1. Content
  2. Index
  3. Search
  4. RSS/Subscribe

Publishers were expert at selling copies - not intellectual work · Saturday May 08, 2010 by Crosbie Fitch

Jason K to Dennis on Michael Geist’s Blog

“The people representing industry who want to stomp out P2P file sharing and to whom creators are listening to in reality have gotten several opportunities around the globe to do so, and it hasn’t extracted any value for content owners, nor deterred the use of these programs.

Creators like yourself are so naive to believe that law will solve your problems, when the past 10 years you guys are still eating Kraft Dinner, because the multi-nationals are not interested in seeking a pay raise for content creators, they have a fetish right now to control the uncontrollable. It has NOTHING to do with compensating creators, nothing to do with right or wrong.

There have been several positions open up on the table to help extract IP value from the digital marketplace in the form of monetization, but that has been flatly rejected by the multi-nationals, which means money for creators in the current system is being TURNED DOWN by these groups because of their fetish for control.”

NB I made a copy of Jason’s good work, but I didn’t steal it.

Publishers aren’t interested in developing business models that pay intellectual workers for their intellectual work, because they’ve never been interested in paying intellectual workers anything except as little as possible. Moreover, they know exactly how to pay intellectual workers. They’ve been doing it for centuries.

What they aren’t in the business of is selling intellectual work. No, they’re 100% focussed on selling copies and controlling the distribution channels by which intellectual work is received by those who want to receive it.

The problem is, for them, that market is over. One can no longer sell copies or control distribution channels – though they’re still trying (making the laws ever more draconian, qv ACTA).

The publishers don’t give a damn about helping the intellectual worker sell their work because they’re not in that business. They’re certainly not interested in figuring out how to help the intellectual worker sell their work direct to those who want to receive it as that removes the publisher out of the value chain (along with their 99% cut), which would be madness.

So, the intellectual worker of today has to leave the publisher to pursue their folly of trying to sell copies to people who can make their own copies for nothing (selling snow to Sámi).

The intellectual worker now has the problem of how to sell their intellectual work to those who want to receive it. And those who want to receive it have the problem of how to commission their favourite intellectual workers to produce it.

I’m labouring the distinction between intellectual work and copies because too many people still think they’re one and the same (indeed, are hypnotised to believe that). The market for copies has ended (as the more astute publishers might one day realise). However, that doesn’t mean the market for intellectual work has ended. People still want novels and movies produced even if PDF and MPEG copies of them cost nothing to make. It is thus the intellectual work that is valuable – not the copy, and persisting in this popular petulance that the law must make it otherwise is unbecoming of any intellectual worker worthy of the term.

So, publishers, gone! Defunct. Dead as dinosaurs. Let’s hear nothing more about them. They are irrelevant to the imperative we face.

And that mission, for those willing to move beyond complaint to developing a solution, is to explore how intellectual workers and those who want to receive their work, can exchange that work for money. After all, this is the foundation of all commerce. It’s all about voluntary and equitable exchange.

Unfortunately, whilst I could tell you the solution now, there is a perverse, inverse relationship between the severity of a problem and the likelihood that whoever professes to have a solution will be found credible instead of being considered a charlatan. But I’ll give a URL anyway: contingencymarket.com (and again, perversely, there is pressure against making this a hyperlink).

Suffice it to say, the answer is in the question. If the question is “How does an intellectual worker exchange their intellectual work for the money of those who want to receive it, at a price both agree on, and without threat or coercion?” then the answer is “Via an exchange – via a mechanism that facilitates the exchange of intellectual work for money between a producer and many customers”.

The sale of copies is irrelevant. The very idea of selling copies is an 18th century anachronism (along with the 18th century privilege of a reproduction monopoly we call copyright).

The market for copies has ended. The market for intellectual work continues unabated.

Concluding Copyright is Essential · Monday May 17, 2010 by Crosbie Fitch

Unlike many, Bill Rosenblatt has graciously tolerated my engagement with him in a conversation concerning copyright. At the time of writing, his and my comments still appear beneath his Copyright and Technology blog article entitled “William Patry’s War on Copyright”.

Selling Music - NOT Copies · Wednesday July 21, 2010 by Crosbie Fitch

I’m blue in the face through saying it (again), but a musician is in the business of selling their music – NOT copies.

Copies were once expensive, and were traditionally sold by privileged entities termed ‘publishers’ (distributors of ‘content’ to the public via the sale of copies at monopoly protected prices, and masters of indentured artists).

Today and tomorrow, the self-emancipated musician, who has been warned against signing their soul away to a record label, sells their work directly to their fans. They no longer sell their music to the label, and they certainly don’t mass produce/distribute/retail copies – though, yes, the inertia of tradition keeps this quaint affectation going. And even for musicians to manufacture and sell their own copies is a bit of a challenge as Zygo wryly observes in Music: You’re Doing It Wrong

However, selling CDs is not selling music. It’s only copyright that makes that conflation of music with the copy.

In some accord with the form of Zygo’s article, here’s the sequence of steps that musicians interested in selling their music will go through:

  1. Invite your fans to pay you to compose/perform/record music
  2. Compose/perform/record music and deliver to paying fans
  3. Get paid (in proportion to number of fans)
  4. Indiscriminately distribute some or all of this music to file-sharing sites, etc.
  5. Having obtained more fans, goto 1.

Of course, there may well be no fans in the first iteration, music being produced as a promotional loss leader, but the general sequence is Demand->Supply->Exchange->Promotion.

Note in these steps that the musician does not get into the business of selling copies of their music on little plastic discs. Fans and anyone else can do that themselves if they want to (the musician should have delivered FLAC files to their paying fans, who taking on the role of the label get the masters they’ve paid for). Remember, there is no copyright. Copies cost nothing to make and people give them away for nothing. Yes, ok, the musician can still sell copies if they really must. Perhaps autographed, limited edition vinyl picture discs. Whatever floats your boat.

But, let’s get this straight: to sell music you exchange delivery of your music for the money of your fans who want you to produce it. It’s the music that’s valuable. The copies should be given away – especially if they don’t cost anything.

Others are 'Eliminating the Impossible' too · Monday October 25, 2010 by Crosbie Fitch

Just as we are getting to grips with hyperlinking or streaming as a means of ‘sharing’ published works without daring to permanently copy them (risking copyright litigation), some authors are taking it upon themselves to copy their blog articles across the web (or are encouraging others to do so). I’m sure we’ll figure it all out eventually, when it’s appropriate to copy, link, or stream, and to do so without persuasion from an 18th century privilege.

So, as Eric Hellman’s article Bounty Markets for Open-Access eBooks has been copied into at least two other blogs, Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom and TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home, I won’t copy it here. Pick a link!

When you have recognised that a monopoly in making and distributing copies of intellectual works is impossible (let alone unethical) in this information age, you must eliminate copyright from any role in the future of business models concerning the exchange of intellectual work. What’s left, however preposterous or incredible, must be the truth.

If you cannot sell copies, you must sell the intellectual work. It is obviously the latter work that is expensive and valuable, and the former that can be done with negligible skill, materials, and expense. What’s so amazing is the indoctrination that makes people insist the opposite, that artists should give their work to publishers for nothing, but the prospect of a royalty on sale of copies that all bar the publisher are prohibited from making. A royalty that often fails to materialise despite colossal monopoly profits ending up in publishers’ creatively accounted coffers (until the inertia of the monopoly is inexorably exhausted).

Forget the anachronism of the traditional 18th century publisher, a hangover from Queen Anne’s Stationers’ Company. It’s time to shift one’s paradigm to a more ethical relationship, one between artist and audience, that recognises that he who does the work should be paid the free market rate. Those fans who want the artist’s work pay the artist for it – at a price both agree on. The audience pay for the communications infrastructure and reproduction machinery that copies and distributes all artists’ work. What other work is left to pay for? Or are we supposed to keep publishing corporations forever in the lifestyle to which they would remain accustomed? Is copyright truly sacred?

Eric Hellman stands to cross the Rubicon, to shift paradigms from business based upon the unethical privilege of a reproduction monopoly in copies to a business based upon free market exchange of intellectual work. Perhaps you’ll join him?

Eric Hellman said 3735 days ago :

Thanks for making me aware of “Contingency Markets”. But when Julius Caesar and his legion crossed the Rubicon, he broke the law of imperium and made war inevitable. That’s not what I’m doing. First of all, by creating a Bounty Market for ebooks I’m would not be breaking any law. I’m not interested in war, either, I think of it as constructing new social practice to replace in part an incumbent system fracturing from deep internal contradictions. Hope that still seems worth joining!

Eric Hellman said 3735 days ago :

Should also note that TeleRead republished after asking my permission, C4SIF didn’t. I think that’s really rude.

Crosbie Fitch said 3734 days ago :

Eric, thank you for making others aware that it is possible to exchange intellectual work for good money without a state granted monopoly.

As to war, you may not have noticed the pirates on the digitally diffused seas, the many bankruptcies and imprisonments of impudent music and movie sharers, but we are in the midst of a cultural, civil cyberwar. War is already upon us!

When an impossible monopoly exhibits exhaustion even with suspended disbelief, then necessity mothers the invention of an alternative exchange mechanism. The sooner bounty markets, threshold pledge systems, crowdfunding mechanisms, and micropatronage facilities are developed, the sooner the copyright wars can end.

By ‘cross the Rubicon’, I meant that once your eyes are fully open to the extreme anachronism of an 18th century privilege against copying being enforced in the information age of our 21st century, and once you realise you need no longer cling to copyright (as if to the edge of a shipwrecked hull mere feet above the beach) because there is an alternative, then you let go – and there’s no going back! Having resolved ‘deep internal contradictions’ you have joined the culturally liberated ‘enemy’. You cannot unlearn such enlightenment.

Those who commit the thought crime of recognising the invalidity and injustice of immortal corporations and their amassed privilege have effectively broken imperium. Others cross the Rubicon almost every day: 23rd Oct The Golems of Wall Street and 25th Oct Jurassic Ballot: When Corporations Ruled the Earth. The inevitable war between immortal corporations and mortal human beings is engaged, at least in the hearts and minds of those who possess them.

Crosbie Fitch said 3734 days ago :

Eric, as for republication, it is the copyright inculcated permission culture that instils adherence to the press tradition of seeking a (self-)publisher’s permission prior to any promotion of an author or their work. Really, you should remove all possible obstacles to your work being disseminated as widely and as rapidly as possible.

Ask Nina Paley. She finds that even Creative Commons is developing an intrinsic “Share, unless there’s the slightest chance of commercial use occurring” connotation (which creates a decision cost and thus “don’t share” is the safe default). Cory Doctorow even goes so far as to say “Asking permission to use a CC-licensed work isn’t polite, it’s rude – adds work to the creator’s day, undermines the value of CC”.

What is far more important is to ensure that your work is not plagiarised, that it is not misattributed to another – even unwittingly or by implication. I’d say you have some grievance against C4SIF because it appears in the RSS feed and on the web site that your article is attributed to Stephan Kinsella. Bloggers should either butt out and publish an article as by its original author, or should (under a different title) introduce and blockquote the article. As you can see from my comment there, it wasn’t clear to me even then who was posting it or when.

Eric Hellman said 3734 days ago :

Note that in its republication, C4SIF added a license claim onto the post that wasn’t there in the original. That goes well beyond the sort of “use” that Cory Doctorow talks about. And I agree with you about the confusing attribution.

Crosbie Fitch said 3734 days ago :

Eric, do you mean the CC-BY license at the foot of the web page? That could only license the copyright held by the site. It can’t claim that all work published on the site is similarly licensed.

drew Roberts said 3732 days ago :

“Why not let people sponsor any and every book they cared about?”

I think this idea might have legs and might add interesting twists for the short term for the purpose spoken of.



Crosbie Fitch said 3732 days ago :

Drew, yup, sounds like a good idea to me. Amazingly, quidbooks.com is still available! So you could use the ContingencyMarket.com to create a web facility that enabled any author’s devoted readers to sponsor the production of their next book @ £1. If you have at least 10,000 readers it might be quite lucrative. (Probably more likely for the second novel than the first.)

drew Roberts said 3732 days ago :


that could play too but I was particularly speaking of paying authors of existing books that you like to put them under a Free license such as the Creative Commons BY-SA license.

This might be difficult depending on what agreements they have signed and with whom.

No reason a site could not do both though.

Crosbie Fitch said 3732 days ago :

This idea of selling the public’s liberty back to it is the sort of thing LiberateIP.com and SellYourRights.com were into.

Of course, ethically, liberty should be restored on principle, not on payment.

drew Roberts said 3731 days ago :

It might get some people thinking and open some eyes though.

I mean, if you can sell the liberty after the fact it should be obvious that you can make the deal before the fact.

Plus, it might build some momentum.

Crosbie Fitch said 3731 days ago :

That’s a good point Drew, but it could risk inadvertently entrenching the idea that copyright was good/necessary – just as some people think the GPL demonstrates that copyright is necessary.

I’m reminded of the Broken Window Fallacy, that suspending people’s cultural liberty spurs them to pay for that which they might otherwise take for granted (as if that was justification).

But hey, although I’m focused on non-copyright revenue mechanisms, I’d not stop others using the Contingency Market to explore interim mechanisms that provide financial persuasion for copyright holders to liberate their audience – where ethical arguments are insufficiently persuasive. Record labels could find this a viable way of realising the value of their back-catalogue – before it’s too late.

Hollywood Accounting Hoodwinks All · Saturday August 27, 2011 by Crosbie Fitch

I’m amused by Stephan Kinsella’s posting of MPAA Copyright & Content “Theft” Propaganda that should remind us just how easily many people are hoodwinked into believing that monopoly based industries are highly ‘productive’.

Let’s imagine a country with a billion people, and a movie industry that produces a blockbuster movie for $1b in ‘movie production costs’, and prices it at a bargain price of $10 per copy.

To prevent copyright infringement hurting this highly productive industry, the government nationalises the Internet and freely distributes a copy of this movie to everyone, but deducts its $10 price via taxation. That means the movie industry has an ‘economic output’ of $9b ($10b revenue minus $1b costs).

Whereas, relying upon normal retail channels and good citizens to abstain from illicit file sharing, the movie industry is likely to have lost say $3b through infringement, leaving it with only $6b ‘economic output’.

Of course, anyone with any grasp of economics can readily translate ‘economic output’ as ‘revenue via extortion’, and ‘movie production costs’ as ‘costs at monopoly inflated pricing’.

Many people who propose ‘solving piracy’ with compulsory licensing schemes funded via ISP levies are unwittingly proposing such a scam (some wittingly), i.e. to solve copyright infringement by charging people a mulct via their ISP, and disbursing it back to ‘creators’ (copyright holding corporations) according to the popularity of the work.

Profits achieved via mulct or state granted monopolies are not benign profits such as may be achieved in a free market, but wholesale theft from the people.

In a free market (without monopoly), many movie production companies compete for the money of prospective viewers, i.e. haggling. The result is that there are modest profits, and actual/non-fabricated production costs drastically shrink to uninflated prices. In other words, your $1b blockbuster ends up costing $1m and is paid for by 100,000 fans subscribing at $10 each, and not being subject to copyright there are no reproduction/distribution/retail costs the producer can hide their ‘profits’ in.

Say goodbye to Queen Anne’s 18th century business model of extortion, and let us revert to the free market, as old as it is new. GOTO VODO for a glimpse of a new movie industry based on ancient, free market principles. Pay the artist for their work, not the monopolist for their copies.

drew Roberts said 3426 days ago :

VODO does not seem to be a pay before release site. (Well, at least not in the main.)

all the best,





Recent Articles

Recent Comments



Natural Right

Legal Rights






Being Privy


Personal Data





Moral Rights







Freedom of Speech

Freedom vs Liberty

Official Secrets Act













US Constitution

'exclusive right'












No Rights






Amnesty International

Copyleft (Wikipedia)

Electronic Frontier

Free Culture F'n

Free Culture UK

Free S/w Foundation


Against Monopoly

One Small Voice



Question Copyright







Downhill Battle

Publishers vs Public


Rethinking Copyright


Against Monopoly

Ecstasy of Influence

Libertarian Case



Janet Hawtin

Nina Paley

Rob Myers

Scott Carpenter