Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

What Makes Something "Better Than Free"?

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the better-than-better-than-ezra dept.

The Internet 184

Stanislav_J writes "In a very thought-provoking essay entitled 'Better Than Free' Kevin Kelly, Senior Maverick at Wired, probes the question of how thoughts, ideas and words that are so constantly, easily, and casually copied can still have economic value. 'If reproductions of our best efforts are free,' he asks, 'how can we keep going? To put it simply, how does one make money selling free copies?' He enumerates and explains eight qualities that can, indeed, make something financially viable — 'better than free.' A very timely article in light of the constant discussion of RIAA/piracy/copyright issues."

cancel ×

184 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

chocolate (4, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444134)

nuff said

Re:chocolate (1)

iamthetru7h (782302) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444488)

if it don't come with either beer or bacon and is 'free' it's just not 'merican'

Re:chocolate (1)

mrxak (727974) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444542)

Better than free is getting paid to do or get something you want.

was actually performed by ... ? (1, Insightful)

opencity (582224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444146)

Do people actually make imitation Grateful Dead live tapes? Some bar band (or Phish?!?) and claim it's the Dead? The mind boggles.

All of the points make sense but he doesn't address that, while he is describing value, it many cases it is valued much less measured in dollars (OK, Euros) than previous, say 20th century, media value. Sure you'll pay for the immediate delivery, I do with iTunes, but I almost never buy the whole album/disk/collection. Personalization is fine in the future but where is the great employment engine in the here and now? While media is worth a lot less money, real estate, food and energy will only continue to rise. Can 21st century media provide anywhere near the level of employment that 20 century media did? That sure is a lot of adsense.

Re:was actually performed by ... ? (2, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444408)

Do people actually make imitation Grateful Dead live tapes? Some bar band (or Phish?!?) and claim it's the Dead?

A lot of files on P2P networks are mislabeled. You'll see a file going around titled "Cocteau Twins - The Thinner the Air (Massive Attack remix)" which Massive Attack didn't actually have anything to do with (probably just some teenager adding beats onto the song with his home computer).

In the print publishing world, however, deceptive labeling is common. Think about the $2 "Webster's Dictionaries" you can get at a supermarket. They are paperbacks often printed on newsprint and haven't been updated in decades. Not an appealing product, but the presence of the freely usable term "Webster's" gives them a shine of reputability. However, the real standard American English abridged dictionary is something like Meriam-Webster's Collegiate [amazon.com] and people might want to spend a little more if they know they are getting the right thing.

Re:was actually performed by ... ? (2, Insightful)

NewAndFresh (1238204) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444724)

Do people actually make imitation Grateful Dead live tapes? Some bar band (or Phish?!?) and claim it's the Dead? The mind boggles.
You have a point about the article, but I think you're harping on a tiny detail. (Although I have downloaded plenty of mislabeled music -which is probably the point he was trying to make)

All of the points make sense but he doesn't address that, while he is describing value, it many cases it is valued much less measured in dollars (OK, Euros) than previous, say 20th century, media value.
Yeah, but you can't go back in time.

Sure you'll pay for the immediate delivery, I do with iTunes, but I almost never buy the whole album/disk/collection
You paid something. (which I think is the point)

Personalization is fine in the future but where is the great employment engine in the here and now? While media is worth a lot less money, real estate, food and energy will only continue to rise. Can 21st century media provide anywhere near the level of employment that 20 century media did? That sure is a lot of adsense.
It turns out that most artists actually profit from piracy. http://torrentfreak.com/why-most-artists-profit-from-piracy/ [torrentfreak.com]
And if you mean the industry, well think of how the icemen felt when the refrigerator was invented?

Re:was actually performed by ... ? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22445328)

I used to spend $1000+ per year on CDs and DVDs, until I discovered The Pirate Bay. Now I pay nothing. I can easily afford to pay the money, but I choose not to, because why should I pay for something that other people (who don't work as hard as I do) can get for free?

I don't begrudge paying the artists, but I DO begrudge being the only sucker who does.

I am the future, and I'll keep on doing it until it becomes too difficult or risky to bother.

Re:was actually performed by ... ? (1)

dmitri3 (1101095) | more than 6 years ago | (#22446404)

The fact that you're doing what the crowd is doing doesn't mean you're any better, just worse. Oh, so you're afraid to be a sucker? To be left out of the cool community? Well, you're doing it wrong! The point of downloading music, is that if you like it afterwards, you will go to the group's concert or donate directly to the artist, so as to avoid 80%-90% of revenue going to some major label. Don't tell that all people who download are leechers.

Re:was actually performed by ... ? (1)

Foobar of Borg (690622) | more than 6 years ago | (#22445984)

And if you mean the industry, well think of how the icemen felt when the refrigerator was invented?
Now, if they only had a large representative organization (say, the Ice Kooler Executives of America), then they could sue all the "ice pirates" for making ice so easily available to everyone and demand compensation and punitive damages to make sure they never do that again.

centralization is an anomaly (3, Interesting)

Joseph_Daniel_Zukige (807773) | more than 6 years ago | (#22445368)

and the interesting thing is that the author seems to be aware of that fact. (But maybe not of how it impacts his current thesis.)

Anyway, yeah, 20th century media provided an awful lot of nominal employment, but the jury is still out on how much value they provided. Kind of like Microsoft provided an awful lot of software, but the jury is now reporting on how much real work that software actually did/does. You can sell snake oil for a while, but eventually you find that you have polluted your own market.

But the thing is, when you can get a copy of any manufactured good you want dirt cheap, what good is money? Money is our proxy for value. If nothing has value, how can any proxy function? So, people who believe that value is generated by rarity will look for things that are rare, and this guy found several things that are rare even when everything tangible is copiable.

He kind of alludes to the fact that these eight things have been the actual source of value all along. But he seems to ignore that they all point back the way we have come -- back away from WalMart, back away from centralization. And when you step back away from centralization, you realize, we don't need need any big provider of employment.

All we needed was communication, and the people we were entrusting our communication (not the telephone company, although they did sometimes try) have, for the most part, held our communication for ransom.

We don't need big farming, either. (Nothing sucks the nutrition out of a crop faster than mass producing it.) We can actually produce sufficient food if we produce it locally, in most places. If we can keep unrestrained communication networks, we can produce our own food in the morning, be doctors, scientists, artisans, technicians, teachers, etc., in the afternoon, and philosophers in the evenings. Kind of like what Marx said, but not with the revolutions he assumed were necessary. (Not sure which way is bloodier, but that's a rant for another day.)

And we no longer need the proxy. If my neighbor gets sick, I and some other neighbors go answer his need without insurance money, just because we know that, when he's well, he will be making desks and cabinets and such in his afternoons. If I need a certain kind of desk, I go visit that neighbor (after he's well) and we draw out some plans, and he helps me work out the parts I don't know how to do.

When we can communicate about real value (because no one is holding things for ransom anymore), we no longer need the proxy. And we know longer need others to employee us or be employed by us.

Re:centralization is an anomaly (2, Insightful)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 6 years ago | (#22445884)

For just one thing out of many possibilities, money is a safeguard against waste. Many people are already slobs, as a walk down many busy roads will demonstrate. With a requirement that things be paid for, people are less likely to discard things for trivial reasons. (My car ran out of gas. I'll get a new one.) Some people enjoy destroying things. If they have to pay for the things they destroy, they are less likely to destroy things.

Not all things are manufactured. People pay money for live performances.

On a more fundamental basis, you have attempted to destroy the word "value". Value has 2 generally accepted meanings.

  • A desire. If I want something, I value it.
  • A useful thing. Hammers are of value for driving nails into wood.
Neither of these aspects will go away as long as people live and act. Money, as a fungible and divisible system for quantifying and trading value, will not disappear.

Big projects are facilitated with money. Try building a vacation cruise ship with voluntary labor, donated materials, and no accounting system. It isn't going to happen.

Even your example of a sick neighbor falls apart quickly. Highly skilled brain surgeons are rare. If your sick neighbor needs one, and it's 300 miles to the nearest one of a good enough skill level, the surgeon is unlikely to perform his valued function for free. Occasionally maybe, but always? Why should he bother?

Re:was actually performed by ... ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22445814)

and claim it's the Dead?

It's not Dead until Netcraft confirms it.

I know! (1)

Frogbert (589961) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444158)

Something that is not only free but comes with a complementary reach-around.

Simple (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444184)

A price. That cannot be avoided (ie piracy kills the value of objects and ideas).

Wait you probably think I'm joking, but I'm not. How do people think about value ? Well simple, they think in terms of opportunity costs. All other value estimates are derivatives of this basic principle. That it generates jealousy for example, is a good thing. In 1905 a car that went 40 km/h was an object that had no equal in value. In 2005 a car that goes 120 is worth basically nothing (what ... a 10-year old one that does this goes for ... $500 ?)

Re:Simple (4, Interesting)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22445036)

A price. That cannot be avoided (ie piracy kills the value of objects and ideas).

Artists have been making work for centuries without often being compensated for their work and many eventually dying in abject poverty only to be recognized for their talents years after their deaths.

One could argue that if one could not make money off of art then only those really interested creating art "for the sake of art" would be doing so. If copyrights went away tomorrow, there would still be musicians playing on the street corner, photographers taking pictures, painters making paintings, and writers writer stories. Now granted there will be a lot less of them, but people still desire to create work for the reward in itself rather than a monetary return. That may be a good thing or bad things depending on how you view it but I think aesthetics will enjoy the fact corporations are no longer actively creating art and the average joe will probaly not like it because no one is making art he likes anymore.

Personally, I think the ideal solution was how things were back in the middle ages. If you wanted art, you commissioned someone to do it. If no one is willing to commission it then either you give away your works for free or don't make them. The key problem with the current system is that it derives art for profit which is sometimes shallow at best due to the fact its creating something to be consumed rather than observed as art. (Damn I sound like a turtle neck art snob with a glass of wine complaining about the sad state of affairs at the New York Art gallery, but I hope you get my point)

One more way. (4, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 6 years ago | (#22445150)

vertinox, of course I agree with your assessment.

I have been using for a year now a "commission" model to make a living off of my music. Besides the more "traditional" methods of earning money as a musician and composer, I create one-of-a-kind works on commission. After an interview and rather extensive set of conversations, I create from 20-50 minutes of music and then give the work completely to the patron, no rights reserved. They could copy it and sell it if they want, but I never will. They could even put their own name on it if they want, but I warn them it will probably decrease its value (unless their name is Bono). So far, nobody has taken that route, though.

Oh, I also charge for this work on a sliding scale, based upon income and political orientation (I require proof of income, too). The prices have ranged from the cost of an evening out for two at the movies to 5 figures. It's sort of like the way the fine artists have always worked, and when I figure in my time and expenses, my price-per-hour is about the same as a low to mid-level painter or sculptor (but I'm just getting started).

As you say, if copyright went away tomorrow, there would still me music, books, even movies. Also, there will still be artists making a living at it, and in new and interesting ways. Creative people are supposed to be innovators, so why shouldn't that extend to the ways they monetize their efforts?

Ultimately, the price is less important than the value, to me. As long as I can continue to do what I love, what I have to do, I'm happy.

yes its possible (1, Funny)

doyoulikegoatseeee (930088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444194)

with ANTI-currency

Re:yes its possible (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444232)

yes its possible (Score:-1)
Looks like someone just gave you an ANTI-score :)

A COPY of an original article. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22444200)

This super-distribution system has become the foundation of our economy and wealth. The instant reduplication of data, ideas, and media underpins all the major economic sectors in our economy, particularly those involved with exports -- that is, those industries where the US has a competitive advantage. Our wealth sits upon a very large device that copies promiscuously and constantly.

BETTER THAN FREE [2.5.08]
By Kevin Kelly

Introduction

"I am still writing my next book which is about what technology wants," writes Kevin Kelly. "I'm posting my thoughts in-progress on The Technium, a semi-blog." Kelly is one of the three sages that I consult with regularly editorial matters pertaining to Edge. The other two members of the hitherto ultra-secretive "Council of Elders" are Stewart Brand and George Dyson. Here, he invites the Edge community to look over his shoulder and provide feedback on his latest thoughts.

--JB

KEVIN KELLY is Senior Maverick at Wired magazine. He helped launch Wired in 1993, and served as its Executive Editor until January 1999. He is currently editor and publisher of the popular Technium, Cool Tools, True Film, and Street Use websites. He is the author fo Out of Control.

Kevin Kelly''s Edge Bio Page

Better Than Free

The internet is a copy machine. At its most foundational level, it copies every action, every character, every thought we make while we ride upon it. In order to send a message from one corner of the internet to another, the protocols of communication demand that the whole message be copied along the way several times. IT companies make a lot of money selling equipment that facilitates this ceaseless copying. Every bit of data ever produced on any computer is copied somewhere. The digital economy is thus run on a river of copies. Unlike the mass-produced reproductions of the machine age, these copies are not just cheap, they are free.

Our digital communication network has been engineered so that copies flow with as little friction as possible. Indeed, copies flow so freely we could think of the internet as a super-distribution system, where once a copy is introduced it will continue to flow through the network forever, much like electricity in a superconductive wire. We see evidence of this in real life. Once anything that can be copied is brought into contact with internet, it will be copied, and those copies never leave. Even a dog knows you can't erase something once its flowed on the internet.

This super-distribution system has become the foundation of our economy and wealth. The instant reduplication of data, ideas, and media underpins all the major economic sectors in our economy, particularly those involved with exports -- that is, those industries where the US has a competitive advantage. Our wealth sits upon a very large device that copies promiscuously and constantly.

Yet the previous round of wealth in this economy was built on selling precious copies, so the free flow of free copies tends to undermine the established order. If reproductions of our best efforts are free, how can we keep going? To put it simply, how does one make money selling free copies?

I have an answer. The simplest way I can put it is thus:

When copies are super abundant, they become worthless.
When copies are super abundant, stuff which can't be copied becomes scarce and valuable.

When copies are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied.

Well, what can't be copied?

There are a number of qualities that can't be copied. Consider "trust." Trust cannot be copied. You can't purchase it. Trust must be earned, over time. It cannot be downloaded. Or faked. Or counterfeited (at least for long). If everything else is equal, you'll always prefer to deal with someone you can trust. So trust is an intangible that has increasing value in a copy saturated world.

There are a number of other qualities similar to trust that are difficult to copy, and thus become valuable in this network economy. I think the best way to examine them is not from the eye of the producer, manufacturer, or creator, but from the eye of the user. We can start with a simple user question: why would we ever pay for anything that we could get for free? When anyone buys a version of something they could get for free, what are they purchasing?

From my study of the network economy I see roughly eight categories of intangible value that we buy when we pay for something that could be free.

In a real sense, these are eight things that are better than free. Eight uncopyable values. I call them "generatives." A generative value is a quality or attribute that must be generated, grown, cultivated, nurtured. A generative thing can not be copied, cloned, faked, replicated, counterfeited, or reproduced. It is generated uniquely, in place, over time. In the digital arena, generative qualities add value to free copies, and therefore are something that can be sold.

Eight Generatives Better Than Free

Immediacy -- Sooner or later you can find a free copy of whatever you want, but getting a copy delivered to your inbox the moment it is released -- or even better, produced -- by its creators is a generative asset. Many people go to movie theaters to see films on the opening night, where they will pay a hefty price to see a film that later will be available for free, or almost free, via rental or download. Hardcover books command a premium for their immediacy, disguised as a harder cover. First in line often commands an extra price for the same good. As a sellable quality, immediacy has many levels, including access to beta versions. Fans are brought into the generative process itself. Beta versions are often de-valued because they are incomplete, but they also possess generative qualities that can be sold. Immediacy is a relative term, which is why it is generative. It has to fit with the product and the audience. A blog has a different sense of time than a movie, or a car. But immediacy can be found in any media.

Personalization -- A generic version of a concert recording may be free, but if you want a copy that has been tweaked to sound perfect in your particular living room -- as if it were preformed in your room -- you may be willing to pay a lot. The free copy of a book can be custom edited by the publishers to reflect your own previous reading background. A free movie you buy may be cut to reflect the rating you desire (no violence, dirty language okay). Aspirin is free, but aspirin tailored to your DNA is very expensive. As many have noted, personalization requires an ongoing conversation between the creator and consumer, artist and fan, producer and user. It is deeply generative because it is iterative and time consuming. You can't copy the personalization that a relationship represents. Marketers call that "stickiness" because it means both sides of the relationship are stuck (invested) in this generative asset, and will be reluctant to switch and start over.

Interpretation -- As the old joke goes: software, free. The manual, $10,000. But it's no joke. A couple of high profile companies, like Red Hat, Apache, and others make their living doing exactly that. They provide paid support for free software. The copy of code, being mere bits, is free -- and becomes valuable to you only through the support and guidance. I suspect a lot of genetic information will go this route. Right now getting your copy of your DNA is very expensive, but soon it won't be. In fact, soon pharmaceutical companies will PAY you to get your genes sequence. So the copy of your sequence will be free, but the interpretation of what it means, what you can do about it, and how to use it -- the manual for your genes so to speak -- will be expensive.

Authenticity -- You might be able to grab a key software application for free, but even if you don't need a manual, you might like to be sure it is bug free, reliable, and warranted. You'll pay for authenticity. There are nearly an infinite number of variations of the Grateful Dead jams around; buying an authentic version from the band itself will ensure you get the one you wanted. Or that it was indeed actually performed by the Dead. Artists have dealt with this problem for a long time. Graphic reproductions such as photographs and lithographs often come with the artist's stamp of authenticity -- a signature -- to raise the price of the copy. Digital watermarks and other signature technology will not work as copy-protection schemes (copies are super-conducting liquids, remember?) but they can serve up the generative quality of authenticity for those who care.

Accessibility -- Ownership often sucks. You have to keep your things tidy, up-to-date, and in the case of digital material, backed up. And in this mobile world, you have to carry it along with you. Many people, me included, will be happy to have others tend our "possessions" by subscribing to them. We'll pay Acme Digital Warehouse to serve us any musical tune in the world, when and where we want it, as well as any movie, photo (ours or other photographers). Ditto for books and blogs. Acme backs everything up, pays the creators, and delivers us our desires. We can sip it from our phones, PDAs, laptops, big screens from where-ever. The fact that most of this material will be available free, if we want to tend it, back it up, keep adding to it, and organize it, will be less and less appealing as time goes on.

Embodiment -- At its core the digital copy is without a body. You can take a free copy of a work and throw it on a screen. But perhaps you'd like to see it in hi-res on a huge screen? Maybe in 3D? PDFs are fine, but sometimes it is delicious to have the same words printed on bright white cottony paper, bound in leather. Feels so good. What about dwelling in your favorite (free) game with 35 others in the same room? There is no end to greater embodiment. Sure, the hi-res of today -- which may draw ticket holders to a big theater -- may migrate to your home theater tomorrow, but there will always be new insanely great display technology that consumers won't have. Laser projection, holographic display, the holodeck itself! And nothing gets embodied as much as music in a live performance, with real bodies. The music is free; the bodily performance expensive. This formula is quickly becoming a common one for not only musicians, but even authors. The book is free; the bodily talk is expensive.

Patronage -- It is my belief that audiences WANT to pay creators. Fans like to reward artists, musicians, authors and the like with the tokens of their appreciation, because it allows them to connect. But they will only pay if it is very easy to do, a reasonable amount, and they feel certain the money will directly benefit the creators. Radiohead's recent high-profile experiment in letting fans pay them whatever they wished for a free copy is an excellent illustration of the power of patronage. The elusive, intangible connection that flows between appreciative fans and the artist is worth something. In Radiohead's case it was about $5 per download. There are many other examples of the audience paying simply because it feels good.

Findability -- Where as the previous generative qualities reside within creative digital works, findability is an asset that occurs at a higher level in the aggregate of many works. A zero price does not help direct attention to a work, and in fact may sometimes hinder it. But no matter what its price, a work has no value unless it is seen; unfound masterpieces are worthless. When there are millions of books, millions of songs, millions of films, millions of applications, millions of everything requesting our attention -- and most of it free -- being found is valuable.

The giant aggregators such as Amazon and Netflix make their living in part by helping the audience find works they love. They bring out the good news of the "long tail" phenomenon, which we all know, connects niche audiences with niche productions. But sadly, the long tail is only good news for the giant aggregators, and larger mid-level aggregators such as publishers, studios, and labels. The "long tail" is only lukewarm news to creators themselves. But since findability can really only happen at the systems level, creators need aggregators. This is why publishers, studios, and labels (PSL)will never disappear. They are not needed for distribution of the copies (the internet machine does that). Rather the PSL are needed for the distribution of the users' attention back to the works. From an ocean of possibilities the PSL find, nurture and refine the work of creators that they believe fans will connect with. Other intermediates such as critics and reviewers also channel attention. Fans rely on this multi-level apparatus of findability to discover the works of worth out of the zillions produced. There is money to be made (indirectly for the creatives) by finding talent. For many years the paper publication TV Guide made more money than all of the 3 major TV networks it "guided" combined. The magazine guided and pointed viewers to the good stuff on the tube that week. Stuff, it is worth noting, that was free to the viewers. There is little doubt that besides the mega-aggregators, in the world of the free many PDLs will make money selling findability -- in addition to the other generative qualities.

These eight qualities require a new skill set. Success in the free-copy world is not derived from the skills of distribution since the Great Copy Machine in the Sky takes care of that. Nor are legal skills surrounding Intellectual Property and Copyright very useful anymore. Nor are the skills of hoarding and scarcity. Rather, these new eight generatives demand an understanding of how abundance breeds a sharing mindset, how generosity is a business model, how vital it has become to cultivate and nurture qualities that can't be replicated with a click of the mouse.

In short, the money in this networked economy does not follow the path of the copies. Rather it follows the path of attention, and attention has its own circuits.

Careful readers will note one conspicuous absence so far. I have said nothing about advertising. Ads are widely regarded as the solution, almost the ONLY solution, to the paradox of the free. Most of the suggested solutions I've seen for overcoming the free involve some measure of advertising. I think ads are only one of the paths that attention takes, and in the long-run, they will only be part of the new ways money is made selling the free.

But that's another story.

Beneath the frothy layer of advertising, these eight generatives will supply the value to ubiquitous free copies, and make them worth advertising for. These generatives apply to all digital copies, but also to any kind of copy where the marginal cost of that copy approaches zero. (See my essay on Technology Wants to Be Free.) Even material industries are finding that the costs of duplication near zero, so they too will behave like digital copies. Maps just crossed that threshold. Genetics is about to. Gadgets and small appliances (like cell phones) are sliding that way. Pharmaceuticals are already there, but they don't want anyone to know. It costs nothing to make a pill. We pay for Authenticity and Immediacy in drugs. Someday we'll pay for Personalization.

Maintaining generatives is a lot harder than duplicating copies in a factory. There is still a lot to learn. A lot to figure out. Write to me if you do.

John Brockman, Editor and Publisher
Russell Weinberger, Associate Publisher
contact: editor@edge.org
Copyright © 2008 By Edge Foundation, Inc
All Rights Reserved.

WOW, Immediacy! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22444270)

Immediacy -- Sooner or later you can find a free copy of whatever you want, but getting a copy delivered to your inbox the moment it is released -- or even better, produced -- by its creators is a generative asset.

Yes, yes, this is exactly what I wanted, the whole article immediately available here, instead of having to click on the link!


How much do I owe you? Where do I pay?

Re:A COPY of an original article. (1)

illectro (697914) | more than 6 years ago | (#22445302)

Immediacy: The problem is that many pirate downloads are available prior to the official release. Of course it's clear that early access to material is currently being used as a stick to pull people to media websites - I know my favourite site imeem.com [imeem.com] has promoted the showing of at least one movie releases prior to the theatrical premier and plenty of 'exclusive' music from big name artists. The article does seem to be a little behind the times in terms of music accessibility "We'll pay Acme Digital Warehouse to serve us any musical tune in the world, when and where we want it" - right now you can get practically any piece of music for free via ad supported sites like imeem.com, deezer and last.fm. There's still room for paid services though, there are holes in these collections either content-wise or geographicly - imeem has the biggest catalog, but most of it is only in north america, last.fm and deezer have half the number of tracks, but are available in more countries, spiralfrog has the smallest catalog, but it's the only one to offer downloads.

Mono (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22444210)

Read all about how Mono dependancies sneak into Novel and even Ubuntu:

http://boycottnovell.com/2008/02/15/mono-contamination-in-ubuntu/ [boycottnovell.com]

There are many choices in oss but Novel is sticking to their agenda and always prefer the Mono-based solution. That is better than free because it promotes MS agenda and makes Novel have *some* profits at least.

What's Better Than Getting Paid? (5, Insightful)

NetSettler (460623) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444218)

The article makes some quite useful observations in terms of categorizing present trends and is a worthwhile read for that purpose, I think.

But I'm uncomfortable with its "conclusions", if it can even be said to have any. (It seems to indulge a sense throughout of "this is ok, things are good, we just need to embrace them".) From the article:

In short, the money in this networked economy does not follow the path of the copies. Rather it follows the path of attention, and attention has its own circuits.

If I reworded this as:

In short, the money in a networked economy does not go to the people doing the work. Rather it follows the path of who controls the view, and that path has its own circuits.

it would sound a lot less benign.

He makes some casual references to the need for trust and the willingness of people buying to give money to creators. But he overlooks the fact that it's in the best (financial) interest of the people who are the conduit to do as much as possible to obstruct the ability to do this.

The industry thrives (for now) on talk of riches that can be achieved in this new world order if people just contribute freely and hope the money comes somehow, but the obvious truth is that that works better for the people who get the money than for the people who don't, and when you're touting that there's no correlation between where the money goes and where the credit is due, that's not sounding too good to me.

Just look at how long it took the TV writers to get what was obviously due them, and they were very organized. Now imagine how much difficulty a group of uncoordinated netizens is going to have getting the same, since when any number of them boycott their "jobs" putting out free content, there are gonig to be any number of others rushing in to fill the gap for free, causing the content deliverers to say "gee, why should we pay them at all?"

Re:What's Better Than Getting Paid? (4, Insightful)

mspohr (589790) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444290)

But I'm uncomfortable with its "conclusions", if it can even be said to have any. (It seems to indulge a sense throughout of "this is ok, things are good, we just need to embrace them".) From the article: In short, the money in this networked economy does not follow the path of the copies. Rather it follows the path of attention, and attention has its own circuits. If I reworded this as: In short, the money in a networked economy does not go to the people doing the work. Rather it follows the path of who controls the view, and that path has its own circuits. it would sound a lot less benign.
I think you have missed his point here. The money DOES go to the people doing the work. Except the 'work' is the not necessarily the people who made the original work but the people who are adding value through immediacy, personalization, interpretation, authenticity, accessibility, embodiment, patronage, and findability.

I believe that his real point is that it is no longer sufficient to 'create' something and then retire on royalties but you must go out and continually provide value for that creation in the ways he lists. This is the great shock to traditional businesses publishing books, music, software, etc. Their business model has been formed on the scarcity of copies and they have failed to adapt to the reality that copies are no longer scarce.

Actually, I kind of like the concept that you have to work for a living by continually providing value rather than create a monopoly on some idea or expression of an idea and coast on monopoly rents.

Re:What's Better Than Getting Paid? (4, Insightful)

PietjeJantje (917584) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444474)

Actually, I kind of like the concept that you have to work for a living by continually providing value rather than create a monopoly on some idea or expression of an idea and coast on monopoly rents.
Let's put it this way, let's not take the RIAA as an example because that has been muddling the discussion into a mono copyright bashing affair.

If an author, say Douglas Adams (rip), spends a couple of years on a book, your equation does not work. That is because it is based on an investment of time, and you need a return for that. Creating value after that, for instance based on your popularity, is nice, but not economically related to the investment needed for the addition of value to the initial product. Also his audience, and book readers in general, might be less inclined to purchase services after the free copy.

Do we want a culture based on the commercial return on t-shirts and such? Would Adams have written the books? I for one prefer having given him some monetary units for his product, than obtain it for free, then see if I like him and toss him some coins like he's some kind of beggar.

I believe copyright and old-fashioned publishing are outdated mechanisms in digital times. I also believe that over time many money grabbing industries got a firm, unhealthy grip on the writers, artists, etc. But I also believe the single-minded mono-culture of simply proclaiming everything related to copyright as evil, and magic solutions like making everything free and then it will all be solved, is just silly and a cover-up for the fact that people like to take things for free while not having the worry about the morality of it. This makes one equal to the RIAA. Full of greed and hypocrisy.

Remember kids (2, Insightful)

NewAndFresh (1238204) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444788)

Home Taping is Killing Music
(or to quote the Dead Kennedys on In God We Trust)
"Home taping is killing big business profits. We left this side blank so you can help."

Re:What's Better Than Getting Paid? (5, Informative)

oojimaflib (1077261) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444794)

If an author, say Douglas Adams (rip), spends a couple of years on a book, your equation does not work. That is because it is based on an investment of time, and you need a return for that. Creating value after that, for instance based on your popularity, is nice, but not economically related to the investment needed for the addition of value to the initial product. Also his audience, and book readers in general, might be less inclined to purchase services after the free copy.

Do we want a culture based on the commercial return on t-shirts and such? Would Adams have written the books? I for one prefer having given him some monetary units for his product, than obtain it for free, then see if I like him and toss him some coins like he's some kind of beggar.
While I'm aware that your argument may well hold for some people, Douglas Adams is a _really_ bad example in this case. Indeed, he's a fine example of the counterargument:

Douglas Adams (DA) is paid by the BBC to write a radio series. This is given away, for free, by the BBC, over the airwaves (I don't think that there was a radio license by the time Hitch-hiker's was broadcast). DA chose then to add value to the original product (the radio series) by: writing sequels, adapting it as a book, adapting it as a TV show etc., cashing in on its (and his) popularity.
Now clearly, in this proposed new world of content distribution, different ways of cashing in would have to be chosen, but the principle still holds. DA would have written the work regardless, as it was initially paid for by a corporation that wanted the content. How he then chose to cash in on his success was then simply a product of the time.

This is not to say that this will hold for every author--public service broadcasters can't be expected to employ every content creator--but DA is a fine example of exactly how you can make money by giving stuff away for free.

Re:What's Better Than Getting Paid? (3, Insightful)

sayfawa (1099071) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444814)

If things go the way I expect/hope then, in your analogy, Douglas Adams would have been paid to write the book in the first place, instead of writing the book and then selling copies in order to receive payment. By the time he is done with the original work of art, he has been paid enough to make all the time and effort worth it. The valueless copies are freely distributable.

Imagine your favourite author stating that they are not going to start writing another book until they get x dollars to do it, but once they are done, the book is available for all in electronic form. Sure, there will be lots of freeloaders, but as long as the artist gets what they want, who cares?

Re:What's Better Than Getting Paid? (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 6 years ago | (#22445240)

Imagine your favourite author stating that they are not going to start writing another book until they get x dollars to do it, but once they are done, the book is available for all in electronic form. Sure, there will be lots of freeloaders, but as long as the artist gets what they want, who cares?
This will likely never work. This is like people have to actually invest something in this author, and hoping they get results. But what if the work that comes out is not of your liking? Even a favourite author is not guaranteed to write a work you like so much you really want it. Investment is supposed to give results, it has risks, and the higher the risk the higher the potential reward should be. This book writing case I'd say is a very high risk investment, with a relatively low return, unless you are really totally heads over heels in love with that author.
Copyright I think is a good thing, in principle. Not the way it is implemented now, but that's another discussion. The author should have a right to sell his copies, and get money for every copy sold. That is how a business works: the entrepeneur (the author) invests money/time/whatever in their business (writing a book, this takes time and costs money: the author has to live during the writing, and living costs money), hoping in the long term to make more money out of this. In case of an author, by selling copies of his work.
Now it is up to the author to limit the number of copies, or not. To give it away freely, or not. For an author of a book, they may post some chapters on the Internet for free, and sell the rest in a hardcopy. Fifteen years or so ago I also bought a hard copy of THHGTTG, after reading fragments of it for free, downloaded from a BBS system. Whether those copies are legal or not, I don't know. But now I'm the happy owner of the book.
Software is a bit different, there is a clear service to be sold related to the software use. Software-as-a-service we call it already. Books, music, paintings, they do not fall under this category (well music maybe). So while for some forms of intellectual property TFA has quite a good point, I don't believe it will work for all kinds of IP. Not all IP is the same.
Wouter.

Re:What's Better Than Getting Paid? (1)

Macthorpe (960048) | more than 6 years ago | (#22445270)

Except that surely makes it close to impossible for a new author to get into the business.

Publishers rarely offer advances to unknown authors, and considering the investment of time required, these people rely on being paid after the book is bought. Once you take that away by distributing for free, suddenly you have budding authors who want to be published but won't be paid before or after the fact.

Giving away for free could work for established authors (that's another debate) but is close to useless for anyone trying to enter the business.

Re:What's Better Than Getting Paid? (1)

runningduck (810975) | more than 6 years ago | (#22446158)

In a very real way this explains a lot about what is going on in society today. Fundamentally we no longer value thinkers and creators. Instead we value packagers and preachers.

This is old stuff... (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444498)

I believe that his real point is that it is no longer sufficient to 'create' something and then retire on royalties but you must go out and continually provide value for that creation in the ways he lists.

Like the recording industry has been doing for the artists for a hundred years or so?


Music has always been free, in the sense that you can sing any song you remember. What the recording industry has been doing is to bring to the people better executions of those songs to people who enjoy music but do not have the necessary talent to bring that music to life. There *is* real value in that, because otherwise people would have never paid for it.


However, where the whole music industry went wrong was in not realizing their method for bringing music for the people had become obsolete. They insist on selling high-priced horse-drawn carriages in an era of cheap automobiles.

Re:What's Better Than Getting Paid? (1)

hupskadee (244720) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444530)

A recent example of this is artists moving from traditional record labels to organisations which core business is to organise performances. Everything else, including the records, is merchandise. I believe Madonna recently made this switch.

Re:What's Better Than Getting Paid? (3, Insightful)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444590)

I believe that his real point is that it is no longer sufficient to 'create' something and then retire on royalties but you must go out and continually provide value for that creation in the ways he lists. This is the great shock to traditional businesses publishing books, music, software, etc.

You're exaggerating. The number of people working on music, books and software who can actually retire on the basis of one hit are vanishingly small. The vast majority need to be continually creating new things if they are to have a living wage. Look at 99% of the programmers in the video game industry for instance.

Actually, I kind of like the concept that you have to work for a living by continually providing value rather than create a monopoly on some idea or expression of an idea and coast on monopoly rents.

You're also using language manipulatively :-( Especially on slashdot, most peoples connotation of "monopoly" is "sole provider of something I need". Saying copyright holders are a monopoly is like saying that Nike have a monopoly on producing Nike trainers. It doesn't say anything useful. Nobody needs Nike trainers specifically, just like nobody needs Britney Spears' music specifically (regardless of what the little sisters of the world may think). What you say might apply in very, very special circumstances, like with Windows but certainly doesn't apply to most copyrighted works.

Re:What's Better Than Getting Paid? (1)

NewAndFresh (1238204) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444812)

nobody needs Britney Spears' music specifically (regardless of what the little sisters of the world may think)
You made my day. (still laughing)

Re:What's Better Than Getting Paid? (1)

mspohr (589790) | more than 6 years ago | (#22445564)

Regarding my use of the term 'monopoly rent', I was using this in the classical economic sense of the use of a legal or regulatory mechanism to extract payment instead of producing wealth through trade or productivity and not in the vernacular of 'sole provider'. See Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent-seeking [wikipedia.org] for a further discussion.

Re:What's Better Than Getting Paid? (1)

wall0159 (881759) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444600)

Then why can't I just make a site that mirrors Joe Bloggs' personalised aggregator and slap advertising on it? Oh sorry - it's ok for him to use other peoples' work, but not ok for me to use his? (I realise that was not your implication, but my question is really "where does it end"?)

Re:What's Better Than Getting Paid? (1)

totally bogus dude (1040246) | more than 6 years ago | (#22445382)

but my question is really "where does it end"?

Well I would say, not there. If we assume there's no copyrights, then there's no reason you can't mirror Joe's personalised aggregator and slap advertising on it. The question then becomes, is it viable for you to do so? Will it make you enough money to justify the effort to set this up and make sure it keeps working?

For you to get enough traffic, people have to a) find your mirror of it and b) not find the original (assuming the original somehow is more valuable -- which might merely require it be identifiable as being the original, or maybe it has less ads) as well as c) find the content worthwhile. If this is the case then you are actually providing a valuable service: that of discovery. Maybe you're marketing your mirror better than Joe is marketing his aggregator.

Now, sooner or later Joe will discover you're mirroring his content, and will probably block you. So you'll have to keep an eye on it and find ways to hide your scraper's identity. This will probably be more costly for you because you're having to react to his changes, and if your mirror is unreliable then people will be less likely to use it.

At the end of the day, Joe might find it's too much work to block you from mirroring his stuff, and that it's not making enough money to be worthwhile to him, and he'll stop producing it. This is analogous to the vast majority of bands who don't make enough money to make a career out of their music (let alone retire on it) and stop producing it, or the vast majority of authors who don't "make it", or bloggers who fail to monetize their work.

I think the whole "nobody will produce anything if there's no easy way to make it financially viable" thing is a little bit overdone. Pick your favourite "easy money" industry and realise that the vast majority of people who try to make it in that industry fail at it. It's pretty difficult to become self-employed, let alone a wealthy self-employed person, and that's why most of us work a safe stable job for someone who's willing to take that risk. If there's a desire for content then there'll be a way to get paid for producing it. 90% of us won't ever try because it's too scary and uncertain; 80% of those who do try will fail to make a living out of it; and 1% of those who succeed will become fabulously wealthy and make the rest of us jealous. Just like now. Without copyright the way to get paid for producing the content will almost certainly change substantially, but there'll be a way and people will find it.

Re:What's Better Than Getting Paid? (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444652)

Actually, I kind of like the concept that you have to work for a living by continually providing value rather than create a monopoly on some idea or expression of an idea and coast on monopoly rents.

The question is whether fewer people will come up with new works if their value is so drastically reduced and whether society will lose out overall. Take books for example. Where is the incentive for an author to write a new book if it can be immediately copied for free by anybody. Did it ever occur that by removing copyright protection we are going back to the time where authors could not make a living by their works and therefore the marketplace of ideas is limited to idle wealthy and those willing to make the sacrifice of living in poverty.

Re:What's Better Than Getting Paid? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22445312)

Did it ever occur that by removing copyright protection we are going back to the time where authors could not make a living by their works and therefore the marketplace of ideas is limited to idle wealthy and those willing to make the sacrifice of living in poverty.

Yes. If only there were some counter-example. Just one thing where allowing people to freely use one's work was wildly successful, and would have failed otherwise. Anybody?

Re:What's Better Than Getting Paid? (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444840)

The money DOES go to the people doing the work. Except the 'work' is the not necessarily the people who made the original work but the people who are adding value through immediacy, personalization, interpretation, authenticity, accessibility, embodiment, patronage, and findability.
The majority of the work done (hopefully) will be in the creation of the work, yet it's not the creation of the work that's being even indirectly rewarded here. It's all the other services that adorn the work that you are paying for, and the market value will reflect that. We're essentially asking the artist to create the work for free, and if he wants money, well, he'll have to work for it another way (i.e. by providing those services).

In addition, because there'd be no restriction on who can provide those services, the artist would be forced to compete with absolutely no advantages against other people providing the same service with his creation. The only difference between them is that the creator was burdened with cost of production.

Basically, we might as well tell artists to find a real job while in between their art creation.

Re:What's Better Than Getting Paid? (3, Insightful)

kevinbr (689680) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444464)

"......in a networked economy does not go to the people doing the work....."

In, for example, todays music industry, the money does not go to the people doing the work. There are rare exception like Madonna and U2, but the money goes to the distributer.

"...Just look at how long it took the TV writers to get what was obviously due them......"

Um, no. They still do not get what is due to them. I believe for example their download fee kicks in after something like 30 days ( where most of the money is made in the first 30 days ).

No one is due anything. We all have to work and in the US today millions of workers are told to adjust or starve. Writers and musicians are no different. The fact is that the cost of a digital copy is zero.

The other reality is that the existing distribution is trying to use the law to prop up a defunct model.

Take the movie distribution. I live in France but speak English. I see a movie available today in the US, but I am supposed to wait for 6 months to get it legally, when I can get it now on Piratebay? It of course never occurs to them I might pay today, if they would only make it available. They do demand creation but fuck up the fulfillment.

Or take a concert. I recently paid 120 Euros for several nights at the Nice Jazz festival. I want to buy MY concerts that I attended but of course where are they available? Bootlegs on Youtube. Demand creation yet no fulfillment.

etc etc.

With digital copying, they might want to create demand yet throttle this demand in stupid ways ( I do not want DVD's I want 700 MB downloads for my hotel at night on a laptop but no this is not a commercial choice, they fail again to to fulfillment).

So this article makes perfect sense to me. I work with IT contractors who make lots of money. They ALL download films because that is the easiest way to them, not because they are free.

Re:What's Better Than Getting Paid? (1)

cshotton (46965) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444710)

There is an alternative to getting paid for "free" content. It's a simple mind-shift that has to happen and it gets us away from the centuries old idea of an economy based on sale of tangible goods. Put concisely, you should get paid for the ability to create value in the future, not the items you create. Musicians could receive what amounts to "futures contracts", fans paying for (or rewarding) musicians for creating of future works. The works are given away for free. The people with the talent and skill to produce them are paid to create. No pay, no new music. Sucky music, no pay for future albums. It's fairly balanced out but it requires a one-time leap of faith on the consumer's part that by paying in advance for someone to create something of value, the value will be freely given. Fans (customers, etc.) are essentially paying in advance for the creator to make something of value that they will then get to freely enjoy. It is essentially an institutionalized form of patronage. It would work with any kind of product for which multiple free copies can be made (i.e. data) but would work best if there was some sort of controlled reputation system in place to actually measure the relative value of someone's creations.

Re:What's Better Than Getting Paid? (1)

autophile (640621) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444804)

From the article:

In short, the money in this networked economy does not follow the path of the copies. Rather it follows the path of attention, and attention has its own circuits.

If I reworded this as:

In short, the money in a networked economy does not go to the people doing the work. Rather it follows the path of who controls the view, and that path has its own circuits.

it would sound a lot less benign.

Granted. However I think the point of the article was that the content creator is also the one that controls the view. For example, Radiohead created the content and controlled the view by setting up the site where you could download the song.

He posits eight areas where value can be added. I think some are more futuristic than others, which makes sense because we are in a transition period. Let's try an example. Suppose I want to write a book. Assume the text is free, because it gets on, say, IRC.

Immediacy: Well, you can't get every book immediately on IRC. So fans would be willing to pay to get early copies, maybe even drafts, of your novel.

Personalization: This is one of the futuristic scenarios. In essence, you wouldn't be writing a book, but an algorithm with data that generates a book given various inputs -- and you're the one controlling the input data. So I might want a book that emphasizes character, while someone else might want a book that emphasizes woowoo physics. Yes, it's very futuristic.

Interpretation: I'm not even sure how to apply this to a novel. Suggestions?

Authenticity: There's nothing stopping you from selling copies of your work -- guaranteed, as-the-author-intended -- copies.

Accessibility: I don't think the content creator makes money off of this. I see this more as some piece of software which holds your data for you.

Embodiment: Leather-bound edition. Perhaps even personalized. Sell mugs and T-shirts with the book's designs, concepts, whatever on it.

Patronage: Two types, a-posteriori and a-priori. A-posteriori patronage is simply paying for a copy, like with Radiohead. You pay because it makes you feel good to reward the creator. A-priori patronage could be commissioned short stories set in the same universe, or maybe an escrow fund to guarantee a sequel.

Findability: Again, not the creator's job, but the creator must ensure the work is findable.

So I think there's something to be said about the eight points. Again, perhaps they are not all applicable today, or not applicable to a particular concept, but they are apropos.

--Rob

Re:What's Better Than Getting Paid? (1)

coolGuyZak (844482) | more than 6 years ago | (#22445200)

Interpretation: I'm not even sure how to apply this to a novel. Suggestions?

Imagine a book so information dense that even E. Tufte couldn't read it without getting a nosebleed. A group of readers wishing to understand such an accumulation of language could hire a team of analysts to analyze and explain it. (Or, alternatively, the author could travel the country teaching the principles of the book at lectures or conferences).

It may not work perfectly for novels, but I'd imagine something similar could be established for compelling settings--think Star Trek conventions.

Re:What's Better Than Getting Paid? (2, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 6 years ago | (#22445364)

If I reworded this as:

        In short, the money in a networked economy does not go to the people doing the work. Rather it follows the path of who controls the view, and that path has its own circuits.

it would sound a lot less benign.


Let me play devil's advocate here for a moment.

Money isn't a reward for work. That's the hard lesson of business. The economic system does not care about your personal travails. It is concerned with scarcity. Money is a reward for reducing scarcity.

Over the years I have turned my hand to a number of crafts from calligraphy to woodworking. I am fascinated by the process of craft. So when I walk into a store and see a basket that was woven by some third world basket weaver selling for less than five bucks, I automatically consider how long it would take me to make that same basket if I were doing it day in and day out. In some cases I believe I could make a many as four or five if I worked extremely hard. I doubt, however, that after shipping and stocking and whatnot the basket weaver received more than a few nickels per basket.

I have also seen domestic made, artisanal baskets that sell for two or three hundred dollars, that probably weren't much more work than baskets that sell for a few dollars. While on the surface this would indicate that a superior, more deserving artisan got more money, I don't think it's as simple as that. Who's to say the third world artisan doesn't have the ability to make equally unique and interesting designs? The problem is that he or she has no way to market them; there is no money for that artisan in anything but baskets meeting the specification of the exporter. I could probably (with practice) make a Nantucket Lightship basket that could sell for $700 to $1000. Given my marketing costs, I might clear three or four hundred for a week's work. That's not enough to support the lavish (by world standards) lifestyle I lead. There are third world artisans making a few dollars a day who could do the work; if they cleared even fifty dollars a week it would be huge.

The first world artisan is rewarded in part for is artistry, but mainly because he addresses a scarcity. There aren't many people willing to work for five hundred dollars a week where he lives, and people willing to work for less than that don't have access.

Creative activities, such as writing and performing, are a hobby for the vast number of people who do them, including those who get paid from time to time. A small fraction of people make their living from them, and a vanishing small number of people make a comfortable living from them. A world of "free" copying is a disaster for those who make a frugal living from their art; it puts them back in the hobbyist category. It also dashes the hopes of those in the hobbyist category of quitting their day job. But the idea of restricting copies is not an economic one; it's a value judgment. It's the idea that people should be able to make a living producing something even if it means keeping others out of the market who would produce for sub-living-wage economic rewards.

Re:What's Better Than Getting Paid? (1)

NetSettler (460623) | more than 6 years ago | (#22446348)

Money isn't a reward for work. ... Money is a reward for reducing scarcity. ... Creative activities, such as writing and performing, are a hobby for the vast number of people who do them, including those who get paid from time to time. A small fraction of people make their living from them, and a vanishing small number of people make a comfortable living from them.

I get in this argument a lot with people, and it always ends up going down the same rathole, with people thinking I'm saying that I am entitled to money for work. That isn't how I get to where I do in my sadness about the present situation.

Like you (I suspect), I begin from the point of view of the consumer. Let's take a different example. I like certain books, and not very many of them get written by decent authors. So there are a few I wish would spend 100% of their time writing books. But they can't. Because the world does not reward the writing of books. It rewards the writing coupled with the marketing. So the books that come out are the books that are the result of the authors I care about spending their time doing an activity I wish they did not have to do--marketing their books--and then writing in the rest of their free time. In the end, they make many fewer books.

Web publishing lets a lot more people publish. So you could say they don't have to spend time marketing. But they can't then turn to writing, even then. Because now they don't have a source of income.

Speaking for myself, I'm not a rich person. So I can't just be a patron. What I want is to pay a fair amount and to get good quality. I have no desire for free books or free software. I'd rather pay money for decent stuff and be paid for writing decent stuff (whether books or software). It does me no good to swap my free writing for someone else's because my grocer and auto dealer and so on won't take those in trade. So I'm left assuming the middle man will take my contribution and funnel it to the right place. And I don't aspire to be a middle man--that's a different occupation and is not my special skill.

But the middle man isn't going to optimize my personal favorite choice. He's better off making a quick buck on 3 authors willing to work for free than pay money to one author who might write better but will charge money. So his economy of scale is working against the good writers and to the prolific mediocre.

You'd think it was a business opportunity for someone, but I keep looking for forums that offer published writings with authors getting a substantial (not just token) share of the profits, but so far I don't see them. Starting such an endeavor is complicated and more work than I am up to myself, but I still think it would suit the world a lot better than what we're seeing. I don't know what to make of the fact that it doesn't happen, but the fact that it's scarce does not seem to be causing it to come into existence.

I think the world would work best if people could be used in the ways they are skilled, and could get paid for it. And I'd prefer that worked by capitalistic means than communistic means. But unfettered capitalism seems objectively to be leading to money accumulating centrally and on track to be very feudalistic, which is even worse than communism. The problem with this model of just doing what the world needs in the moment is that all the planning the world wants you to do can be tossed aside in a moment. A job can require you to have all sorts of training, then toss you out and say "never mind", and all your training is for nothing. The questions, I emphasize, are not just "what about me", but "what do I advise someone who is planning a career?" Telling them "society doesn't care about you, you must be a jack of all trades, don't rely on anything, it's all going to change anyway, there's nothing you can count on" is not very satisfying. Neither is it satisfying to tell a content producer "Don't even bother producing content. No one will value it." In the past you could at least advise people to learn to lay bricks or do some manual job, but nowadays even that is probably going to be done by robots.

I'm not looking for easy answers. But I am looking for an acknowledgment that the process now in place is not a Utopia, as some seem to try to spin it. It really doesn't do all I would wish a great society to do in terms of fostering great works and valuing people. It churns people up and spits them out at a moment's notice. In many case it prefers the middle to either the high or the low end. That's sad, IMO. I think we should collectively aspire to better, even if we sometimes fall short.

Better than Free? (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444226)

How about... advice by a real lawyer?

A Step in the Right Direction (4, Insightful)

orionop (1139819) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444228)

In a free-market world with supply and demand determining costs, it makes sense that digital information that is in infinite supply will cost nothing. The things that are listed in TFA are things that can not be distributed infinitely and thus help guide artists and software providers toward adding valuable content that customers will pay for. Maybe sometime soon we will see less lawsuits and more content.

Re:A Step in the Right Direction (2, Insightful)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444630)

You're assuming a market system is a given, seeing that without copyright easily duplicated things have no value, and concluding therefore that they have no value. That's pretty ridiculous. More likely, the base assumption is wrong - if we can't enforce copyright, then we need some alternative to markets for encouraging the creation of copyable things. Nobody knows what though, which isn't surprising, our economic thinking is clouded by capitalist religion. We have yet to reach the Enlightenment period of economics.

Re:A Step in the Right Direction (4, Informative)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444808)

...then we need some alternative to markets for encouraging the creation of copyable things. Nobody knows what though...

We already have this. It's called people finding something they like to do for which other people are willing to trade goods and services which the former people want and/or need. If people enjoy making copyable things, and other people want those copyable things, then the balance works.

There is no rational argument for a system which enforces people trading for something I want to produce if that thing I want to produce is not desired. There is also no rational argument for forcing people to create something they don't want to create if there are people that desire it (but don't want to provide it themselves). To use two examples common in these conversations: If I create a song, there is no obligation for people to pay for it. If I only hold concerts and people want recordings, I am under no obligation to provide those recordings. (Note that I'm just talking about obligation, not about if it's a good idea or not.)

The bit where technology is helping is where it helps match up the desires of the creators with the desires of the traders.

That's it, and anything else is just what I would like to call "economic friction."

Re:A Step in the Right Direction (1)

Microlith (54737) | more than 6 years ago | (#22446118)

There is no rational argument for a system which enforces people trading for something I want to produce if that thing I want to produce is not desired.

This system does not exist. If you make something no one wants, no one will pay for it. But conversley, even if no one wants it -now-, who's to say they won't want it after it's made ("hey have you heard about X?!") There's no rational argument for denying a system that allows that to happen. Going out on a limb is not unheard of, but it's much easier when you can convince some deep pockets to take a gamble, which sometimes pays off.

There is also no rational argument for forcing people to create something they don't want to create if there are people that desire it (but don't want to provide it themselves).

Not a single person is forced to create something they don't want to. If they don't want a job writing show Y or song Z they don't have to. There is no force going on. This point is baseless.

Re:A Step in the Right Direction (2, Interesting)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444748)

The things that are listed in the article are nowhere near enough to compensate an author for the time it takes to write a book. Hence, less people would write books. You don't see that as dangerous direction to go?

Re:A Step in the Right Direction (1)

Slippy. (42536) | more than 6 years ago | (#22446260)

Hence, less people would write books. You don't see that as dangerous direction to go?

And then writing books becomes a valuable skill, and worth more money. It's not one or the other.

If low distribution costs cause a loss of value, when the chaff is weeded out by the crappy renumeration, the value of the decent work rises again.

Very, very few writers get rich now. If someone is writing to get rich, it is a mistake. But if you have decent writing skill, people will value that *skill*, which can't be easily replaced. Same as with any other job. Computer geeks fear automation, engineers fear automation, union car industry workers fear automation. Everyone is working in a world where tools are improving.

I don't feel worse for the artists than I do for everyone else affected by better tools.

And I'm extremely interested to see what happens here over the next decade.

Better than free? (1)

kitsunewarlock (971818) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444340)

How about...getting paid? Power of attorney? A complementary winning lotto ticket? I can go on all night and I'll be here all week, folks.

I would like to add "Connectability" (4, Insightful)

Sique (173459) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444370)

Information increases its value if it is connected to other information. Many inventions happen when separate, wellknown concepts were put together for the first time. No, I am not talking about "business method performed on the Internet", because this connection is very simple. Putting two things together of which one is all the rage is easy.

But in a cloud of possible dots finding the right ones and connect them actually creates value, and if the number of possible dots increases, the value of the single dot may be negligible, but the combination of the right ones gets more and more value. The process thus is twofold: Make every dot as connectible as possible, and find a way to spot valuable connections. Construction kits for children like LEGO show how you do it for the single dot. Every piece of LEGO can connect to every other piece (ok, sometimes with the help of a third piece, but the overall structure itself remains the same).

I hear often complain that open source software is "not innovative", and then it points out that it wasn't able to invent a single new type of building block for software. That complaint got it all wrong. LEGO also didn't invent a single new connector since the introduction of LEGO Tecnic. And when was the last time a new type of brick was invented? Often the invention of a new type of dot means that you can't connect it to anything. So the invention itself is completely worthless until you invent a way to actually connect it to something.

Many a commercial software has its value because of its combination of wellknown "dots". Photoshop is the standard because it combines Hundreds of wellknown algorithms in a unique way. SAP R/3 even is completely "open source" in a way meaning that everyone with developer rights on a SAP R/3 system can look into the complete source code of every subroutine and function block, and change it at will. But SAP R/3 draws its value from the fact that it implements so many different business concepts and business logics. Every single of it is well known, but only with a system like R/3 you get them bundled together.

And even Microsoft seldom was innovative, but it was always a good integrator. Microsoft software is not valuable because it implements things not found somewhere else. Microsoft's business was to present enough connected dots, so everyone could find something to use.

Nonsense (1, Insightful)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444376)

Ok, to summarize for those too lazy to read the whole article: his point is that since its getting so easy to copy things (digital and in some cases physical), the actual products will become super abundant and therefore worthless (free). Instead of paying for the products, people will pay for other things.

Immediacy - You pay to get it right away, becomes free later. Nonsense. A free copy can be made available as soon as a non-free copy, even sooner - see movies "released" on bit torrent before they show up in theaters.

Personalization - You pay to get it specially personalized the way you want it. Doesn't apply to a vast majority of products. His examples: book ending tailored to your preferences, aspirin tailored to your DNA are both ridiculous.

Interpretation - You pay for help with using the product. Again, applies to only a small minority of the products. Support for complex software is one, but how many other examples can you think of?

Authenticity -- You pay to ensure that the album is really performed by the band (his example). I don't even know what he means by that. Is there a big problem with people downloading a song by, say, Metallica, only to realize that it was actually performed by some other band? I don't think so.

Accessibility -- You pay somebody else to store your digital possessions and serve them to you on demand? Again, there may be a small value in that for certain things (backups etc) but I prefer to keep my music/movie/book etc collections on my own keychain, thank you very much.

Embodiment -- I guess what he means by this is that you may want to pay to have a fancy copy in some cases. For example, the book is free but you pay for a pretty old-fashioned hardcover binding or whatever.

Patronage -- You pay out of goodness of your heart because you want the musician/artist/author to make some money. Yeah right.

Findability -- You pay for a service that helps you find stuff that you want. Those are free now, but in the future they will become for pay, according to him.

I'm sorry, but if thats the best people can come up with as the "new" economy, we are screwed.

Re:Nonsense (1)

MulluskO (305219) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444394)

Maybe you misinterpreted accessibility? It's much faster for me to listen to a song on Rhapsody than it would be for me to do so with bit torrent / usenet / IRC.
I like the Steam service for that reason as well. I can lose CD keys and media. Steam is very convenient in that respect. Gametap's pretty good too, but the way it locks you out of the games' install directories is inconvenient.

Aaahh... Nonsense... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444640)

Parent post is full of it.

Re:Aaahh... Nonsense... (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444686)

For example?

Actually, now that I think about it, the article and those such as yourself who agree with it are not just silly as I originally thought, but actually dangerous.

In fact (1)

NewAndFresh (1238204) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444874)

You are a threat to national security. Without a carrot on a stick, people around the world are simply going to "keep it to themselves" to the point of self-imploding. WE NEED TO SHUT DOWN THE INTERNET NOW!!

Re:Aaahh... Nonsense... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444892)

Immediacy - According to you all theaters in the world were closed in 1995, then burned to the ground.

Personalization - Using your limited imagination as a starting point for judgment of someone else's ideas is well... silly. :P
Oh... and books with multiple endings exist for years.
Author having a say... poll for the readers to decide which ending to choose... or which one to write first? Hm? Something ridiculous about that?
And did you ever hear of pre-screenings of the movies where they ask the audience what they do and what they don't like about the movie and then change it?

Interpretation - Again... your lack of imagination. Can't help you there. Did you ever take a payed course in say... MS Office? Thousands if not millions do.

Authenticity - Is there a big problem with people downloading a song by, say, Metallica, only to realize that it was actually performed by some other band? I don't think so.
Not only do you lack imagination, but also any logic or comprehension of the world we live in? Wow!
Sooo... fans are idiots for liking a particular BAND who created the song instead of realizing that its just a song and it does not matter if it is played by Metallica or "Your Local Trio of Drunks" using their armpits as only instruments?

Accessibility - You pay somebody else to store your digital possessions and serve them to you on demand? Again, there may be a small value in that for certain things (backups etc) but I prefer to keep my music/movie/book etc collections on my own keychain, thank you very much.
And say someone comes along, hits you on the head with a large rubber dildo and steals your keychain. My... it sure would be handy if all that hard to collect information was easily accessible.
And oh... How do you check your e-mail in the middle of the ocean? Or in the middle of Sahara? Or on the bottom of the coal mine? Hmmm... what was that word again?

Embodiment - I guess what he means by this is that you may want to pay to have a fancy copy in some cases. For example, the book is free but you pay for a pretty old-fashioned hardcover binding or whatever.
Wow... you almost have a clue this time. Seeing how you describe it I can only guess that you are either 11 years old or that your lack of said imagination is a big bad mind block again.

Patronage - You pay out of goodness of your heart because you want the musician/artist/author to make some money. Yeah right.
You are really a fuckin idiot, are you? Yes. People like to pay for things. Some like to do it because they think or are taught that it is right to do. Others because they feel that their copy is worth more that way. Some because it gives them that feeling of superiority over the author - "It is I, mighty reader that pays your bills!".
Ever heard a street performer singing a tune you like and dropped him a buck or two? That basic form of patronage has been working for millennia now...

Findability - Those are free now, but in the future they will become for pay, according to him.
Soo... amazon and eBay are making $0.00 according to you? He mentions those, you disregard them.
Now, imagine not knowing what you want, but knowing what you like - and a service providing more of what you want based on that?
Oh... sorry... I forget... you are imagination and logic impaired.

Might try honing that nonsense trait you have. World needs clueless people too. See... you made me elaborate on each topic.
Can't say you are completely useless to the world.

Meet the "new" economy, same as the old economy (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444998)

The economics haven't changed here, it's just that we're allowing the commercial value of the artwork itself drop to practically zero instead of propping it up with some scarcity. The artwork is distributable for free, and any company may publish it, tailor it, provide help for it. There's plenty of room for competition, so inflated prices (for example, to cover for and incentivise production costs) would not be tolerated. It's the same economics, it's just now that everything between the covers of your book is now commercial dirt. Suddenly artists/publishers are now no longer in the business of selling art to the public, but in making flashy versions of existing artworks (since that's where the money comes from), and artist question the necessity of actually bringing their own works to the table.

Re:Nonsense: NONSENSE (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 6 years ago | (#22446172)

Ok, to summarize for those too lazy to read the whole article: his point is that since its getting so easy to copy things (digital and in some cases physical), the actual products will become super abundant and therefore worthless (free). Instead of paying for the products, people will pay for other things.


Yes it is easy to copy things. Money is made from scarcity. It's the scarse things people will pay for, in general.

Immediacy - You pay to get it right away, becomes free later. Nonsense. A free copy can be made available as soon as a non-free copy, even sooner - see movies "released" on bit torrent before they show up in theaters.


Bull. It's a bloody pain in the neck downloading stuff. You have to find it, it takes a while and you might get a crappy encoding and have to start over. It's much less effort for me to simply pick up a dvd in the local supermarket when I buy dinner. No waiting, guaranteed quality (except for Sony's copy protection) and I get it NOW, as in wihin 0.5 hours I'll be watching it with dinner. I have the ready money to pay for the convinience, so I do. Even when I'm in no hurry, it's a mixture of `patronage' and `immediacy' which causes me to buy stuff rather than download it.

I'm not `holier than thou' either, but I value my own time. When factors aggreagte differently, I'll download stuff (well stream it from youtube--see findability).

Personalization - You pay to get it specially personalized the way you want it. Doesn't apply to a vast majority of products. His examples: book ending tailored to your preferences, aspirin tailored to your DNA are both ridiculous.


On quite a few OSS projects, you can pay the developers for features. I have paid.

In other aspects it does work. Furniture is mass produced so cheaply than an individual can not compete with the likes of IKEA, for instance. Skilled woodworkers can make money by customization. IKEA won't make you high-quality fitted bookshelves for instance. And this service includes charging for some free stuff. For instance the skilled woodworker will also know where to go to find those high quality woods which match your taste. You could do that searching `for free', but most people don't since it's easier to pay.

Interpretation - You pay for help with using the product. Again, applies to only a small minority of the products. Support for complex software is one, but how many other examples can you think of?


I use RHEL at work, not Whitebox. I'm guessing that isn't free. RedHat are still in business, so my experience is not unique.

Authenticity -- You pay to ensure that the album is really performed by the band (his example). I don't even know what he means by that. Is there a big problem with people downloading a song by, say, Metallica, only to realize that it was actually performed by some other band? I don't think so.


Art auctions would seem to contradict you point. People are willing to pay (IMO) far too much for authenticity.

Accessibility -- You pay somebody else to store your digital possessions and serve them to you on demand? Again, there may be a small value in that for certain things (backups etc) but I prefer to keep my music/movie/book etc collections on my own keychain, thank you very much.


I don't pay for that. However, many people seem to pay over the odds to get email on a cell phone, so the idea is not far-fetched.

Embodiment -- I guess what he means by this is that you may want to pay to have a fancy copy in some cases. For example, the book is free but you pay for a pretty old-fashioned hardcover binding or whatever.


I own a number of classic books, available free since copyright long since expired. Yet I have paper copies of them. In the case of my really favourite books, I have hardcover copies. Maybe I'm a sucker, but I like having them. The publishers are in business, so it appears that this model works.

And what about real-live concerts? Have they ceased existing?

Patronage -- You pay out of goodness of your heart because you want the musician/artist/author to make some money. Yeah right.


So radiohead made no money? Magnatune went out of business? Maybe it's not a great model, or even good enough. But it works in part. It's also very close to the customization one above.

Findability -- You pay for a service that helps you find stuff that you want. Those are free now, but in the future they will become for pay, according to him.


Very related to immediacy. And amazon isn't `free'--they take their cut, but they make it very easy to find stuff. YouTube and google are free, but they seem to make lots of money with advertisements.

As previously seen on BoingBoing (3, Interesting)

brit74 (831798) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444378)

His article was posted two weeks ago on boingboing and discussed quite a bit. I have to admit to being one of the detractors of his idea (which I think reduces artists and creators to beggars trying to eek out a living). I also think he talks too much in generalities, and that makes his ideas seem more persuasive. The minute you think about specific things (how does his ideas apply to X), his ideas often don't apply at all, or reduces the income from digital creations to pennies on the dollar.
http://www.boingboing.net/2008/02/02/kevin-kelly-better-t.html [boingboing.net]

Re:As previously seen on BoingBoing (3, Informative)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444426)

Copyright is a very recent notion. For most of the history of the human race artists, dramatists, and poets were not paid for each copy made from their work. Nonetheless, the art world flourished, and no one seemed to regret the lack of copyright. For example, when the Roman poet Martial heard that someone was transcribing his poetry recitals and having the poetry copied by a team of slaves and sold, he was angry only that this enterprising fellow was putting his own name on the poetry instead of crediting Martial. I think history shows us that artists can do just fine without copyright.

In the United States, there is a still a strong tradition of private patronage--that's how many contemporary composers make their living there--and in the European Union state arts ministries are generous with subsidies, so much of the infrastructure that supports the arts would survive if copyright were to disappear.

Re:As previously seen on BoingBoing (1)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444460)

So if i should feel a need to take some GPL code and badge it as my own then OSS will carry on just fine (apart from the whinging about stealing obviously).

Of course... (1)

VON-MAN (621853) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444536)

If you were able to satisfy that same need with, say Microsoft Windows Vista, then yes.

Re:As previously seen on BoingBoing (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444522)

For most of the history copyright wasn't an issue since easy copying and wide distribution were not possible (or practical). Musicians, made a living either by performing their own work or by being supported by wealthy patrons. Painters/sculptors made and sold unique products that were not easily copied. Writers, well they kind of struggled. None of them made a good living out of their art, and for that reason it was mostly members of the privileged classes who engaged in it.

It is interesting that in preference to the, admittedly flawed, copyright system we have today your would like to see artists placed at the mercy of wealthy patrons or even worse, supported by taxpayers money.

Re:As previously seen on BoingBoing (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444544)

For most of the history copyright wasn't an issue since easy copying and wide distribution were not possible (or practical).

With regards to literature, this is something of a myth. The presence of thousands of literate slaves in Rome allowed the mass-copying and sale of literary productions.

the art world flourished.... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444534)

Paintings are hard to copy, and many were commissioned. Very few artists got rich.

There were no stereo systems, music had to be played live. Musicians could eek out a meager living but very few composers got rich (many could gain food/lodging with wealthy patrons but not much actual cash).

"history shows us that artists can do just fine without copyright."

I'm not sure that many artists have done well historically. The question is whether or not copyright makes much difference.

I say it does - but mostly in the sense that it means that the CDs in the shops are official CDs and the films you see in the cinema are provided by the official distributer. Without copyright you can bet they'd all be cheap duplicates of the original CD/film and nobody involved in producing the original work would make any money.

Re:the art world flourished.... (2, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444634)

Without copyright you can bet they'd all be cheap duplicates of the original CD/film and nobody involved in producing the original work would make any money.
I really don't see how one necessarily follows from the other.
You presume that the creators would expect to be paid for the distribution of copies and that 'bootleggers' would take any profit out of that.
So, the solution isn't to become a pauper. Its to figure out how to make money despite the bootleggers. For example, pre-sales - if enough fans pay for enough advance copies to make the production worthwhile, then the creators still make money, the fans still get new productions from creators they like and the bootleggers can still sell knock off copies to every one else. Take it a step further and the creators can sell subscriptions - as long as enough subscription moneys come in, they keep releasing the next in line - be it tv episodes, songs for the next 'album' or even movies (like sequels, or just new works from known quantities).

But why allow bootleggers? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 6 years ago | (#22445632)

"...the bootleggers can still sell knock off copies to every one else"

Why let them?

Record stores and cinemas are the one place where copyright law makes sense and is enforceable.

Re:the art world flourished.... (1)

Microlith (54737) | more than 6 years ago | (#22446024)

For example, pre-sales - if enough fans pay for enough advance copies to make the production worthwhile, then the creators still make money, the fans still get new productions from creators they like and the bootleggers can still sell knock off copies to every one else.

But pre-pay is kind of a hard thing for a new artist to use successfully. A major band like Radiohead -might- be able to get away with it. For artists who you are confident of in their ability to produce good works will get plenty of business but what about new artists? It's a huge barrier if they must either somehow drum up the funds to produce an album ahead of time (sight unseen, something which many slashdotters are apparently averse to) or eat the costs and hope a few people are kind enough to throw a pittance their way.

Never mind the fact that this model probably can't support ventures and works with higher fixed costs. While technology is great for reducing costs, they can only come down so much before you start hitting practical barriers.

Bootleggers are probably the worst outcome of all cases, since they crank out mass quantities of duplicates with none of the initial investment. For essentially no work they'll make more off the back of a given work than the creator did, and that's a real good disincentive to bother.

Re:As previously seen on BoingBoing (4, Informative)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444564)

Well, not really. Unless you consider "most" of the history of the human race to have taken place in the last three hundred years (a New Chronologist [wikipedia.org] perhaps?) for most of human history there were practically no creative works, and what few did exist were usually religious in nature - paid for either by a totalitarian religious authority, or by believers own devotion.

Art, literature etc all started appearing during the renaissance, (or during the pre-dark age antiquity, depending which timeline you subscribe to) and were inaccessible to the vast majority of the population. Your Roman poet is a good example - he didn't care that somebody was copying his poetry because he wasn't relying on his poetry for his income. The size of the population who had disposable income to spend on poetry just was too small for it to be an issue. Anyway, a combination of illiteracy and expense of duplication meant that only the ultra-wealthy families like the Medici could indulge in owning books and paintings. The problem of copyright infringement didn't exist, because the scale was too small. As you note, fraud was the issue of the day.

The invention of copyright was triggered by "piracy" of books, effectively, and it happened only about four centuries ago. Even then, it would be a long time until the number of people making a living off of producing creative works was >1% of the population.

So what history shows us is not that artists can do fine without copyright. It's that it's possible to have the arts, as long as you have amazingly rich patrons willing to fund it, in which case not only would most of the creativity be oriented towards a 50 year old+ bankers tastes (forget Half Life!), but there'd be much less of it. We'd have an abundance of copies but a shortage of new, interesting things. Doesn't sound like a good deal to me.

Re:As previously seen on BoingBoing (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444594)

We'd have an abundance of copies but a shortage of new, interesting things.

No, we'd probably have more new, interesting things. The free market has reduced the entertainment scene to rehashes of the same simple-minded films and music (even most bands at the fringe outside of major-label control aren't really doing anything new). The avant-garde of cinema and music has always operated through the support of wealthy individuals or ministries.

Re:As previously seen on BoingBoing (1)

SlashJoel (1145871) | more than 6 years ago | (#22446128)

I think the point of this article is to posit that copyright *can* coexist with the digital copying/piracy that is so prevalent today. However, the business model needs to change. For instance, with music right now you can purchase DRM-laden songs for $1 each. Alternatively, you can find music on the P2P networks that is DRM-free and costs you nothing. How is a model like iTunes sustainable if the music is available for free elsewhere? Kelly's point is that people are willing to pay for things above and beyond the music itself. For instance, people trust that if you download something from iTunes, it will be virus- and spyware-free. This can be less than certain when dealing with torrents and such. Trust is therefore something that is "better than free" in the sense that people will choose to pay for something they could get for free if they trust the source.

The key is obviously taking advantage of the types of qualities Kelly is talking about. Make buying media more attractive than pirating it. Don't tell me I can only play the music I buy in one type of mp3 player because then you're making pirating more attractive. The big companies just need to wake up and get in the game. Stop fighting digital media and start embracing it. How long were TV shows available on bittorrent before SOME networks finally allowed SOME shows to be streamed online in full after they aired? Years! If I want to buy a digital copy of a movie, odds are I won't be able to find it and if I do it may very well be a slower download or of lesser quality than a pirated copy. I firmly believe that the majority of people who download digital media illegally do it because to pay for the alternative is unattractive not because of the price, but because of the bit-rate, slow speeds, DRM lockdown, or because it doesn't exist at all.

Wired (1)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444492)

Did I fall into a wormhole on my way to work, this subject is *old*

Results 1 - 10 of about 12,800 for "competing with free".

sorry for nitpicking (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444642)

In "Immediacy" part he was giving example how "immediacy" is a value for consumer of entertainment and that is why entertainment industry is selling immediacy. Example he gives for software is quite different. Software industry needs us to have access to earlier versions so we could help the industry to fix the bugs. Seems quite opposite things to me. Early software indeed goes for free or lesser value, and early entertainment goes for higher value (even earlier free screenings for narrow groups of critics and target audience excluded).

Here's my thinking... (3, Interesting)

Viceroy Potatohead (954845) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444682)

I've been thinking about this sort of thing recently, and here are a few of my ideas (wrt music).

What the music industry should have done is this:

Create a decent online store and classify the music as either popular (the Brtineys, Metallicas etc), historical (the Creams, Johnny Cashes etc), or up-and-coming (the Modest Mouses, Jason Webleys etc) where they DON'T sell the biggest hits, they give them away, when you purchase a different track from the same artist, as well as a track from any band classified 'up-and=coming'. Personally, I think $1 a track is quite a bit too much, but whatever, they'd have to discover the actual price point. Regardless, basically three tunes for the price of two.

If even a small percentage of those who buy then go and buy further tracks from the u&c bands, it would be promoting new and less homogenized music, as well as making the smaller bands more profitable for the labels.

For big acts (U2, the Stones, that sort of thing), I'd also offer some meatspace uber-boxset, with absolutely EVERYTHING they've done. These half-asses boxsets that are actually offered nowadays don't appeal to me at all. DVDs of all their studio work, a few DVDs of all known live recordings, a DVD of demos, DVDs of all known video, a book about the band, a book of all known tour and show posters, etc... Basically, I mean EVERYTHING. Number the boxsets and sell the first ten for a ridiculous price (maybe a couple thousand), and the next hundred for maybe twice the general price. Anybody else can get it for $200 or whatever... I know there are several bands that I would have happily payed that amount, and judging by the twenty to thirty million people who entered the lottery to see Zeppelin for $300 (IIRC), there are bound to be plenty of others like me.

Then, instead of the current rush ticket buying system for concerts we have now, I'd open the sales to those who bought the boxset first, followed by those who have bought tracks from the online store, followed by the general public. As well, bases on the areas the boxsets have sold well in, I'd do another concert, for $500 per couple, limited to 300 or 400 people. Personally, I wouldn't have paid $100 to see Zeppelin with 20,000 other people, but I would have paid quite a bit more than $500 to see them with only 400 people. Let everyone at the show meet the band. Considering what deranged, out-of-touch twats so many of these celebrities have become, it would be doing them a favour.

Anyhow, that's my 2c. An industry which is providing something people want has clearly fscked up when they have become as hated as the IRS.

Wait a second... (1)

raftpeople (844215) | more than 6 years ago | (#22446122)

...when they have become as hated as the IRS.

I think you're being a little hard on the IRS.

easy one (1)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444690)

'If reproductions of our best efforts are free,' he asks, 'how can we keep going?

Easy: Abolish money.

Duh!

Re:easy one (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 6 years ago | (#22446106)

Money is an accounting system for what things are worth. It facilitates fair and efficient trade. Consider the alternatives.

Barter. A pure barter system is inefficient, because trades are only made when the parties involved exchange things of equal value. To allow trades of things of non-equal value, at least one party must have a supply of things of small agreed-upon value to make up the difference. Over time, these variety of small things will reduce, as a community settles upon one standard of small things that everyone accepts. Guess what? They've just invented money, and it's no longer a pure barter system.

Charity. Won't work. Some people are unwilling to do work of any sort; many others soon see that there is no good reason to produce when all they want to do is consume. If existence is possible at all under a pure charity system, it won't get much beyond a subsistence level.

Involuntary transfer of goods. An effective way to make life "brutish, short, and nasty". The biggest bully gets almost everything; people who would normally produce have no incentive to do so.

most free things have a real $$$$ cost (2, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444754)

Whether it's free software or a free sample or a "take it, it's free" giveaway of unsold items after a yard sale. Once you have something you start to make an investment in it. On the case of the free sample, the promoter hopes you'll like it and buy more. For free software you spend time installing it and trying it out. If you don't like it you spend more time removing it. With the unsold items, you spend real-estate in your home to house it (probably the reason it was up for sale to start with) and time to clean it when you do housekeeping.

So "free" doesn't really exist at all

To be better than free, an item has to pay you back for it's upkeep, care / feeding / maintenance and the time you spend using it, exploring it's potential and possibly the disposal costs if or when you toss it out.

In short to be better than free, it must make you a profit.

I've recently spend several days exploring a "free" CMS package for building websites. So far my time-cost has been well over $1000. In my view this package is certainly not free and may even be more costly than one I purchased for $500, but got my website built and operational in a day.

Free as in no-cost is a myth. In my mind "free" simply means disposable, with very few regrets.

it just has to not suck (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444816)

The Eagles had a 700,000-album debut week selling only at wal-mart. AC/DC's "Back in Black" recently hit 22 million copies sold over its lifetime. Piracy exists but it has not stopped good music from selling, it just stopped the labels' cash cow of generating money from crap releases by slapping some cute kid's picture on the front of the disc.

Start of making it "as good as free" (3, Informative)

Chris_Jefferson (581445) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444820)

One thing which irritates me about official channels of getting things is that it is often much more trouble than getting a bittorrent. There are things I would pay for, because I want more to be made, but it's too much hassle. The obvious examples of this is DRM and "Use need the CD/DVD in the drive" for games, but it effects other levels too.

A recent extreme case of this is the BBC's new iPlayer. This is free (and I'm in the UK, so it works), and I use windows so it works fine, yet I'm STILL using a standard bittorrent site to get programs, because the interface is so goddamn slow and awful.

Let me sign up once, then make it easy for me to search for, and download what I want with the minimal of fuss.

I am frequently surprised... (3, Interesting)

ChainedFei (1054192) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444962)

... That so many people equate successful ideas with monetary value. How is religion successful? Were there people going around asking individuals to buy into the Renaissance? We, as a society, focus altogether too much on how to make a quick buck off of something that we ignore the fact that some ideas are just damn good. A good idea sells itself. Bad ideas have to be marketed to the idiots. And we should be asking, is money the point or are we making it INTO the point?

Re:I am frequently surprised... (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 6 years ago | (#22446186)

Human time and effort is (like all things) a limited quantity. If a person is to make good decisions about how to live his life, he must be able to rank the possibilities open to him. He then chooses the things that most advance his life. Monetary value is an easily understandable standard that can be used for the ranking. Sure, there are things that fall into the category of "That's worth more (to me) than any amount of money", but that does not break the ranking system.

Re:I am frequently surprised... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22446394)

I understand your sentiment, and agree that there are more important things than money, however I have to say that the material components of all the things you mentioned were bought and paid for many times over. The Renaissance as an intellectual movement was free, but the art, architecture, science and writing of Renaissance masters were generally commissioned or supported by commissions for other works. And of course religion is free, but it did not get so successful by word of mouth alone. Most major religions have some sort of tithing ethic or requirement. Christianity would never have spread across the globe if there wasn't money to fund the missionaries, build the churches, print the bibles, translate the bibles, etc... The Vatican/Catholic Church is a multibillion dollar organization. Money is not the POINT, but it is an integral part of everything in modern society - and before money it was just measured differently, sacks of grain for example.

Freebies (1)

Cytlid (95255) | more than 6 years ago | (#22445040)

The next time someone whines "How can we make money if we give away XYZ for free?" ask them how we can give away recipes for free without starving.

Good article, btw, but I think here in the /. forum, it's more preaching to the choir.

Autorun sucks! (1)

jackjeff (955699) | more than 6 years ago | (#22445184)

People not disabling the auto-run deserve to be hacked.
People enabling the auto-run by default on their OS deserve to be jailed.

Re:Autorun sucks! (1)

Jerry Beasters (783525) | more than 6 years ago | (#22446258)

mod troll

Product vs. Service (3, Insightful)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 6 years ago | (#22445290)

One thing that struck me about the list of eight things is that very, very few people are going to get rich off them, while they will allow a very large number of people to make a good living.

The way to get rich is to sell a product, a single thing that you make (or at least design) once, and sell in very large quantities. If you do it right, you can take a certain amount of work you do, and use it to get money out of a whole lot of people. This is what the RIAA and MPAA are trying to do with songs and movies: sell the exact same thing millions of times.

The other way to make money is to provide a service. I make my living writing software for a company. They get my services, I get a continuing income that, while it pays for a nice lifestyle, isn't going to make me rich. (My current company does much the same thing: instead of selling the software, it supports the company in supplying a service very efficiently.) I do something specifically for the company, and they pay me.

The eight listed qualities of "better than free" are mostly services. They provide something personalized, or services that can't be sold indefinitely, or things that are of limited if positive value. That's extremely threatening to institutions like Microsoft or Disney, that have made oodles of money out of artificial scarcity.

It may well be that it will be much easier to make a good living in twenty or thirty years, but much harder to become rich. That doesn't sound bad to me, but there's going to be a whole lot of resistance by people with lots of money between now and then.

Re:Product vs. Service (1)

Microlith (54737) | more than 6 years ago | (#22446052)

The other way to make money is to provide a service. I make my living writing software for a company. They get my services, I get a continuing income that, while it pays for a nice lifestyle, isn't going to make me rich. (My current company does much the same thing: instead of selling the software, it supports the company in supplying a service very efficiently.) I do something specifically for the company, and they pay me.

But your company would not pay you if they did not foresee a return on their investment in you. That there is a return now is why so much is invested into various forms of entertainment. Make that return impossible (make the product free) and you will drive off investors.

Eventually you will drive off enough that you will have to make something on pocket change, for better or worse, and you might (just might) recoup enough to make your money back.

Re:Product vs. Service (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 6 years ago | (#22446114)

The main issue with services I've always found, is that then people don't have a reason to make something that doesn't require services...

Hypothetical, geek-wise example: I make a free RDBMS to compete with Postgres, MySQL, etc. Now, I make money out of services (well, not unlike how the people behind MySQL do). Now, I need to choose which features to add (as a priority, of course all are good)... I could make the RDBMS run faster, have more programmatic features, blah blah, or I could have a good ecosystem of management tools, auto-tuning services, etc.

Well, of course, if I make money out of services, unless it would be a showstopper for adoption, I'd be RETARDED to do the later: it will cut in my cash flow, and thats all it will do (since all my extra "customers" will be jumping on the wagon because they -don't- need me).

Actually, that is fairly commonly seen in the world of software, and other products, that live mostly off of services. The thing works well, ONCE its all properly configured, setup, tuned....but good luck doing that yourself (Oracle, I'm looking at you).

Then you have things that simply don't require any support or services, and are mighty boring to make. That accounts for, like, 99% of the lacks in open source softwares: for example, most UI things. If its well done, it doesn't need to be supported (much), in general (most) people hate doing UI, its long and tedious. So the better UIs out there are made from projects that are directly or indirectly linked to commercial projects (KDE...).

In the world of music for example, you have a bit less of a problem: the better musicians, singers, etc out there, do it because its fun first, for the money later (thus why there's so much great indy music). In videogames though? Ouch. You'll virtually never get the 100+ people team to work for years on a PS3 game (especially since aside he occasional collector edition, you can't sell much lateral products). It is a pain, documentation is scarce, you have a 5 years artificial deadline to get anything done (the lifespan of the console). Well, unless everyone starts making MMORPGs (ugh....)

So by going fully services and related products, one side of things will continue to purr along just fine...the other side will probably suffer in product diversity a lot. Not everything can be supported. And there aren't enough people who do it "for fun" to completly fill the remaining gap.

Re:Product vs. Service (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 6 years ago | (#22446276)

There's always going to be a "time value of money". Rich people will always be able to increase their riches by loaning out their money.

People making a good living who are not rich, can become rich by forgoing immediate gratification, and saving and loaning out the surplus.

Sure, some rich people are going to resist changes. There are always going to be people who don't want to exert new effort, and from among those the rich have the wherewithal to impede progress.

As a musician, my work is free (3, Interesting)

smilinggoat (443212) | more than 6 years ago | (#22445512)

I'm a musician, and I've come to terms with the fact that from now on, music is free. I support other musicians by purchasing LPs and CDs and the occasional MP3 of other artists I like, but for the majority of our audience (the public), our music is free.

How do we, as musicians, make money on our works? By doing the same thing that any underground band has known for a long long time: merch. The money is in the t-shirt, the lighter, the sticker, the wallet, etc. People want that.

That, and vinyl will never die. It is definitely a niche. But for one of my bands [deadhooker...geclub.com] , we sell a 7" EP and you get a free MP3 download version of it as well. For one price you get the high quality, inconvenient vinyl and the low quality, convenient MP3. Not a bad model, IMO...

I've bought a few MP3 albums off Bleep [bleep.com] before they were available in a physical format, but damn it, I wish for my $10 for the MP3 album, I'd get a $10 coupon to buy the LP or CD...

What makes something "Better than free"? (1)

jeremy128 (976915) | more than 6 years ago | (#22445846)

A beowulf cluster of free things (or should I say, Imagine a beowulf cluster of free things).

Getting paid for ever? (4, Informative)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 6 years ago | (#22446042)

A comment on some opinions above, first:

I did an engineering degree at one of the top schools and I got a high mark, a first as it happens. I had to work very hard for 4 years to get that, and I had to pay to do it as well.

You know what sucks? People don't keep paying me since I'm a great engineer. I have to actually work to get people to keep paying me. How is this different from being an artist? I had to work very hard for years, and PAY, just to get to the position where I'm recognised. Now I can do things that the majority of other people can not. Maybe you don't think I'm creative enough and only really creativeness should be rewarded in this way. If this is the case, look around at some of the modern engineering wonders of the world. They're as much art as science (and fine examples of both). But people don't keep paying the engineers for the use of those works.

Now substitute any other high-end training/degree/education for the engineering degree I claimed above. Art is great, just like engineering. But it's not special.

Finally, I have nothing against people being stupidly successful and making vast amounts of money. What I mind is people whinging and trying to change laws so that they can make more money at my expense.

Work for a living, damn it.

And that's kind of what the article says: you will have to accept that copies are simply not scarse. No amount of wishful thinking will change that. You will now (as always) have to make money by providing things which are scarse. Like service, customization, support, trustworthiness, and so on.

Free as in beer isn't best (1)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 6 years ago | (#22446236)

Free as in beer isn't always worth it. Think, white elephant.

Two examples from own life: I "won" a "free" grandfather clock by participating in some intrusive survey and buying discount coupons which I never used. Since I was in college and living on campus the grandfather clock had negative value and I never bothered to collect it.

The second was the time I was bored enough to drive out into the desert and listen to one of those shared time share thingies. That night they were selling shares of timeshares in San Luis Obispo (my home town) and my "free" gift for attending was a couple nights stay in a hotel in downtown San Francisco (where my brother lived at the time).

"Free" stuff often isn't worth it.

(And the obligatory, yes, I was young and very stupid).
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?