Many have suggested it in the past, many are currently doing this, but its really struck me now. What I’m talking about is a system where the content industry (by this I mean industries that develop products that can be distributed in digital format, which are conventionally protected by copyright laws, mainly the products, software, books, motion pictures and music.) allows consumers the freedom to legally download, redistribute, remix, share and so forth content. Say either an individual author, or songwriter/singer/band or a cooperate company that produces films, imagine if all their content was free to the world – For one this would probably open up whole new methods and technologies for distribution and staring of content, methods that aren’t always in strife with big companies and their lawyers trying to sue you.
This model would allow both the poor and the rich access to the same content giving them both the choice of how much or how little they want to pay. There would be very little piracy where a third party takes consumers money, as sane people would access content using the unregulated free, or very cheap methods of distribution that would presumably come with this model.
So how would all this be paid for? A donation. Consumers of the content could donate as little or as much money as they want to the creator. If they just watched a film but they thought it was terrible they may choose to pay nothing; if they loved it they may pay more than what the provider may have traditionally been willing to sell it for. Now wouldn’t this be a great society? It gives consumers the power and freedom, not the corporations.
One down side I see is that big corporations may abuse the system. Though allowing the payment process to be transparent when requested could help solve this.
What separates digital content, or “intellectual property”is that you are always taking copies. When you download an audio track you are not demolishing the number of audio tracks there are available to be distributed. Ignoring the distribution costs once you have produced say a film it costs you nothing to give it to the whole world, whereas its costs you more than nothing to distribute the whole world with TVs when you only have one. I say “ignoring the distribution costs” because use of P2P technologies reduce the cost to zero.
I would have no problem with giving an amount of money that I can afford and I think is reasonable to the creator. If anything it would increase the amount of money I give to content creators. For example I may want to see a particular film that is available for $30 on DVD. I think that is too much, so currently the creator gets nothing from me. If the FairPay model I’ve proposed here was in place, I would watch the film and if I liked it I would at least give more that $0 which is what they are currently getting from me.
This is not such a radical idea. The other day there was a story on a current affairs program where a restaurant is allowing customers to choose how much they wish to pay for their meal. SBS’s Insight ran a program about illegal downloading of music on Tuesday, 3 Jun 08 which gave another example of this model;
“SAM McLEAN: …One of the great models that have come out of bands is Radiohead’s model of releasing their music for free and saying, “Look, pay us what you think it’s worth,” and they made tonnes more money off that.
JENNY BROCKIE: They made a lot more money from that than anything else they’ve done.”
Sure there are probably a lot of problems with this model that I have not thought of, I have not given it full consideration though it certainly deserves it.
I’m sure this is probably a very controversial idea. It certainly appears to be a great model for both consumers and society as a whole. So I hope in the future more and more creators explore this idea, and I hope I get a chance to try it out.
UPDATE: Just to clarify, I am in no way saying this should be compulsory. I am mealy expressing that I wish people and the majority of content creators used a method of distribution more along these lines. It is in my view a plasible solution to copyright infringment and piracy.