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.