Downloading happens. Rather than fighting it, can we embrace it?
People have their reasons for pirating content. I’m not going to get into that debate.. except to say that I think that at least some pirates still consider the digital content to be of SOME value. Pirates just disagree on how much, when, and to whom they should pay.
What if artists gave purchasers that flexibility? We’re starting to see artists offer their clients more flexible payment options.. For music, there’s bandcamp. For video games, there’s services like humble bundle. These services are effective and profitable, and they’re certainly a step forward for their industries. But there’s still a big problem; These services accept payment BEFORE delivering the digital content, and not all pirates will adopt that.
So how can artists be paid after the delivery of the content? Some musicians / game developers will offer ‘donate’ buttons on their website. I don’t have any conclusive stats for a donate button’s profitability, but I think we’re on to something here. As a consumer, this gives me an option to pay the artist at any time, for any amount. I like that flexibility, but the downside is I have to search out each artist. Expanding that out, each pirate will have to search out each artist, each time. That sounds like too much hassle.
What if we could fix that? What if I could tell my computer to track the music I listen to, the movies I watch, and the games I play, and then report back to me. What if there was an open source service that did the legwork of finding those artist’s websites, and recording their donation information? Through a service like that, I could easily decide on a value to send to each of them.. as a thank-you (much like how you can designate funds during the purchase of a humble bundle). Maybe I could set up a monthly amount to automatically get distributed proportionally to the artists I consumed that month? Wait a second.. small, repeating payments in proportion to an artist’s exposure? Those are royalties.
Yes. Sorta. It’s royalties flipped on it’s head. It’s voluntary, post-consumption compensation for artists. It’s royalties for an age where consumers want the content first, but still want to give credit where credit’s due.
Will it work? Well, Services like spotify are performing well. Spotify offers a simple way to let people access a global collection of music, in exchange for paying a regular monthly amount. It then compensates artists by paying out royalties based on how many ‘streams’ that artist receives (learn more about how spotify works). I think this is a great model, and consumers WANT to embrace their digital content this way. The problem remains however, that services like Spotify have to keep a tight reign on providing access to their content in order to track it’s user’s habits and police distribution. It also has to function within a stringent set of legal parameters, which render the service inaccessible in many areas of the world (including Canada). What I’m proposing is a TRUST based model. If we come to the table assuming that users already have the digital content, and now they’re willing and ready to pay for it. Then we can trust them, and simply manage the distribution of their allocated donation. Users and third party services could submit ‘tracking’ information without any more than simple safeguards, because users have nothing to gain through the manipulation of their tracking information. When you tell the service you listened to ‘song x’ four times, It can trust you, because you have nothing to gain by lying to it. This lets us approach the problem using open technologies, and (as I understand) without infringing on any copyright stuff (as the service would have nothing to do with content distribution).
Pirates DO say thank you to artists, when we let them. So let’s encourage them! Let’s enable pirates around the world say ‘thanks’ and see what happens.