce it, i.e. the artist’s audience.

Just because publishers have traditionally intermediated, purchasing the art from the artist in order to subsequently sell copies of it to the artist’s audience (with a monopoly on manufacture of copies), this doesn’t mean that this is the best way today.

Given that the artist’s audience are now quite capable of manufacturing and distributing their own copies, it seems obvious neither they nor the artist need the publisher’s services any more.

There’s no way of avoiding it, but one has to conclude that publishers are now redundant. They have no new business model to rescue them – unless they really can live off of the ill gotten gains from suing artists’ audiences for producing unauthorised copies. That model won’t last too long, thankfully, especially when they lobby for the legislation to be made ever more draconian (hastening copyright’s demise).

What you’re left with is a far more efficient exchange between the artist and their audience, or the journalist/blogger and their readers.

Without the services of the publisher, the producer and their customers aren’t going to stare at each other across an imagined chasm, blankly wondering what the future holds; artist worrying that the audience will no longer want to pay, and audience worrying that the artist will no longer want to produce. Naturally, they will do a deal (without 99% or even a significant chunk of the money going to the intermediating publisher or collection society).

This is the new deal (the same as the one before copyright):

  • Art for money, money for art.

The market for copies has ended.

Artist: Abandon selling your art to a publisher, or selling copies to your audience. From today, you shall sell your art to your audience.

Audience: Abandon purchasing copies from a publisher, or from an artist. From today, you shall pay your artist to produce art.

Notice how the audience has assumed the role of publisher? This shouldn’t be too surprising. The commissioners of published work have always been the public.

Check out Clay Shirky for a second opinion:
Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable

Not Suicide, Terminal · Saturday June 06, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

Daniel Conover incisively suggests that the online newspapers’ apparent formulation of a plan to place all their news behind a paywall constitutes a suicide pact rather than salvation.

I’d say it was more like a group of similarly afflicted purchasing a retreat in which they can end their terminal illness away from the public eye.

In the future this history of our present will be understood as obviously as children today understand that the Earth orbits the Sun. That is to say that everyone will know why newspapers were doomed, and why journalists were not. However, if any time traveller ventured to enlighten the minds of his forefathers he would have been burnt as a heretic.

So in an attempt to avoid heresy, here is a simple test that anyone can perform upon themselves to see if they have a mind that is so supple it can quickly make the paradigm shift:

Conceive of a future without copyright, one in which authors exchange their writing for their readers’ money, but one in which printers no longer pay authors for their writing to sell copies of it to readers.

If you can open your mind to the possibility that the market for copies has ended, then your mind is open to the possibility that there remains a market for intellectual work.

Newspapers are doomed. Journalists have a bright and prosperous future. These are not contradictory statements.

So, if you are a journalist, don’t charge your readers for copies, invite them to pay you to write, to pay you for your writing. Your readers are now your customers, no longer the printer’s. That traditional publisher can no longer pay you for your writing, because they can no longer sell copies of it, they can’t sell your readers’ eyeballs, and they can’t charge your readers for reading online copies.

Newspapers are white elephants in a barren desert of their own making, desperately wandering from watering hole to watering hole, but the revenue flowing from each tributary of their 18th century monopoly on the sale of copies is drying up. Neither fencing off the copies nor reinforcing the monopoly will help. Their business model faces absolute drought. So they collect, not to commit suicide, but to assemble their graveyard.

Our own technology reveals the fundamental natural law governing information and intellectual work. The age of commercial privilege is ending. Natural rights must resume.

Super-Negotiation · Wednesday June 24, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

In P2P And Putting In Place A Workable Business Model Chris Gilbey is right to observe that the obvious alternative or adjunct to a monopoly on the manufacturing and distribution of copies is a tax on the distribution of copies. In other words, if people start ignoring the monopoly by making and giving away their own copies they can be taxed for the copies they distribute.

Unfortunately, all this is ‘obvious’ only from the perspective of a monopolist publisher. What those publishers and their friends in high places don’t want to recognise is that not only was the monopoly of copyright an iniquitous piece of legislation in the first place, but a tax would compound it.

Instead we should recognise that the publishers are being rightly ejected from their privileged position in the value chain. They aren’t needed for manufacturing copies, distributing them, retailing them, or even promoting them. The public can do this all by themselves thanks to the Internet, or as Chris describes it: ‘super-distribution’.

What may easily slip one’s notice is that hand in hand with super-distribution goes super-communication. In fact the former came from the latter.

One of the key commercial advantages of copyright in the 18th century was that it removed the then considerable costs involved in what should have been communication/negotiation between the customers of books (words, not paper) and the authors thereof. The printers (in pursuing their monopolies) were thus in an ideal position to commission the author’s work – to negotiate a price of the work on one hand, and the price of each copy on the other.

Now just as super-distribution renders the monopoly of copyright ineffective, super-communication also renders the prospect of an author negotiating with their readership feasible. They can eliminate the costs imposed on the value chain by the printer, publisher, distributor, and retailer, eliminate the promotional costs of copyright, and thus negotiate what may well be a more lucrative commission from their readers directly. The market for printed copies is thus free and independent of the market for the intellectual work (qv WikiTravel & WikiTravelPress).

What should have happened in the 18th century was that the readers commissioned the author directly (via subscription), and then printers competed with each other in a free market to print copies of the author’s work. No doubt subscription technologies would have improved no end in the absence of copyright – and the price of books would have been a tad lower.

Today, with copyright ineffective, necessity is spurring the invention of efficient subscription or negotiation facilities. This is what I’m working on (ContingencyMarket.com), a means of enabling the author to haggle with readers, the audience to haggle with the artist, to make a collective bargain concerning the exchange of art for money, money for art. After all, it’s art the audience wants to pay for, not copies.

So, I don’t think the future business model for intellectual work will be quite as complicated as Chris suggests (no compulsion, levy or tax should be necessary). It should actually be rather simple, e.g. the author says “I’ll sell my book for $10,000”, and 9,000 readers say “We’ll buy your book for $1” and then the author says “Aw, alright then, done!”. Well, perhaps that’s an oversimplification. The negotiations and exchanges will no doubt be far more subtle and fluid (low friction) – or will be when this approach takes off. But, the point is, the author no longer needs to pay the publisher for printing, distribution, and promotion. They simply need a tadette of money from their readers, their customers. In exchange, the readers get the author’s words, and their liberty restored to share and build upon published works.

As Chris says, we need to “get people to the table to negotiate”, and that’s the artist and their audience: the negotiator with the art, and the negotiator with the money. Having enabled their negotiations, and once their deal is done, both sides have what they want. The artist has their audience’s money. The audience has the artist’s art – and both retain their liberty (there’s no longer any motive to preserve the monopoly in the production of copies). As with WikiTravelPress, if any CD manufacturer reckons there’s still a market for copies of the art, there’s no monopoly stopping them. After all, you can still buy CD copies of Red Hat Linux, and there’s no monopoly to prevent anyone else making and selling copies of that.

We could call this direct exchange of art and money between artist and audience super-negotiation.

Maniquí said 3485 days ago :

Really interesting concepts.

Just a a few quick comments/questions

“I’ll sell my book for $10,000”, and 9,000 readers say “We’ll buy your book for $1”

So, the author should release the book (on a digital format?) once he received the $9000?

How would buyers/readers do the payment “all at the same time”?

Or is this somewhat similar to ransomware?

Maniquí said 3485 days ago :

Ok, I’ve read the FAQs on ConvergencyMarket.com and now it’s more clear to me what is this all about.

Crosbie Fitch said 3484 days ago :

> So, the author should release the book (on a digital format?)
> once he received the $9000?

That is the effective exchange, although bearing in mind the large number of patrons, it isn’t a single transaction, but a cascade. $4,000 may be cash in hand, $3,000 due from readers with a good credit rating, and $2,000 from those new to this revenue mechanism. It’s likely to match the advance+royalty revenue stream provided by traditional publishers (the role soon to be taken over by the audience). And don’t forget, the author doesn’t have to accept the deal if they don’t want to. Moreover, each would be patron can also change their mind (prior to any deal of course).

This is not the only approach – there are many (see PayyAttention for example). Some approaches I think are worth a try, and some I think are dubious. However, because as Dirty Harry is wont to say “A man’s got to know his limitations”, I have created the Contingency Market, a general purpose back-end, precisely to permit many different approaches to be more easily explored. I can’t predict which one will become the most popular, but I can at least predict that one or two of them will be.

> How would buyers/readers do the payment “all at the same time”?

Well, via some Internet based system, e.g. the Contingency Market. That would be the system that makes the simultaneous payment. Each payee has made the decision to pay asynchronously, and will similarly pay their dues asynchronously (with a lump sum).

> Or is this somewhat similar to
> ransomware?

The SPP is a rather simple subscription mechanism, and as described on the Wikipedia page you link to, has a long pedigree. Something a tad more sophisticated (and unprecedented as far as I’m aware) is the Digital Art Auction, which enables a single price per copy to be determined from a collection of valuations.

Skeptical said 3468 days ago :

It should actually be rather simple, e.g. the author says “I’ll sell my book for $10,000”, and 9,000 readers say “We’ll buy your book for $1” and then the author says “Aw, alright then, done!”. Well, perhaps that’s an oversimplification.
Yes, oversimplification. Many assumptions here. The biggest being the arbitrary figure of $10,000 that you have plucked from somewhere. The writer has just spent 18 months writing the book. Living in a western country, the writer feels that a slightly better than average wage is acceptable. After all, the writer is the one that is providing the creativity to entertain others. So let’s say 18 months x $900 (gross per week, lets not forget taxes) So that’s $64,800 gross the writer needs just to get their wages for the 18 months. Lets say that it’s a good book (but not a “harry potter”) and people are prepared to pay $3 to download it (after all you can buy books for a dollar now under this new system so they wont pay too much). So now the writer has to get 21600 people to pay the $3 each. So now the writer has to get the word out. OK, it can be twittered, or blogged, etc, but ultimately the writer will probably have to resort to adsense (lets forget about the traditional mediums) to promote it. More cost that has to be recouped. So more books have to be sold, so more advertising is required to get the message out. So more expenses need to be recouped, etc, etc.

Or doesn’t the writer deserve a decent wage?

Crosbie Fitch said 3468 days ago :

Everyone deserves a decent wage for decent work. Unfortunately, not everyone appreciates decent work, so not everyone will get what they deserve. If you spend years researching and writing a book on a subject that few are interested in you may well find fewer people willing to pay you a decent amount for your work, compared to many who might pay a good deal for hastily scribbled thoughts, by a celebrity say.

I’m developing a revenue mechanism that enables writers to exchange their writing with their readers’ money – without suspending those readers’ liberty to share or build upon that writer’s work, and without forcibly extracting money from the readers (taxation). I suggest it’s also better than removing value from one’s work to sell one’s audience’s eyeballs to advertisers.

Building up an appreciative audience (to maximise revenue) will depend upon the author’s ability to demonstrate that their writing constitutes decent work, the existence or development of a market demand for the writing, and maximising the ability for that market to discover the author and their writing. There are many others to help in those respects. I’m focussed on providing help at the point where reader and writer need to make an exchange (including the haggling).

To an unknown/undiscovered author, I would suggest that either they work on building up their audience/market with a series of smaller publications first, or if they can afford to invest 18 months of their time unfunded, to publish that book free, as a promotional work (exchanging sales revenue for marketing costs). You can’t get paid unless there’s a market for your work and that market has discovered you. Of course, with a reproduction monopoly, it is possible future sales could be predicted to warrant an advance from an investor (publisher). However, irrespective of the fact that a monopoly is unethical, I think you’ll find it’s no longer viable. We’re left with the choice of exchange in a free market or taxation.

If the author is known/discovered then being a decent writer they’ll have a decent audience and a decent wage in exchange for their writing. This will also help increase the size of their audience. Hopefully, by the time most authors decide to invest 18 months on a book they have already built up a large enough audience that they can be confident that around 20,000 readers will be prepared to exchange $3 each for it – or 2,000 readers $30, or 60,000 $1.

Micropatronage · Thursday July 16, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

In NOT AN UPGRADE — AN UPHEAVAL Clay Shirky begins to warm to the idea of micropatronage – the radical idea that an author’s most interested readers might pay them to write and publish their writings.

If the journalist has already been paid for their writing, who needs to pay the manufacturer and distributor of copies of their writings? Does the public really need to continue paying the publisher a hundred times the revenue that they’d pay the journalist?

If the publisher truly does add 99% of the value of a published copy, then with a free market in copies, there’s no copyright monopoly to prevent the publisher producing a copy of the author’s work (at $0.0001), adding their value ($0.0099), and then selling it at $0.01 a copy.

I have a sneaking suspicion the publisher adds very little. We’ll find out what happens when the audience commissions the artist directly.

  • Micropatronage = Disintermediation

It’s about time.

Traditional (Copyright+Publisher)

1,000,000 readers pay a publisher $1 for a journal comprising articles from 100 journalists. Each journalist gets $100 for their article. The publisher takes $990,000 from which they cover their modest costs.

Micropatronage (Copyleft/Abolition+Disintermediation)

Each blogger has 1,000 keen readers paying them a penny for each blog item they publish. That nets them $100 every ten blog items (for argument’s sake qualitatively equivalent to a single journal article).

An online journal, being free to copy the work of 1,000 bloggers (copyleft) and republish them, erects a paywall charging punters $1 to download a PDF containing 1,000 of the best blog items. Now each blogger has already been paid $10 for each item by their keen readership. The $10,000 it would normally have cost the journal to pay their writers has already been paid. They now get their writing free. The journal can also make and distribute copies at a fraction of a penny. So the $1 is now closer to 99.99% added value.

If the publisher sells a million copies they take $999,900 with negligible costs. Laughing all the way to the bank eh? That is, of course, assuming the market for copies hasn’t ended…

If it has ended there will still be a market for selectors. I suggest the selector is going to enjoy micropatronage as much as each writer. Thus the online journal (sans paywall) will actually get a penny from each of their 10,000 keen readers for each issue ($100). That journal may even state that it gives a 50% commission to each blogger it publishes – after all, it needs to encourage the production of good writing in order to be able to select it.

Steve R. said 3470 days ago :

One of the vexing questions with content revolves around the word “value”. Of particular concern is the role of the distributor as “adding” value to a creators work. Before the rise of the internet, it appeared obvious because the distributor could prepare the product for market and then market the product to a large audience. With the rise of the internet content creators can fully prepare the product and reach potential buyers directly. So who needs a publisher anymore?

What I am leading up to is the concept that we need to be clearer concerning how a publisher actually adds value to a product. I would assert that the distribution of a product by a publisher does NOT add value to the product. However, if publisher is involved in preparing graphics, editing, designing the layout of the product, then one can assert that the publisher/distributor is adding some value.

However, it should be realized that all these value adding activities can actually be performed by the person creating the product. For example the content creator can hire his/her own free lance design team or their own free lance editors.

Seems that I am getting wordy. My overall point – the limited role of the publisher/distributor, in marketing a product, does NOT add value.

Crosbie Fitch said 3469 days ago :

The price of a copy is higher than its cost either because its manufacturer has added value, has a monopoly, or is remedying a market inefficiency. I am admittedly being a little sardonic in suggesting a publisher’s 99% cut is mostly made up of added value rather than monopoly.

If the publisher is adding value then the loss of monopoly won’t hurt their bottom line. Indeed, without copyright, authors and audiences will continue to commission and patronise the publisher to obtain their valuable services. Thus the publisher’s extreme enthusiasm for copyright betrays a tacit admission that they add very little value.

Don't sell copies of the news. Sell the news! · Saturday July 25, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

Is it a copyright infringement to link to the following press release by the Associated Press?

Associated Press to build news registry to protect content

Why do they appear to believe that to make money out of publishing news they must prevent anyone distributing it or discussing it, or even referencing it?

The answer is that nearly all those in the newspaper industry have become irreparably programmed by the ancient cult known as The Press. This brainwashes them to believe that they are in the business of selling copies of the news. That’s why they’ve become obsessed with the idea that if a large number of websites are making unauthorised copies of their news then they are consequently haemorrhaging revenue and must stamp on any copies that haven’t been paid for.

The privilege of copyright they still believe enables them to do this may have worked when a press was the size of smith’s forge or, until recently, the size of an aircraft hangar, but those days are long gone.

Copyright is now defunct and one can no longer sell copies. (Your fellow readers will have balked at this heresy and have now clicked away to an article on prison overcrowding).

So, the mind-bogglingly obvious solution for the producers of news is to sell their product, their news, not copies of it.

That’s because although the market for copies has ended, the market for intellectual work remains. In other words, people still want news, but they’re quite happy making their own copies for nothing thanks very much.

The thing is, if copies cost nothing to make (whoever makes them), then it’s probably time the press dared to reconsider whether the 18th century privilege that grants them a reproduction monopoly remains the best foundation for a 21st century business supposedly adapted to the digital domain and the instantaneous diffusion of the Internet.

I’d say it was time to get into the business of selling intellectual work – digital products for the digital domain. Supporting that is the business of Digital Productions.

Scott Carpenter said 3464 days ago :

Nice post. It really boils down to that — selling copies isn’t going to work anymore. Attempts to prop the old way are doomed, although things can be made quite ugly in the short to medium term as foolish laws are passed.

PS: I like the new look!

Crosbie Fitch said 3464 days ago :

It was going to be a comment elsewhere, but who has time to read comments these days eh? That’s one of the things I tried to address in my ‘new look’ (glad you like it), which was to give front page prominence to comments/dialogue. I think they’re important. Perhaps we can look forward to web technologies that further remove us from the old one-way metaphors of vanity-pressed, author-focused pamphlets with letters from readers buried in the small print or overleaf?

The Basis for Micropatronage · Saturday August 01, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

The idea that a publication retains value that creates an obligation upon the recipient to repay is an epiphenomenon of copyright. This is the peculiar idea that the maker or recipient of a copy of a published work extracts value from it which must be repaid to its copyright holder (or million dollar fines are liable).

It is certainly a lucrative prospect to the beneficiary publishing corporations, but it’s more akin to a baron’s tithe than the natural exchange of labour you’d find in any other form of craftsmanship. Once you’ve bought a basket that’s the end of the matter. The weaver has your money (your labour). You have their basket (their labour). Never shall you pay another penny however many times you use the basket, nor whether you sell it for twice the price you paid for it, nor even if you make copies or improvements. This is how intellectual work should have been exchanged with those who would pay good money for it too, but then the 18th century found monopolies too seductive to resist (consequent loss of individual liberty a trifling sacrifice).

As the wretched monopoly of copyright decomposes in the sunlight of the information age, the dust of its unnatural corpse blown away by the instantaneous diffusion of the digital public domain, we’re going to keep on seeing Kachingle type ideas cropping up that attempt to substitute for copyright’s anachronistic ineffectiveness by facilitating a guilt driven repayment mechanism. Hence propositions such as “Here’s how you can send me the royalty that you owe me for each copy of my work that you make”, or “Each time you enjoy my work here’s how you can repay me for the value you’ve received”.

That continuation of iniquitous privilege (publisher fealty) by misguided entrepreneurs who feel the more conscientious members of the public will still wish to subject themselves to copyright, in spirit if not in effect, misses the more natural exchange that we are now stumbling toward rediscovering: The exchange of intellectual work for money.

We should pay for the work to be produced, not for the value we extract from it. That gives us the biggest clue as to the proper foundation for future revenue mechanisms. They do not facilitate the salvation of guilt by individuals who make unauthorised copies. They do not facilitate charity from people who feel they are overdue in repaying some of the value they’ve received. They enable people to exchange their money for the intellectual work of those who will gladly produce it in exchange.

This should be obvious to anyone who looks at the copyleft market for free software. The software is published without privilege. Being so unencumbered by copyright it naturally belongs to the public as much as any basket belongs to its purchaser. You can use, share, and build upon this software guilt free. Of course it takes a while for those used to copyright ‘protected’ software to become comfortable with this radical yet ancient idea that a published work can belong to the public, but one gets there eventually. When free software stops being free is when the conversation of free speech runs dry and it becomes time to pay for the beer, time to pay for the labour of production. Those who want free software are the very ones who want to pay for its production. Those producers and those in want are the people in need of exchange facilities. They have no need for guilt nor need for conscience to be salved. They need a future as we all do, in which the people not only have their liberty restored to share and build upon their cultural commonwealth, but also the liberty to exchange that labour in a free market.

David Gerard said 3457 days ago :

It’s been odd at times using a piece of free software that was really good and useful (JPilot, to be precise), looking for a PayPal link to bung him ten quid and not finding any way whatsoever to do so … dammit, I wanted to show my appreciation!

(So I’ll do so here. www.jpilot.org/ – excellent Palm Pilot software for Unix. Way less annoying and more sensible than gPilot or kPilot.)

Crosbie Fitch said 3457 days ago :

And that’s the other side of the coin – promotion. Meritocratic selection and endorsement of good artists and good art, something that is hampered by copyright.

It is far better for the good software to proliferate through its users’ recommendation and improvement, than to be hampered by unnatural privilege.

Consequently the more users a software author or development team has, the larger the market they have of people willing to financially incentivise their work. There’s no need to sue individuals from among such a liberated community as a threatening lesson to the others that royalties must be paid. As with all natural exchanges people will pay for good work of their own free will.

FACing the Music · Monday October 05, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

From comments on a P2PNet article entitled We are the walrus. Or, thank you Lily Allen.

Here’s the choice that Billy Bragg and others in the FAC (Featured Artists Coalition) face.

There are two perspectives that one can take with regard to the business of music recordings. Either the artist and production engineers are paid to make a studio recording and that’s the end of their interest in the matter – they have their money, the customer has their recording, OR the artist is a budding monopolist (their own record label) and will begrudge anyone who makes a further copy of their published recording who didn’t pay for it.

It comes down to whether you believe in copyright or not. Are you in the business of performing and recording music, or are you in the business of selling copies and broadcast privileges?

Do you believe that recording artists should be content that they have been amply paid for their studio recording, or would you go further and say that you will not rest until everyone who makes and sells or gives away an unauthorised copy (or performance thereof) is properly punished, and a severe deterrent is thus in place for anyone who even thinks of joining them?

It’s the difference between the equitable exchange of work for money, and the jealous guarding of a lucrative state granted monopoly.

The record labels are the ones in the business of selling copies and broadcast privileges. It is they who pay session musicians and studio engineers for their work, and they who say that should be the end of the matter. It is the labels who are in the business of selling copies and enforcing their monopolies, now to a draconian degree.

I suggest FAC should represent the artists who no longer wish the labels to pretend to represent them. FAC should comprise those artists who are indeed satisfied if they are amply paid for their studio recordings, AND that copyright is neutralised on those recordings such that the audience is then free to share and build upon them, without fear of prosecution or demands for royalty. FAC should comprise those artists in the business of performing and recording music. It should not comprise artists interested in getting into the business of selling copies and broadcast privileges (that business is ending).

FAC’s customer is their audience, their fans. FAC’s customer is not one or more record labels.

Sell your live and studio performances, and the recordings thereof.

That’s as far as you can go.

You can’t sell copies of those performances or recordings without a monopoly that suspends the liberty of your audience to make such copies themselves. It is that 18th century suspension of liberty that is so unethical. The audience and artists among them have a fundamental, natural right to copy and build upon mankind’s culture. It is that right to copy that was suspended three centuries ago and granted as the exclusive privilege of the ‘copyright’ holder. So you should recognise that this right to copy does not belong to the musician, but to the individual, to the members of the audience, to the public, to everyone. Be careful before you start talking quite so possessively in terms of your copyrights.

Sell your recordings. Do not sell uncopyable copies.

You’ve sold your recordings to labels for years, so it’s not like you’re unfamiliar with the concept. Start selling them to your audience instead.

Treat your audience like your new record label. They will take care of A&R, promotion, reproduction, and distribution. That’s why the labels are squealing blue murder – because their customers for copies are now able to disintermediate them and make their own for nothing. However, that shouldn’t upset you because you’re not in the business of making and selling copies. You’re in the business of making and selling music, performances, recordings. Your paradigm shift is that you’re now selling to your audience directly instead of via a record label. But, critically, your audience can’t make your music instead of you. That’s why, unlike the labels, you’re not confronting the inevitable end of your business. So you don’t need a law to prohibit your audience making their own music instead of paying you for it. You certainly don’t need a law prohibiting your audience making and distributing copies. Heck, unlike record labels, your audience aren’t even charging you for that service.

So, what’s it going to be?

Is FAC going to stick to the business of making and selling music?

Or is FAC going to continue this nonsense of ‘educating’ their audience against making unauthorised copies?

What business is FAC in? Music or copies?

Billy Bragg replies:


Thanks for offering your opinion of the state of play. I have to tell you that I don’t agree.

For instance, you can’t tell me “That’s as far as you can go”, no more than I can tell you you can share these files but no more.It simply doesn’t work like that. Who knows what means I might have of finding a niche where I can sell my work directly to people willing to pay for it? I doubt the new models for doing business will be either/or.

Your stated position is that of a diehard P2P user. In some ways it echoes the comments that FAC get from diehard record industry executives. Both of you expect us to be on one side or the other and are quick to condemn if we don’t show the same dedication as you do. Well, Crosbie, I have to tell you that FAC aren’t one your side to that extent – neither are we on the side of the labels. We seek to represent the third component of this relationship, the voice of the artists. What we want to do, as you’ll see from our website, is to ensure that artists can continue to make a living doing what they love most – making music. I’m talking especially here of new artists. We see it as being in all our interests to open a dialogue between the various parts of the new digital industry. As a result we talk to labels – Big 4 mostly – and we talk to ISPs. We talk to the Musicians Union in the UK and to the songwriters and producers unions too. We have so far never been able to have an ongoing dialogue with the P2P community, which is why Jon’s initiative is so interesting. If we can start to build confidence in this process, I believe that we all will benefit from your input.

Billy, I’m not telling you “That’s as far as you can go” as an edict, but as friendly advice to inform you and others in FAC as to your natural limitations.

I’m trying to help you realise that you can only hope to sell that which people are interested in buying from you.

Of course, you can try and sell copies if you want to. You can even attempt to enforce your monopolies against those who would promote your music to their friends by making and distributing unauthorised copies. You can try to do that, but I don’t recommend it as a business to get into because it doesn’t have a future.

To say you cannot sell snow to Sami, or sand to Saharans, is not a forbidding, but business advice.

I’m trying to tell you in the nicest way possible that you can’t sell copies to your audience.

I vaguely recall there was some ludicrous legislation in a South American country a few years ago that made it illegal to collect rainwater in order to protect the revenues of the local water supply companies, but really, to think that legislation against copying is going to create you a market to sell copies, is something either a pre-schooler or a mafioso would come up with as a viable business model. When the heavies are the state, and only a very few printing press owners can make copies, then perhaps such a protection racket has a hope of working, but those days are over.

If you read my previous comment again, more carefully, you will realise that I’m in complete agreement with you that you can sell your work directly to your enthusiastic audience willing and able to pay for it. But you don’t seem to be able to read that in what I write. All you can see is that I’m telling you that you can’t sell copies of your work.

I neither represent artists nor audiences. I champion individuals and their natural rights, against the anachronistic privileges granted for the benefit of publishing corporations. We are all artists, and all members of audiences of the artists we appreciate. Artists are individuals, as is everyone in an artist’s audience, so I champion all, indistinguishably. All have the same rights. None have rights that others do not. We are all equals on this planet. It is the anachronistic privilege of copyright that interferes with that natural equality. It is that privilege that sets publisher against public, artist against audience, and that privilege that should be abolished.

However, that’s just my position. What is of concern here is the position of FAC and its members.

The choice I’ve suggested that faces you is not whose side you are on, but what business you are in.

Are you in the business of making music, selling compositions, songs, performances, and recordings, OR are you in the business of making and distributing monopoly protected copies and broadcasts thereof?

When you’ve decided what business you’re in, perhaps then it will be clearer to you whether you need to sue your customers for disrespecting your monopoly, or whether you should explore ways of selling your music to your audience instead of to record labels.

It’s one of those red pill/blue pill dichotomies. Bear in mind that the software industry is already well divided by such a schism, and those on each side regard the others as having an alien mindset. That’s how deep the paradigm shift goes.

Don’t write it off as ‘freeloaders wanting stuff for nothing’ – that’s pure propaganda. We’re talking free as in speech, not as in beer. This is the cultural liberty of an emancipated people, not an impoverished and culturally stagnant cultist commune.

So, have you made up your mind yet?

Music or copies?

Billy Bragg replies:


This two pill thing…. its not such a black and white issue. Many musicians do both and manage to make a living. I know it would make things much more easy for you if you could force me to chose between music or copies, but we’re going to have to be a little more open to debate if we want to create an environment in which P2P is recognised as a powerful promotional tool. That’s what I want from our discussions here. You interested?

Billy, I’m always interested in discussion of the issues and progress toward solutions, especially where solutions restore people’s liberty to share and build upon published works, and enable people to exchange their labour in a free market.

I daresay there are many who would like to portray this clash of perspectives as an encounter between artists trying to make a decent living and a den of thieves. It’s a little more fundamental than that. It’s a conflict between unnatural law that says that information can’t be copied and natural law that says it can. The outcome of that conflict is obvious to anyone familiar with the schism concerning geo vs heliocentricity.

What we’re left with is the problem of a lack of facilities that enable artists to exchange their work for the money of their audience. It’s a problem caused through the neglect of three centuries, a period in which no-one needed such facilities because of the reproduction monopoly known as copyright. Artists sold their work to printers, and printers sold copies that no-one else could legally produce. Copyright didn’t have to be legislated, but it was, and as a consequence the evolution of facilities for exchanges between artists and their audiences ground to a halt.

That’s why I’m trying to be upfront with you that this is the situation. We are all interested in how to buy and sell intellectual work in a world in which one can no longer sell copies at monopoly protected prices. If kids can make copies for nothing, you’re not going to be able to change that through holy fiat, education, or bandwidth squeezing, and so you’re not going to be able to sell them copies. Fortunately, kids can’t make your music (at least not without years of effort), so you can at least sell them that.

If this rapprochement is to discover how to stop kids file-sharing you’re barking up the wrong tree. If it’s to discover how to sell your music to your audience, well, come on up.

Odin Xenobuilder said 3391 days ago :

Their charter and other info is kinda vague, but they sure do seem to come across as pro-copyright. There is vague references about changing with the digital age but most of it seems to say “We want all the money because we don’t need the recording industry anymore”.

Seems like they are pushing for a step in the right direction though, usually small steps are how we get where we need to be. By reading their material, you would think they don’t get it though. I love the perspective you’ve put on it here.

Crosbie Fitch said 3391 days ago :

Thanks Odin. It’s those small steps that we should indeed look forward to, where artists move away from the mindset they’ve been programmed with by the labels (file-sharers are scum) and toward the realisation that it’s the label’s monopoly that’s the thief, not the members of their audience.

Billy Bragg is quite aware of the long tradition of folk music and how it became radically upended by copyright, with people scouring the countryside for folk music and songs precisely to claim the monopoly of copyright upon them. That is a theft of culture from the people.

What we have now is the people asserting their ownership of their own culture – in considerable conflict with the 18th century monopoly.

It is a pity it is so difficult for musicians to see that it is not their audience who are stealing their livelihoods, but the labels who are paying the musicians to steal their audience’s cultural liberty.

It’s going to be a long and fraught journey for artists and audiences to extricate themselves from the mess they’re in, but they’ll get there.

The audience pays the artist for their art, and the audience gets to keep their cultural liberty. That’s the way it’s been for millennia, and that’s the way it’s reverting to. We just have to put up with the embarrassment of a three century historical aberration in which someone thought it was a good idea to give printers a monopoly.

Maniquí said 3390 days ago :

Really interesting discussion, that touches both the theory and the practice on how the game is changing.

A few quick questions:

1. Couldn’t labels be seen as patronage? I would say “no”, as after funding the artist (and sound recorders, and etc) they pursue some economic benefit. But, hey, it’s about live and let live.

In other words, it’s seems (as for my current mindset) that it would be easier for artists to do their work if they are paid an amount of money in advance so they know they will be able to buy/get some food at the end of the day. Of course, that’s the kind of security that we all have been programmed to pursue (both by our genes and by corporations that play with our natural fears).

Even in this ages, when digital copy is so cheap (if not free), it looks more convenient/easier/realistic to have someone to patronage (and maybe, go a step beyond, profit from) an artist, so he is able to create his art, and then sell copies (yes, ideally without a copyright) of that work to the audience, than expecting the audience to donate/pay/fund/collect the amount of money an artist may want to get by his work to make a decent living.

I think I’ve grasped all the natural right vs artificial/forced suspension of copyright, but then, I ask again: isn’t it a matter of convenience?

Wouldn’t like to take this idea of natural vs un-natural too far, but then, it’s natural to be naked, it’s natural to, well, have sex on the outside, in front of other human beings, if you like it. But it looks there is a “convenience” on not being naked, or not doing nasty things in front of others. Well, at least, we are enforced on not to do so.

I’m using the word “convenience” too much. The question then is: “whose convenience”.

Again, we’ve been programmed to believe/accept a few things, that now, on a digital world which changed all drastically, seem to not make sense at all.
It seems we will have to break the spell.

2. Then, the question also is: is music (or art) something worth of money? is it something even worth of food?
Money is another convenience and another spell we should somewhat break.

Crosbie, thanks for the space and sorry for my english and the somehow loose points I tried to make :)

PD: while we are here talking about music, let me recommend Starstika (I’ve gladly pay them for their music). There is something on their lyrics that may be related to all this mindset changes we are pursuing.

Crosbie Fitch said 3390 days ago :

1. Couldn’t labels be seen as patronage?

Labels are 100% mercenary and sell their services to artists. They seduce them with an advance and then nothing further is provided until all costs (including the advance) are recouped. Predictably all the services the label charges the artist for are at very high mark-ups. Only the most wealthy independent artists would ever consider approaching a label for their services at the same price as they charge their contracted artists.

The only risk a label takes on an artist is failing to recover the advance and any other external costs of production and promotion (a risk they are careful to keep very low, and isn’t the same as the advance remaining unrecouped from the artist’s account – a highly probable eventuality).

Imagine a casino offering Tom Jones a $10,000 advance and a 1% royalty for singing each night on condition he pays the going rate to eat, drink and sleep in the casino hotel and the costs of booking the stage and paying the stage crew, until that advance is recouped. The casino could well recover that advance after the first night, but it may take Tom Jones a year before his advance is recouped and he starts receiving any of that 1% royalty on top. Of course, he could walk away at any time, but then his singing career would be over.

Here’s some reading for those who doubt things are quite as terrible as I imply:

The future for artists who recognise it’s about selling music, not copies, is in selling their work to their audience instead of the producers of copies (labels). So, yes, the audience becomes the artist’s patron, their true customer.

I think I’ve grasped all the natural right vs artificial/forced suspension of copyright, but then, I ask again: isn’t it a matter of convenience?

Natural rights are so called because they are the rights that people have naturally, through their natural ability and power. People have a natural ability to protect their lives, their private spaces and possessions, the truth of their actions, and their freedom of movement and speech unconstrained by the will of their fellows.

As individuals we only need that power that nature has given us. We do not need power over others, just as we do not need others to have power over us. An egalitarian government is supposed to only protect this natural power, and not to privilege anyone (or any legal entity) with any unnatural power over anyone else. Monopolies are quite inegalitarian, and have been recognised as such for centuries. Copyright and patent were enacted in an age when egalitarianism wasn’t particularly highly regarded.

The question then is: “whose convenience”.

Copyright was enacted for the crown’s convenience in controlling the press, and the press’s convenience in suppressing uncontrolled competition. It was never intended a means for individuals to control the press (as we see only too well here Edwyn Collins Can’t Give Away His Music ).

Then, the question also is: is music (or art) something worth of money?

Anything you don’t have is worth what you would pay for it. Anything you have or can produce is either worth what you’d sell it for, or what you could obtain for it in a free market. People tend to wait until the market value reaches or exceeds their sale value.

Things don’t otherwise have intrinsic monetary value. It is the moment of exchange when they do. It not the moment of delivery of work, but the moment when someone has agreed a price to pay for it in exchange, and the exchange occurs. We can estimate the market value of something, but that isn’t intrinsic monetary value.

Hard work does not represent intrinsic monetary value. Thus, no-one has a right to be paid for their work. What people have a right to is free exchange and the truth of those exchanges. Thus you agree what is to be exchanged, make the exchange, and given no deceit that is the end of the matter.

It is an attractive idea to be able to publish something and put a price upon it of your own choosing, and be able to prosecute anyone found in possession who did not pay for it, but that’s not a free market. Similarly, it’s attractive to some for a central committee to appraise published works, value them, and then reimburse the publisher from a fund collected through taxation – according to how widely distributed and performed their work is – but this also is not a free market.

In a free market the artist and their audience come to an agreement concerning the exchange of the audience’s money for the artist’s work, and then make the exchange. At the point of that exchange we find out how much the artist’s work is worth in monetary terms. But, remember, neither party is forced to make the exchange if they don’t consider it equitable – the exchange only occurs if both parties find it agreeable.

Making Both Ends Meet · Monday November 16, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

In Transformative Vs Incremental Change Steve Lawson produces a good summation of the crisis facing the recording industry, and why this isn’t a crisis for the artist, but an opportunity (one that publishing corporations do not want artists to take).

When you take an industry that has 4 big costs – recording, manufacture, distribution, promotion – and remove 3 of them, that changes everything.

Costs have been removed from the picture, but this only represents a loss in revenue to the publishing corporations – not to artists. Artists can now take advantage of this all being done for free – instead of signing to a label in order pay them their rates that were inflated in the first place.

Both ends were overcharged. The fan was overcharged for a copy, and the artist was overcharged for the label to produce, promote, distribute, and retail their art.

Now that the extortionate costs have been removed, what will happen when both ends meet directly?

Advertising is completely broken. Recording tech is better and cheaper than it has ever been, fans are more and more willing to talk about and share your music, and far more happy to buy physical product from you than from a third party. Website merch is easy to do, either in short run, big order or even one-offs.

The record industry before the internet was built on the assumption that to have a chance of making it ‘big’, you needed to have deep pockets to risk the kind of gambling collateral needed to have a shot at being in the 0.1% who ended up rich. The labels funded their gambling by owning the services they were charging you for, by keeping you in debt so they didn’t have to pay you, by keeping product prices artificially high, and by perpetuating myths about what it was that we all wanted and needed, as both artists and consumers.

Everything has changed. If you look at the current possibilities as an incremental change to the industry – that is, if you see the infrastructure as still being the same, and see MP3s as ‘invisible CDs’, you are truly truly screwed. It’s awful. That’s why the industry says ‘the sky is falling’. They aren’t willing to let go of that old infrastructure.

If you see the real changes, throw all the cards in the air, and realise that instead of hundreds of artists making millions of pounds, we can how have millions of artists making hundreds of pounds (and a straight, shallow line on the curve up from there), we’re all in good shape.

Ibutton77 said 3350 days ago :

I think the mechanism behind popular support for copyright that makes the pill you mention here hard to swallow is the old adage that you cannot punish the rich without punishing the dream of the common man.

Even the poor will defend the rich in many capitalistic endeavors, even when the endeavors are outdated or immoral and even when the poor are the ones carrying the litter. They expect they’ll get to ride it next, and many feel as though they deserve to step on the next generation for payback when they got stepped on by the last generation. It’s like fraternity hazing, and it gels people together in a way that is difficult to extricate rationally.

Just imagine smokers, for a moment. US culture has done a strangely successful job at ousting tobacco from the spotlight of fashion. But it was a tough road getting here. Smokers would band together and despise nonsmokers. I’ve heard of places of work where those who did not take smoke breaks with the crew were overlooked for promotions. The lesson I learn here is, “Those who do not share in my follies highlight my own folly”.. like the small child calling out the Emperor on his (lack of) new clothes.

This will be a difficult nut to crack for anyone who has already “inhaled” regarding intellectual property. People who have already invested in potential content monopoly by paying now to record that which they expect to make back later have heavy interest tied into their “back catalog”, which has speculative marketing value so long as you rape culture using copyright, but without copyright it becomes already-published material potentially available for free from anyone who already has a copy. All of that “value” the individual used to “own” and bled so much to create is now no longer fungible. Sure, new works can turn coin at first sale, but old works cannot flow through that turbine.

We need to help artists in positions such as this understand the marketing value of older works. Anyone who seeks to take early advantage of post-copyright business models should “convert” their back catalog from having monetary value into having marketing value.

Follow the example of Monty Python folks, and distribute your works online! Significant monetary value no longer exists in the materials which you have already released to the public. So sacrifice your vain hopes in said monetary value for real dividends in marketing value! :3

Sell Recordings, Not Copies · Monday January 04, 2010 by Crosbie Fitch

Dear recording artists, please at least consider the possibility of selling your recordings directly to your fans rather than to a record label, or worse, rather than trying to make and sell your own copies.

As yet, very few musicians have sold their recordings directly to their fans. There aren’t many facilities to do so either. You could certainly have a go tomorrow, but given a dearth of facilities and the unfamiliarity you and your fan base will have in purchasing or commissioning your recordings, at this stage you are as much likely to find it a damp squib as a roaring success.

There are two discrete situations in which one could sell a recording:

  1. You have already produced a recording, but have not yet released/published it. You are interested in your fans’ best offer in case it may be better than that of a record label.
  2. You are interested in producing a recording, and invite record labels and your fans to tender their offers of commission.

There is also a continuous process of selling one’s recordings:

  1. You regularly produce and release recordings to your audience by way of ‘priming the pump’. You invite your keenest fans to commission the release of subsequent recordings. The initial releases are thus promotional loss-leaders to build the fan base to a size where their subsequent commissions match and possibly exceed your costs of production.

In all cases 1-3, the purchaser of the recording effectively ends up with the right to make copies. If you sell a recording to a label, they get any copyright (the privilege that suspends everyone else’s liberty to reproduce it). If you sell a recording to your fan base, any copyright is neutralised (your fans’ and everyone else’s liberty to reproduce it is restored). Indeed, when selling recordings to your fans, copyright becomes a redundant nuisance to be disposed of, rather than a privilege to be sold to those unscrupulous labels who’d exploit it in their sale of copies.

At least when an artist sells a recording to their fans, they retain all their (natural) rights. When an artist sells a recording to a label the artist loses their liberty to make copies by transferring away the privilege that suspends it. When an artist sells a recording to their fans they retain their liberty to make copies because this is a consequence of neutralising rather than transferring their privilege of copyright. In other words, the artist is also a fan (their own fan) and so similarly enjoys the restoration of their liberty to share and build upon their own work.

The recording (as deliverable) comprises the digital master and all components thereof as would typically be expected by a record label. If sold to one’s fans, then at the point of exchange this must be supplied or made available to the purchaser (one’s fans), e.g. as FLAC files via BitTorrent. Anyone (including the recording producer) can then sell material copies (media and delivery costs) in instances where such delivery of the recording is preferred, e.g. on DVD-ROM.

In the other direction, the sale price that the artist agrees is equitable in exchange for the recording (say $10,000) is provided from each fan (say $10 from each of 1,000) and delivered to the artist (or the company representing all those involved in the production of the recording). Typically, each fan will pay the same amount, but some schemes may involve variations.

There are umpteen other issues, but I’ll keep things brief.

This is not an investment in the artist, but the sale of a recording. The fans get the recording they want. The artist gets the money they want. Moreover, everyone gets their liberty restored.

In terms of facilities that exist today, one could attempt to shoehorn eBay’s Dutch auction to sell 1,000 ‘shares’ in a recording – if you reckon you’d easily sell out and the minimum bid price was around $10 (if you hoped for at least $10k). This also has to pass eBay’s scrutiny as the sort of auction it’s happy to see (doubtful).

Alternatively you could try Kickstarter. See Pros and Cons of the Kickstarter Model by Kristen Strezo. For background reading see 1,000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly and my article Selling Music Recordings.

Predictably, the more artists that start selling their recordings to their fans, the more facilities will be developed, and the more familiar fans will be with this means of encouraging their favourite artists to produce recordings for them.

However, it is important to note that ‘more facilities’ means ‘less overhead’. The more facilities there are to enable artists to sell their recordings to their fans, the more competition there is to provide artists with more efficient service at ever lower prices. Contrast that with a single taxation and disbursement administration that has every incentive to ratchet up the costs and overheads of its inefficient and uncompetitive service.

As we should learn from history, privileged cartels and government backed central services are the entities to establish ONLY if you want less rather than more of your fans’ money.

So, cut out the middleman! Or at least ensure that there’s a highly competitive environment such that any middlemen have to be extremely fit, lean and cost conscious if they expect you to use them in selling your recordings to your fans. If you create a tax instead, you’re creating one humongous Jabba the Hutt and very little prospect of seeing much more than a tiny trickle of treasure leak from its greedy clutches.

This article is based on this comment in my discussion with Indiana Gregg at a2f2a.com

mark pombo said 2479 days ago :

How is this different from selling your own cd’s or mp3’s to your fans? It seems more straight forward to just copyright your own work and distibute it yourself…

Crosbie Fitch said 2479 days ago :

These days, it is actually more straightforward to let your fans copy and distribute your work. Why appoint a record label to do this under copyright at great expense (not least the litigious threat to your fans)?

With distribution catered for, all that’s left is to invite your fans to commission your next piece of work. Why let a record label take 99% or more of your fans’ money simply to avoid the hassle of making a deal yourself?




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