Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?
The Almighty Buck

Paying For Content In The Future 203

Kyobu writes: "Ars linked to Put a Dime in the Heavenly Jukebox, a proposal for making information free as in speech without preventing producers from receiving money, by charging ISPs based on the number of tagged files they transferred, and then transferring the charge to users in the aggregate. Although maybe not perfect, it's a pretty interesting idea, and well-argued." There's several really good points in here, and while it probably isn't going to say anything you haven't thought of (and in many cases, rejected long ago as impractical), it's worth your time. Something is going to have to change -- the question is, will it be better or worse.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Paying for Content in the Future

Comments Filter:
  • I don't see how this scheme would prevent some kind of encrypted napster/gnutella/freenet service. If the copyright tags are garbled then you can transfer copyrighted works between peers without them being clocked by the ISP. Charges for duplication of content between peers would not be logged.

    If enough consumers knew about it they'd all use it and drive their subscription charges down.
  • Does this mean that GPL will be contraviened if I am charged per byte, and all I am doing is an apt-get dist-upgrade?
  • I propose that if there is a solution to this. Abolish all forms of MPEG format.

    This could be a good thing for free software. Two words: Ogg Vorbis []. Even the early beta encoders beat MP3 in quality at the same bitrate, and it's only going to get better. Recent LAME [] builds support encoding to both MP3 and Ogg Vorbis formats.

    Like Tetris? Like drugs? Ever try combining them? []
  • If all the Britney Spears and Smashmouth fans strip the tags off their files in hopes of decreasing the aggregate tariff, I pay less for legitimate copies of Beatles' songs, and Paul Mcartney gets a larger percentage of the pool than Britney does.

  • Well this is true.. there would be a lot of protest to such a system and untagging would be a good way to do it.
  • There's also something nice about not having 30 cubic feet of space in a dorm room taken up by VHS tapes, cds, encyclopedia volumes, DVDs and other so called meatspace products. I doubt that you can accurately say that everyone or at least a critical number of people value a jewel case that's 5x the thickness of a cd taking up so much room. Trying to reduce the bulk of meatspace products?

    • VHS? Try Hi8 instead; the tapes are much smaller, and the resolution is remarkably better.
    • CD and DVD cases? There are CD wallets for that.
    • Encyclopedia? Why bother? Britannica [] is already online and supported by ads.
    • Mouse pad? Use a trackball.
    • CD/DVD/etc? Try reading free books online []. In fact, The Time Machine [] by H. G. Wells[?] [] is what led me to start collecting those blasted Precious Moments [] figurines, but that's another node [].

    Like Tetris? Like drugs? Ever try combining them? []
  • by redhog ( 15207 ) on Monday January 08, 2001 @07:06AM (#523979) Homepage
    And if I'm downloading Free Software? Or by the way, I set up a web-page with things I want to give away for free? I don't want any ISP to collect per-MB-charges on my free stuff and hand it to Madonna or whoever, and I don't want to recieve any paychecks myself either! This system requires that there is no such thing as gratis information. But there is... And btw, not only does it inhibit free information - it enfoirces the price of all information to be the same.
  • Some objections:
    1. You would have to pay some extra money for your Internet connection, even though you never downloaded any copyrighted content. And who should decide how much extra an ISP should charge? The ISP? Probably not, as there would have to be the same amount of money coming from every ISP. Then who? I can't see how this could possibly work without killing the idea of a free market.
    2. Who would the money get to if very few people downloaded copyrighted content a certain week. Should the ISP get the cake, or should it still be equally splitted among the right-holders? What should happen if no one downloaded copyrighted content.
    3. What is a reasonable price per tag? Should that be fixed, or set by the copyright-owner? It seems unreasonable that downloading the latest Britney-album and the entire Encyclopedia Britannica should have the same price (although there is approximately the same amount of bytes). It also seems unreasonable that the content-publisher should be allowed to set any price he wishes on each tag. We can only conclude that this needs to be regulated as well, which means no more free markets.
    4. have shown us, that when artist are getting some form of compensation per download, trickery will occur. Just imagine: In order to download <this file> you will have to download <these files> first! These kind of schemes are common even today. If there were any point in making a copyright-revenue system built into the current Internet infrastructure it would be in order to remove hassles such as these. When a system doesn't even remove that, it should IMHO be scrapped.
  • The internet is for the poor man to talk to the world, if we lost, ebay and whatever things will be fine.

    I think this is a very important point. I didn't help build the Internet these last 15 years so that some asshole could come along, trademark his way into my domain name, and get rich off it. I miss the old days.


    All men are great
    before declaring war

  • Well and what you love. But how much should you pay for the priviledge? Check out what happened at Combatsim is probably the best resource on the 'net for hard core military simulation fans. The guy who runs the site was shelling out many thousands of dollars a month for the bandwidth to server umpty million page views. He couldn't sell banner ads profitably enough to continue, so he went to a subscription model. While I think that $3.95/mo is pretty steep, I am not opposed in principle to paying for high quality information.

    In other words, doing it out of love gets expensive, if you do it well.
  • If you want to get a philosophical point from the article it should be that middle are needed for artists to get paid.

    I've never seen a formal proof that middle were necessary. If they add value, they aren't middlemen. Its when the historical reason for the value they add has changed and they add no value and they *still* get rich that we call them "middlemen".
  • Purchased content encrypted to your hard drive serial number won't play on a hard drive with the wrong serial number. Any other content will be considered pirated. See article "4C May Back Down On Hard-Disk Copy Protection" on Jan 7 for more info. Content in the future will be purchased and streamed encoded to your hard drive serial number so sniffed streams can't be played on another machine other than the target (buyer). If you like this business model, buy the stuff and the other stuff will vanish as they find out how to make money on the internet. When the internet is just like Cable TV with your decoder hard drive box, then content will be pay per play. I am voting against it with my pocketbook. I don't use any audio except CD's and MP3's. I do not use any format that can lock files into pay to play (Liquid Audio & others is a no-no). I won't buy a digital monitor or digital TV that has a feature of playing encrypted content.

    Don't make the internet another Cable TV franchise and my computer a cable box!

  • Brain,
    but it would be lots of fun !

    Think of all the meta-games that can be played with that: The piracy game, the spamming game, the trojan traffic game, the advertising game .. .

  • Or, the media people could just let all the content be free, and charge people not for the information, but for meatspace goods. Don't know about the rest of you, but if I had full access to all the books ever published & all the music ever played, I'd _still_ go out and buy the 'officially released' meatspace versions. Hell, how many times have you taped a movie off the TV and then gone out and bought it on video as well? More than a few I bet. And not just for the quality increase either.

    Never. Ever. Not even one. For real.

    There's something nice about having a real book in my hands. Something about having the proper CD with the liner notes printed on paper. I reckon people will still buy that stuff, no matter what.

    There's also something nice about not having 30 cubic feet of space in a dorm room taken up by VHS tapes, cds, encyclopedia volumes, DVDs and other so called meatspace products. I doubt that you can accurately say that everyone or at least a critical number of people value a jewel case that's 5x the thickness of a cd taking up so much room. I'd rather that album take up .5% of some huge hard drive.

    It might become a little bit more of a luxury item, and perhaps sales will drop some, but it's probably cheaper than all those lawyers they're hiring at the moment :) Also, if downloading stuff aint illegal anymore, and a lot of it's freely available, people won't really be able to have those 'my dick's bigger than yours cos I've got more ripped MP3s that you' competitions. Hell, they might go back to having 'My dick's bigger than yours because I've got a bigger real CD collection than you' competitions, restimulating the market.

    You can't be serious. I don't think I've ever heard people arguing over having more mp3s than someone else. Maybe on IRC somewhere in history, but even if this were true, it has no bearing of how right or wrong any of this is. Because there will be less childish arguing over the size of a collection isn't going to make or break a solution, in anyone's eyes.

    Not to mention all the 'I'd never have bought that if I'd not heard it for free first' arguments....

    Yeah, I think that's a real cop out, trying to justify it like that. Just because it's effort effective to get it now more than before doesn't make it ok to not pay for what you download.


  • I'm the author of the article. Thanks for reading it and for the spirited debate. The only way to improve the model is through discussions like this. To reply to several of your points: Re "scrambling the tags": you're right, this is a possible exploit against the model, but since the checks have to be MAILED somewhere, there is a target available for civil or criminal legal action. This exploit can be combatted. As far as "fairness" goes, the idea is that it would be an open system -- any content creator could simply register their content with the copyright office, tag it, and distribute it, and the money will roll in. It benefits startups maybe more than anyone else. You do raise an important point though with respect to the value of information. A BIG problem with the model is that it requires a stautory rate scheme, where content owners can't set their own prices for their material. I'd like to fix that but I haven't figured out how yet. Anyway, thanks for your attention - Pinky
  • If you give away your stuff for free, the per-MB charges for users are proportionally lower, since the ISP won't have to collect any licensing fees on your behalf.

  • You know, one of those 'pool' type systems where one person grubs and d/l's everything s/he can get their hands on and pays only a fraction of the cost, being subsidized by someone else who grabs an ocassional clip and ends up paying way more than s/he gets?

    Like being in a health care group where the substance abuser gets lots of free health care paid for by those who make an effort to remain healthy?

  • This plan replaces the tyranny of ASCAP, RIAA, et al. with a new tyranny of ISPs. The author fails to deal with the problem of unwilling creators. Under this scheme, I pay as much to download a Debian CD set as I do to download a Metallica CD set. Not only that, but Lars has to pay just as much to download that Metallica CD as I do.

    That opens up an even larger problem: I pay the surcharge even on bandwidth used to transfer my own data around. The obvious solution to this -- count already-owned bits differently from newly-purchased bits -- opens up the original can of worms. The next solution requires me to pay my ISP a bandwidth surcharge, then get some fraction of it back for being a content provider.

    Better, I think, to leave bandwidth unmetered.
  • Someone MODERATE THIS UP!!!

    Its unusual to see someone on slashdot who actually understands the base reality that programmers, (and artists, and musicians) need to EAT in order to go on doing what they love best. I know that the average slashdot reader is either very rich, or living off their parents/ student loan or whatever, but they must realise that by taking others intellectual property they are doing much the same thing as the loggers who deforest south america, or the pollutors who dump nuclear waste in the sea. It will have a LONG TER M effect far in excess of its immediate impact.

    So think twice the next time you download that Metallica mp3, how would you like it if Dave Mustaine came round your house and stole your stereo ?

  • by scott1853 ( 194884 ) on Monday January 08, 2001 @04:41AM (#523992)
    Content providers need to get over themselves and wipe the dollar signs from their eyes.

    For the most part, the content providers need to stop thinking of getting rich from simply starting any ol' website. It's a real shame, because I've seen some pretty good sites come and go because they've decided that they need some VC funding and tried to become millionaires from pretty basic ideas.

    Now, it does cost money to run a website. But if it's going to be treated like a business, standard practices should be followed. For one, don't assume starting a website today is going to give you profit tomorrow. Another, don't assume that somebody is going to pay you for nothing. For example, starting a company in January and trying to sell it by July. Starting a company is a long-term prospect.

    Things are getting weeded out right now. It's not just the companies with bad ideas. It's the companies being run by greedy little pricks only out to make a quick buck for themselves. They're the ones that only want to run the company for the sake of saying that they run a company. Those types are not needed.

    Companies also need to stop jumping at VC funding. Starting a company is long-term. Don't expect to start off at full speed.
  • why not? Let's say that the system is based on some crypto signature. Every tcp/ip stream is monitored for a signature packet that identifys the creator of the content (checking the signature would be hard, but if transparent proxying is feasible then this should be). Once the metering service has verfied the signature on the stream it looks at the certificate that it is signed with, get the number of the artist/producer and increases a counter. The stream is deleted and the next stream is processed. So why can't anyone get a certificate from, say, verisign or some other authority and sign any work they want. People downloading that work will increase his counter and his counter compared to everyone else's counter determines what percentage of all the money that is collected he gets. As for your cross subsidy argument, well every time you eat in a restraunt that has live music you are paying money for a song you probably didn't even listen to. For example, if the restraunt you patroned happened to be playing only classical music then it's likely that the money that the restraunt collected from you to pay the music industry collection agency's royalties was probably given to Billy Joel because his songs are way more popular than classical. It's not like you see on your bill "live music charge $4.00" but it's there.
  • by omarius ( 52253 ) <<omar> <at> <>> on Monday January 08, 2001 @04:42AM (#523994) Homepage Journal
    What I don't understand is why the ISPs have to be responsible for this. I run an ISP. I have enough crap to be responsible for; users already feel that everything that ever happens to their systems is my fault... having to get involved in money, collection, reconciliation, claims court, etc. would put a HUGE labor burden on any ISP.

    My vote for this is NOT IT. The cost should be incurred directly by the user.


  • yes.. he made a fortune and then dicked around his readers. The guy is a bozo. "Oh.. here's the first chapter, it's not that great but if I get paid a lot I'll put more effort into the next chapter. But hell, I might not even finish it, so you'll have to take your chances." Lame..
  • The printing press put scribes out of work.

    Trains and Automobiles put Pony Express out of business. Why do we worry about this?

    Technology is eliminating the middleman, not the musician. If musicians don't get paid, they won't make good music. The market will solve the problem on its own if we let it work rather than trying to find a way to make the square peg solutions forced on us by old technologies fit into the the round hole of post-internet intellectual property.


  • I see several points:

    a) you would need to show up that content is some worthy content before you get a tag

    b) you could hack the system by removing tags, so you can distribute in a napsta style without benefit for the TRUE artist

    c) how to guarantee a ISP in a different country called via a toll free number honors the system?

    d) I would not cooperate! I would boycott it.

    Sorry for d) BUT SO FAR I NEVER DOWNLOADED ANY MUSIC FROM THE NET. And I do not intend to do so.

    Furthermore 99% of the music distributed by such a system would not interest me, but I pay it by downloading MEGABYTES.

    The remaining 1%, I order in a mail order shop, and I do not download it.

    This means for me, frankly speaking: I pay and have no benefit.

    For me internet is mail, news and www where it extends mail and news, I'm realy not interested in any new medias distributed via it, I hang around at software download sites, software support sites, /., and and some internet gaming.

    I think every content should simply be digital signed and encrypted. ISPs can monitor the site where it comes from and this site should pay for distribution.

    Removing digital signs can be recognized by content analysis. A lot of stuff exists to "recognize" a song even if it is poorly converted into an mp3.

    And further, (I don't say anything about publishers and their wierd attitude or the wierd copyright system in the US) anybody who removes digital signs for further distributing, anybody who NOW distributes digital copies of copyrighted material should understand that this is easy, yes it is.
    But this does not make it legal or moral right. Its wrong. Its evil, and in my opinion you should get the same punishment you get by stealing 15$ CD in a shop.
    And just shifting the weight to the end customers is a kind of TAX and this is wrong.
    People should get educated that EVERYBODY can provide content, and EVERYBODY can earn money with it, and its a HONOR to citate one and to get citated and its NO HABIT at all to steal ideas and work of somebody else.
    To get me right here, I don't say anything against free or open source, its the sole right of the creator to distribute how he self likes it and if one likes to get payed its up to him and if one likes to give it away its also up to him.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday January 08, 2001 @07:29AM (#523998) Homepage Journal
    Markets deal with goods whose supply is limited.

    What is the scarcity here? The scarcity of information. The problem with information is that once information is created it is readily reproduced, which means once the information is distributed it is hard to compensate the creators.

    The way this is dealt with is to create a kind of proxy good whose supply can be controlled. Historically this was the "fixed, tangible" form of expression, which served well because the means of reproduction (typesetting, recording) were either expensive or unsatisfactory for the average consumer.

    Digital media don't have these limitations. A CD-R is just as good as the original CD-ROM, and no large costs, fixed or variable, are required to produce a copy.

    So, you have two options; trying to continue the control of reproduction so that markets can work on these proxy goods (copy protection), or to find some non-market way of paying for content.

    This guy is trying to on one hand compensate artists, and on the other hand, to free information from market constraints (or more precisely, free people from the kind of self rationing behavior being a consumer in a market entails). At first glance, this looks like a non-market technique, but he's actually using bandwidth as a proxy good. The problem is that you end up moving the self rationing behavior away from information onto the proxy good. Thus, if for a poor person who needs Internet access for e-mail or to do school research has to underwrite somebody's video collection, then he'll probably forgo using the Internet altogether.

    Ironically, this method of "freeing" information makes it even more inaccessible to people of less means.

    I think the download monitoring idea might have some merit, but I think a media tax would work better than a bandwidth tax. Media is purchasable in smaller increments (so it doesn't price out smaller users and scales with your actual usage of materials). Like in the article's proposal, there would still be no incentive to opt out. Sure, you could download an MP3 track in an encrypted (thus untraceable) form, but that just means that when you buy the CD-R some other artist will get the revenues.

    It might not be so bad a thing to pay maybe a buck or two per CD-R or per GB for hard disk, and never have to pay for music again, and still have my favorite artists compensated. Sure, I do use CD-Rs for archival backup and sofware distribution, but it wouldn't affect my usage that much.

    And I'd envision that you could return an old CD (or a coaster) for a tax rebate.

  • Then we could argue that it only worked because S.King is already well-known (which would be probably true...).

    I'm pretty sure that would be the case. All that means is that for a good but unknown writer, it will be necessary to give the first one away, set a very low price, or come up with some other incentive. Of course, the current route doesn't make things any easier for an unknown artist, especially one that's not mainstream material.

  • by Ummite ( 195748 )
    This idea will probably never work, since limiting the access at the base (ISP) could never always be monitored and controled.
  • While I think that $3.95/mo is pretty steep, I am not opposed in principle to paying for high quality information.
    It depends on what you get for that 3.95/mo, if its mostly static content with the occasional new thing (or even monthly new thing) then its an exorbidant price when you consider other sites you may subscribe to. The incremental costs add up quickly.

    For sites like this a better idea might be to form a partnership with similar sites (in both content and quality) and charge 3.95/mo or some other fee for open access to them all. An even smarter idea might be to form a co-operative web hosting site. Add up the bandwidth, support and administrative fees each month, take a little slice for future expansion and charge to the members of the co-operative. Maybe this has already been done someplace (I'd actually be interested).

  • Ok, so ISPs pass the cost to the consumers (as a whole). Makes sense sorta. (and despite the worries of the Ars editor, I don't think it matters if the content creator and ISP are one in the same - if so, they are *still* beholden to the market...people just won't use their service if they gouge for the content).

    But in light of the previous article on this worldwide "grid" concept...let's take this out to it's natural conclusion - the internet is seen more and more as a publicly-owned entity, governance migrates to the public sector and is state funded (a lot of it is already state funded, either directly, or indirectly via the major backbones coincidentally being major educational institutions). Now, your ISP is more or less your government, and you pay for the media you consume in taxes. What does this equal? State funded arts ;)

    (P.S. which IMNSHO is a Good Thing :)
    (P.P.S the only scary part is that the government is your ISP; although theoretically the government should be the *one* thing you have control over...probably the system needs to be fixed)

  • by Seumas ( 6865 )
    ISPs must not be allowed to bill consumers on the basis of their individual usage of copyrighted material. Instead, they must pass on their licensing costs only in the form of a blanket surcharge on bandwidth.

    This is one of those statements that can be uttered on its own without any further commentary -- the idiocy speaks for itself.

    Aside from the matter of various points of access (some from public libraries or other community terminals, others from schools, others from work, others from free dial-up services), you have the rediculous idea that if I use the internet for nothing but sending a few emails back and forth with friends, playing a little Quake3 and maybe visiting my friends' personal websites and downloading some public domain literature from Gutenburg, I should be made to contribute toward the cost of the other guy down the street downloading porn and Dr. Dre.

    Plus, this only helps the big money-makers. Universal Records, Touchstone, Doubleday and NBC will be able to levy fees through this system, but there's little chance of Joe Blow getting paid for people reading his articles on his website or using his cross-indexed horror movie database.

  • The only workable soulution (unpalatable though it is to many) would be a scheme like the blank casette tax levy they have in California. A tax on all kinds of computer media, hard-drives, zip drives, cd-rw etc, with a percentage going to the content producers.

    I've always wondered, why do "content producers" get to charge computer owners money? Surely, the fine authors of computer software should get the money instead, not these Hollywood bozos. I'm all in favour of a "GNU tax" instead.
  • They can't do it to everyone. If you attack your customers eventually they will catch on and go somewhere else.
  • Can an Internet model be developed to leverage a similar, existing system by which radio stations pay artists for playing their copyrighted material WITHOUT charging the listener?

    Radio stations are required to turn in playlists and pay set royalties to a couple of organizations who distribute payments to the artists. The money comes from radio stations advertising revenues, not directly from the consumer. But the more songs (copyrighted material) a radio station plays, the more it throws into this "pot", and the more the artist is monetarily rewarded in the end if his/her song is played more. (Analagous to "he/she whose stuff is downloaded more, gets more.)

    I'm not saying this exact system can be used without some tweaking, but my point is that there are already precedents, tracking organizations, and methods of distributing copyrighted material that compensate the author without burdening the consumer. (Can you imagine if we had to check the "I Agree" box before listening to a song on the raido? Get real....)

    At the risk of heresy, could such a system be implemented wherein neither the ISP or the consumer is directly billed, but the website host? (OK, I'm putting my absestos kevlar vest on now.)
  • Or, the media people could just let all the content be free, and charge people not for the information, but for meatspace goods.

    Don't know about the rest of you, but if I had full access to all the books ever published & all the music ever played, I'd _still_ go out and buy the 'officially released' meatspace versions.

    Hell, how many times have you taped a movie off the TV and then gone out and bought it on video as well? More than a few I bet. And not just for the quality increase either.

    There's something nice about having a real book in my hands. Something about having the proper CD with the liner notes printed on paper. I reckon people will still buy that stuff, no matter what.

    It might become a little bit more of a luxury item, and perhaps sales will drop some, but it's probably cheaper than all those lawyers they're hiring at the moment :)

    Also, if downloading stuff aint illegal anymore, and a lot of it's freely available, people won't really be able to have those 'my dick's bigger than yours cos I've got more ripped MP3s that you' competitions. Hell, they might go back to having 'My dick's bigger than yours because I've got a bigger real CD collection than you' competitions, restimulating the market.

    Not to mention all the 'I'd never have bought that if I'd not heard it for free first' arguments....

  • the article takes the long way to say ISP's should charge more than they do now and give the difference to an agency which distributes the cash to artists based on popularity.. like they currently do with music.
  • any other ways to exploit your customer base? Why don't people come up with some original ideas?
  • The cost of producing pr0n or Dr Dre is just the same whether you look at it or not. When you pay your electricity bill, you pay more for using more units, because those units cost money to produce. But with information, the only cost is a one-off to produce the information, there are no marginal costs (apart from bandwidth, which can be charged for separately). So there is no automatic case for per-unit charging.

    The previous poster was complaining that all he does is access non-copyrighted content, so why pay for the extra stuff you're not using? An interesting argument is that the availability of extra content adds value to the network and hence warrants an extra charge. Since the "extra content" adds attractiveness to the network, it presumably also means the network draws more participants. Since a network's value is equal to the square of its nodes, more nodes = more value.

    It's an interesting idea, and it seems to also imply that there could be a lower-value network that cannot access copyrighted sites and hence shouldn't have a surcharge since presumably it attracts fewer members and has a lower value. I don't know how to implement this easily, nor do I think that limited access to copyrighted content alone warrants an extra charge.
  • ... you pay a tiny tax on blank cqsette tapes in the US as well. Its figured into the priec yo uare charged and paid back to ASCAP by the tape manufacturer.

    I know ASCAP was pushing for that 20 years ago. I assume they got it since we havent ehard anything about it since then.

    How very very American-- to assume anything you think is assinine only ocurrs somewhere else.

  • This all sounds to me alot like the Salshdot version of NIMBY. (Not in my back yard.) The tendancy to fele that solutions to social problems should occur somewhere they won't effect you.

    NFMW (not from my wallet) which is the feeling that payment is fine as long as someone else does the paying.
  • It is wonderfully humane to have good intentions. But when it is clear that the solution presented won't bring the desired results, all the good intentions in the world are still wrong. I actually sat in a horribly crowded emergency room several months ago with someone very dear to me. I'm glad her condition didn't take a turn for the worse. There is a chronic shortage of nursing staff in our area, as in many places.

    When a third party pays for something, it artificially lowers the price for the person making the purchasing decision. When something costs less to the buyer, more will be demanded, regardless of the true cost. The problem is that the cost has not gone down. Hospitals still have to pay the overhead for medical staff, equipment, electricity and heat, cleaning and numerous other things.

    I don't want to see people die because they can't afford medical care. That is heartless. But it is even more heartless to overburden the medical facilities with non-critical patients, and there were quite a few that night. If a patient who needs emergency care, and is both able and willing to pay for it, but can't get it because the emergency rooms are overburdened with non-paying, non-critical patients, I call the people who created the problem heartless.
  • I found this sentence from the article interesting:

    "Why won't hackers undermine the metering technology, as they have undermined copy protection in the past? Because there will be no incentive to do so. "

    One of the best reasons I have ever hacked something is "because it can be done"

    Metering technology can be hacked. Because of this, it will be hacked.

  • The concept that I should be charged a fee because I have the _ability_ to access copyrighted materials is asinine. Very much on par with Canada's practice of charging a tax on all blank digital media to pay artists who might be getting ripped off. Both of these ideas are so absoultely stupid, that it defies explanation...
  • If this was a real problem, we'd hear about the Great Content Shortage. There would only be a few web sites with anything interesting on them. Are we seeing that? No. So it's not a problem.
  • you get charged per byte now unless you're on an some unlimited plan (like me, but capped bandwidth, oh well).

  • by Tetard ( 202140 ) on Monday January 08, 2001 @04:56AM (#524043)
    It's been 2 years, and not many people seem to have read Schneier's excellent "Street Performer Protocol". Read it at IMHO, things won't change until it is realized that the Internet is a pipe between users, and nothing more. At that point, we can start focusing on HUMAN protocols to agree how to pay artists (where recording companies can't get their greedy little fingers in) -- Schneier's suggestion is a step in the right direction. Until then, it's pointless. Unless we want to start a war on user control and the right for consumers to dispose as they like of the devices that are placed in their hands -- and this includes applications running on their computers, their DVD drivers, and any other form of doomed user-side content control.
  • This sounds pretty much like the good old Minitel [?] [] pricing system. : you access some service/content, the ISP charges you some price and gives back a part of it to the service/content provider.
    This "redistribution" model has been around for decades (the minitel system being only the most prominent application of it).

    The only question is whether such a thing is possible in a business landscape where zillions of players coexist. Since the Internet relies on open standards, anybody with a computer and a communication line can become an ISP. The minitel system was, on the other hand, a proprietary system, so its owner (France Telecom) could control anything that went through it.

    Have a nice time trying to apply such a model to the internet jungle, lads :o)
  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Monday January 08, 2001 @05:07AM (#524050) Homepage Journal
    how would that work exactly? Do you understand the system or not? The ISP charges you per megabyte at a fixed rate, regardless of what you download (a lot of ISP's do this now, although some have unlimited plans etc). They use the tags to gain and idea of popularity of content. That is, they want to be able to say 12% of the money that we have collected should go to artist X and 6% should go to artist Y. Then they give all their measurements and the money that they have collected to some collection agency and they send out the cheques.

    Here's about the only way I can think of "hacking" this system for any sort of sane reason. I go and apply for a "tag" and then sign a lot of bullshit content and hand it out to people. They think they are getting some song by their favourite band and I get money for the download. The hacker would be caught in a week. Someone would complain, they'd check the logs, the tag would be recalled and they would follow the money to the hacker.

    What else? You could scramble the tags before you gave it to your mates. This would just result in the percentages not being right. So some artist would get 15% instead of 16% of the pie. If the content that you are passing around is obviously good, so why would you want to deprive the artist of money? You're paying the money anyway, don't you want it to go to the people that you like?

    There's nothing to hack here. I don't think you read the article.
  • Thanks for the responses - lets work the dialogue some more and see how we progess :)

    >>1. Unless it's 100% "fire & forget" then the ISP's will bitch & moan about setting it up

    Well, let them bitch and moan. It will be the law to comply. (That said, I'd like to figure out a way to get the government out of the model -- I'm working on an idea for it but I don't quite have it yet.)

    If they bitch & moan, the odds are that they'll coordinate well enough and get sufficient leverage so the law is changed/dumped. Look at the Communications Decency Act in the USA, the Criminal Justice Bill in the UK and Australia's own "implementation of site filtering" law. Sufficient people bitching & moaning about unfair/unenforceable/hard to implement laws/actions meant either the law got vetoed or was ignored/watered down when it did get in.

    "2. Unless it's 100% easy and centralised with automation, it benefits the big boys and not the basement recorders."

    That is exactly the idea, that it would be 100% easy. Any random schmuck could get a "tag" for their work simply by registering with the US Copyright Office.

    OK - this is good that it's for anyone. Now, it needs international coordination (someone's bound to object to the US copyright office :) plus an audited, international system to ensure that useage is recorded and people are paid fairly, etc.

    "3. Packaging the files together into a compressed archive will avoid the TAG searches"

    Still working out the details, but my first pass is that the tags would be implemented as part of the IP header and tracked by routing software ... file format is unaffected.

    Erm - tricky. First up, getting it into IP headers raises issues like:
    • Roll out across the 'net (how many nodes are IPv6 compliant? It's taking a while...)
    • The tag will be in EVERY packet, not just those with paid content.
    • What if I put a copy on my hard disk for use on my various MP3 players. I can still then ZIP it and send it as now the IP headers are no longer around (they're headers for the packets sending my ZIP file around, not the content file).
    Still a bit of work required on this one :)

    "4. Why should I pay for some lame-o who just slurps TAG'd files?"

    This is the biggest argument against the model. It is to some degree unjust that users of minimal copyrighted content subsidize those who consume more. But I believe that this small evil is outweighed by the greater good of providing a simple, equitible way for creators to be paid for internet distribution of their work.

    If we're only talking a few cents a month, I'd agree. If, however, we're talking about larger amounts (eg dollars per month or more-bang-per-buck bandwidth, etc) then you'll get people complaining. I've seen ISP's convert their congested links to well loaded, high speed pipes simply by implementing a charge-by use format (typically, $x per month for y hours & z Mb with a charge for every hour/Mb used over the limit). People paying $x per month for "all-you-can-eat" and then sitting there d/l'ing warez, watching videos and listening to web-radio take bandwidth that I could be using to do my research faster, etc. Watch this issue - as you noted, it's the biggest problem.

    "5. What about "self-promotion" - I produce a TAG'd file and stick it up somewhere. I then go to what-ever places I can and start d/l'ing the file. It costs me stuff-all (free if I can "borrow" other people's accounts, etc) but it drives up the amount I get paid."

    Another valid point. "Gaming" of the system will be possible. But unlike users of Freenet, people who game this system will NOT be anonymous since the checks have to be mailed somewhere! These people can be targeted with civil or criminal legal action to prevent this sort of behavior.

    Hmmmm - yes, I would get a check mailed to me, but how would there be a link between my "content producer" alias and my multiple, fake me's that do the downloading? Imagine if I used a virus/worm to install something similar to a DDOS client which background downloaded a copy of my works every half hour :) Even if it were proven, firing lawyers at people doing this isn't too effective in an international setting.

    Again, thanks for your interest

    No problems - I see this as an interesting concept but there are definitely some details to be straightened out and pushed through. If you can work them out, it could be a winner.

    Given the current technical infrastructure and what I've learned of human nature to date, I'd say there'll be more success with a "subscription" model. Make it so cheap to get all the music you want that there's no need to pirate, etc. New business models are likely to be the solution rather than hacking existing models to work online. It's what we're trying to do on our projects - fingers crossed we can figure it out :)

  • and microsoft lost millions because they didn't raise the price of windows/office. they could have made $10 more per bundle, at 1 million bundles, that's $10 million! That's a lot of lost prospective revenue!

    it's also complete and utter bullshit.

    Ideally, people would be payed for the work they do, not the reproduction of the work, especially if reproduction is without cost. I get payed for writing programs, I don't get paid for the programs I write. This is a significantly different viewpoint, and we'll probably never agree. Such is life.

    PS. I have written slightly more than a few lines of code
  • Of course, you could also ask: 'I don't have any children, so why pay extra to fund education I'm not using?'. If access to information, like basic education, is considered essential then it makes sense to charge a flat rate for everyone, no matter how much use they're making of it. That is especially true if the mechanisms for charging on a per-use or access-control basis end up reducing the value of the information they are intended to meter.

    Having charges based on usage provides incentive to create useful new content - the more popular your work is, the more money you get. But a similar market incentive can work in systems where there is a flat charge and the authors of content are paid according to how much it is used.

    A problem is that people cannot 'vote up' the importance of individual item. Something which is used by only a few people but very important to those people can be provided under a per-unit charging system, simply by having a high price per unit. But if content authors are just paid on a boneheaded scheme such as per bit downloaded, or per copy of a 'work' downloaded, there is no possibility for the market to rate one work as more important than another (as opposed to just more popular).
  • "In an ideal world" there would be no need for money."

    Actually, I believe that is true to a point. As a thought experiment, imagine one fine century all production of goods is done by automation, including production and repair of the automation itself. The production cost of any given good is now 0. There is no employment because machines do what employees would do (no employment for engineers or designers either, no business incentive to design anything new).

    Would innovation just go away? I doubt it. Somebody somewhere will innovate for the joy of it (since no income is required or available anyway) and others will do it because they want the result and don't see anyone else doing it.

    Many couch potatos will disappear into a black hole of 24x7 free (recycled) entertainment and be looked down upon by everyone else (or just not looked at at all). Some will produce new arts, crafts, software, machines, or discoveries and be looked up to. Esteem would be the currency of the day.

    And yes (to the inevitable objector), I realise that won't happen next week. I also know that this is a simplistic explaination of a much more complex 'economy'.

  • give people are reason to pay you! When was the last time you did work for hire? Had someone commission you to paint something? or heard an author ask his readership what they would like his next book to be about? Where's the incentive to give you money? It's like saying "hey.. I've built this house, it's a popular kind of house but it's probably not exactly what you wanted but I'll tell you want, instead of selling it outright to you I'll just charge you and everyone who wants to live in it rent" oh wait.. that actually works :)
  • you can look forward to members of the described collection agency knocking on your door asking you for either your tag counts and cash or access to your network to prove that no-one is accessing copyright materials (by scanning for said tags).
  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Monday January 08, 2001 @05:23AM (#524073) Homepage Journal
    All they have to do is hack this tag metering thing into Carnivore!

  • wow.. I wish I lived where you live. Most places already have metered downloads. Even if you have an "unlimited" account your ISP is most likely still being metered for their data usage and you can be sure they are passing that cost onto you (probably by either guessing how much you will use or having an "appropriate use policy" that probits large downloads).
  • That's not a bad idea. Some how I dont think it will matter though. The ISP is going to be paying for the downloads anyway and you wont be able to do too much balot stuffing.. maybe you can increase your piece of the pie by 0.1%. BTW - I've posted about three times in this group and replied to a dozen or so posts.
  • know anyone with unsigned manuscripts? let's find out.
  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Monday January 08, 2001 @05:54AM (#524079)
    I wouldn't say that content on the web is doomed. But high quality delivery of content is doomed -- I'm talking here about your 192kb encoded MP3s, full decrypted DVD files, and so forth, the types of quality that you can easily match with a physical product. The problem with high-quality is in terms of both size and inability to protect the copyright despite technology and legislative barriers. If you were planning on putting something up on the web that was high-quality and expected to make money off of it in addition to a physical medium of the same or better quality, you've lost money in the end.

    What those that create the content should realize that most people on the web would like to sample products and test them before purchasing the better physical product. If a music publisher were to give away *free* 96kbyte-encoded mp3s (which IMO are close to FM radio quality) on the web, hoping to entice those that listen to them to buy the full album, they'll have a better chance than if they offered the same selections as 192kbyte mp3s; the former file size would be much smaller so that those with dialups can easily get them, and the encoding would be good enough to be able to judge the quality of the music for a potental future purchase. (Of course, consider that the average napster-using college student is going to snarf everything and buy nothing, but without napster, it's pretty much the same situation, they won't have cash to be buying overpriced CDs).

    Same with, say, television. I wouldn't mind having to watch any broadcasted episode of (for example) Farscape or the Invisible Man from Sci-Fi in crappy 240x180 window size, mono sound, streaming video assuming it was distributed free, since I have some interest in the shows but am not a devotee, but I *will* pay good money for quality (DVD) reruns of Babylon 5. Maybe there's a particular episode of Farscape that I also want in high quality format -- the free option will allow me to locate it, verify that I want it, then go off to the store and buy it.

    You still have problems with those that get the physical medium then digitize it and distribute it, but that's a problem with anything digital. I'm sure that while rumors, software companies have been compensating for pirated software losses for years (some possibly using it to their advantage :) ), and the content providers of today (music, movies, television and press) need to realize that they can't avoid such losses... if instead they worked to making better relations with net users as opposed to trying to shun them, they actually might see their bottom lines increase.

  • Firstly, any restaurant that plays any music of any kind (including tapes and live bands) gets hit with a fee by collection agencies (unless the music is original in which case they just pay the band) and yes, I could assume that there would be ISP's that have a scanner that doesn't allow tagged content through.. but that would result in exactly the same thing, people would use the unmetered ISP's to download tagged content and the people on metered ISP's would be saying that they are subsidising the unmetered users.

    As for the issue of ballot stuffing, I doubt that producer could increase his share of the pie any more than the amount that he was charged for by his ISP!

  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Monday January 08, 2001 @06:02AM (#524083) Journal

    It seems like this system requires ISP customers to accept a pay per byte system. Right now, most ISPs in the US are flat rate.

    If we go to a pay per byte system, then spam will start costing us money. This is already the case in the UK, isn't it? Well, we certainly haven't solved the spam problem yet, so going pay per byte on the user end is problematic.

    How about only charging per byte on HTTP, FTP, etc., but not SMTP? Well, then people who want to exchange copyrighted material will just set up list servers.

    Another alternative is for participating ISPs to continue charging flat rate, but add a uniform surcharge to each account. Problem? The first participating ISP will lose customers to nonparticipating ISPs. Even if everybody does it, the cost of an ISP will be driven up for people who don't download copyrighted material.

    Ultimately, the possibility of maintaining reasonable ISP prices at flat rates can be determined with a simple calculation: Take the current revenue of all content providers, add it up, and divide by the number of ISP customers. What do you get? I don't know. If it's $10, that's not bad. Who wouldn't want all the guilt-free MP3s they can download for $10/month? If it's $100 forget it.

    The ISP could simply pass through charges to the customer based on whether or not they downloaded copyrighted material. Then we are right back to the same old problem. Users who want to download a lot of copyrighted material will find a way to make it look like they aren't.

  • We are talking about music- at least that's what the guy writing the article was talking about.

    That means we are NOT talking about state funded arts. We are talking about state funded record execs. Are we possibly laboring under the misconception that the artists will get any of this? And what about the business case for the struggling band not contractually raped by a large record company? This proposal takes money from that band's distribution and awards it to the execs of the big record company!

    I can't think of a _worse_ way to deal with the situation. Better that _nobody_ should get any money, than if money gets taken from small artists and awarded to the big ones.

    What this guy is proposing is the functional equivalent of saying, "Since all operating systems are pirated, all customers should pay an aggregate tax to Microsoft whenever they DL Windows, Be, BSD, MacOS or Linux because Windows is by far the most 'infringed upon' with piracy". Now is the reality of this proposal sinking in? Seems there are a few Slashdotters all too happy to pay danegeld to a trust as long as it's not in _their_ line of work.

  • The sad point is, you've either never been out in the "real" world, or you don't value your own job enough to realize why things cost money -- intellectual property or otherwise.

    Hee, hee, you silly person... what a silly thing for you to say, since you have no idea who I am or what I do!

    In fact, I run a server (among other things) and pay for my own bandwidth. My business-oriented stuff, I pay for (and expect to), and the things I give away, I eat the (small) costs of doing so without whining.

    I just don't expect my website to be a source of revenue. My revenue comes from other sources. My website is an expense like my phone line is an expense, or like an ad in the paper is an expense. Don't want to run a site, pay for one, or give stuff away? Then don't. Just don't complain that there's a cost involved in doing so. Simple, no?

    If you're really going to assert that use of a website constitutes "stealing," as you said in your first sentence, then you're greviously misunderstanding the entire paradigm. And while all companies need to make a profit (mine included), trying to do so via the web is running smack up against this problem. Build a proprietary protocol if you want one, and try to convince people to use it. The web was born free. Businesses that put all their eggs in this basket deserve whatever happens to them. I won't lose sleep if Amazon and Ebay go out of business. I'd choose a smaller, free web run by enthusiasts any day over another pay-per-view extension of the corporate world that already bombards us from every other angle.

  • First of all, the author of the referenced article is totally clueless. You can't measure the transfer of copyrighted material and charge accordingly if you don't know that the material being transferred is copyrighted. When people send things to eachother over encrypted channels (and this will become the dominant form of distribution in the future), you can't tell if the data is copyrighted or not.

    Secondly, all of the people who are ranting and raving about how unfetterred copying on the internet will lead to the death of art are also mistaken. Copyright is a relatively new legal concept and the arts survived before it and they will survive after it. In fact, many people can successfully argue that the finest of art and music was better before the existance of Copyright, but that is irrelevant.

    The main problem many people have is they are stuck with this outdated assumption that every single copy made should be accounted for and paid for. If my friend sends me a copy of a song and I listen to it once, decide it is garbage, and never listen to it again, who loses? The answer is: Nobody.

    The problem isn't that people on Napster and other information trading systems do not want to pay for any of the music under any circumstances. It's that they cannot! If you download something from Napster and really like it, the only way to compensate the artist is to go to the store and buy their album. This certainly happens, but because of the dissociation between the downloading and the purchasing, there isn't a good way to measure this activity (downlaoding then buying).

    Given that you cannot stop people from copying bits and you cannot force people to pay for art either before or after the fact, the only hope for artists is to make voluntary payments after the fact as simple and painless as possible. We have the techonolgy, the main road blocks are political. Many people are vehemently opposed to voluntary tipping of artists but those same people always insist on some type of involuntary a priori payment, which shows that they are in denial of reality (you can't stop people from copying bits).

    The upshot of a voluntary tipping system that is integrated into browsers, viewers, players, etc... is that many more small artists who couldn't support themselves on their art alone will be able to. What will happen to the "mega pop stars" is less certain, but it is entirely possible that these folks will get even richer. The Internet will become the greatest thing to ever happen to art. The only thing is certain is that the people who have been making money by virtue of the control they have over the traditional distribution mechanisms (i.e. big record companies) are going to loose.

    People want to support the artists they like. After all, we all do what we have to do to make money so we can eat, so the idea that people are unsympathetic to the needs of artists has no merit whatsoever. I find it very disturbing that record company executives who get rich off the backs of artists go around pontificating about how common people do not understand this basic fact of life (artists need food too). The evidence is that fans voraciously purchase hats, t-shirts, and other trinkets (even CD's) for little other purpose than to enrich their favorite band. Stephen King's "The Plant" experiment is also good evidence. The author of the referenced article tries to make it look like a failure when it was actually a complete success. Not only did a ridiculously high number of people purchase the first part (over 75%), some people expressed interest in tipping more than the suggested one dollar and some went ahead and made multiple purchases. The author tries to make it look like a failure, because the second part wasn't successful, but that's just because people didn't like the first part all that much, and nobody likes to read a book in stages; people like to read the whole thing at once.

    Summary: you can't stop people from copying bits. You can't force people to pay for something they have a copy of, either before or after the fact. The only solution is to make it as simple and painless as possible for people to voluntarily contribute to the artist after they get a copy, no matter where they get the copy from.


    "What do you do when you know that you know, that you know that you're wrong? You've got to Face the Music, you gotta listen to the Cosmos Song."

  • This is one of those statements that can be uttered on its own without any further commentary -- the idiocy speaks for itself. ... you have the rediculous idea that if I use the internet for nothing but sending a few emails back and forth ... I should be made to contribute toward the cost of the other guy down the street downloading porn and Dr. Dre

    You wouldn't have been so quick to criticize the poster if you had thought about it a little, because when people pay their fixed ISP charge today they are doing exactly what you say is idiotic --- paying for resources in the aggregate, rather than on a per-use basis. It even applies to "free" ISPs, because there the cost is "paid" by aggregate viewing of advertising, whether individuals block it or not.

    ISPs factor in every customer equally when arriving at their charges, not on the basis of actual use --- for one thing, the cost of fully detailed use accounting would be massive and prohibitive, and there are privacy concerns associated with full accounting anyway. No, much easier to charge by aggregate, and that is exactly what they do.
  • I didn't see anyone talking about paying today's middle men. I saw an article about paying tommorrow's middle men.. the ISP's and the collection agency. If you want to get a philosophical point from the article it should be that middle are needed for artists to get paid.
  • If you only bill the web site you ignore file sharing which is where the problem is!
  • We are conditioned to think in the short term because we see the benefits immediately, or we are skeptical that the long term predictions are actually true. You might say that artists will go broke if I keep using Napster but I'm not positive that you are correct.

    What I do know is that right now I can get that new N'Sync album off of Napster for nothing while it would cost me $15 at Best Buy. N'Sync doesn't appear to be short of cash and if they do go broke I'm sure someone else will take their place quickly. Maybe after 20 years of this no one will want to make shitty music because there won't be any money in it, but then maybe not. For the time being I'll go with the sure thing.

  • Copy control hasn't worked in the last 20 years and it isn't going to start working now. The day the music industry actually starts suing individuals for their illicit use will be the day anti-copyright zealists declare victory.
  • I've already got one of those wonderful things that lets me get access to most the books ever written.. it's called a library and only once have I gone out and bought a book that I found at the library because it was written the very month that I stepped into a reference library (you can't lend) and I wanted to read it at home. ie. I couldn't wait until it showed up at the town library.
  • no.. that's not the way it works. You get charged per megabyte no matter what you are downloading for precisely this reason. Say the ISP adds one cent to every taffic per megabyte they are currently charging. Those cents add up and that's exactly how much they give to the collection agency. It's like a tax on packets. By stripping tags you are not reducing the amount you will pay, you are just screwing your favourite artist which means less of the music you like will be made.
  • It's pretty likely that your ISP gets charged per (mega)byte and passes that cost onto you. He is just beting that you wont use more than some average data usage or that for every high data user there will be 10 low data users paying the same amount. One could say that the low data users are subsidising the high data users, one of the biggest complaints to these types of royalty collection schemes.
  • I think that anyone devoting more than five minutes of their time to analyse the profitability of online content providing can see that it's just never going to work. People just don't want the current system to change; they like getting stuff for free, and the creators be damned.

    It's again an example of short-term thinking, in which people are happy to gain in the short-term, without a care in the world that this attitude is quite likely to cut down on the number of providers in the long-term. People need money to be able to work, and this has always been true throughout history. Whereas then they had patronage, nowadays they have the RIAA or the MPAA, and these organisations will remain until someone figures out a way that will allow artists to get paid at all, let alone fairly.

    Whether or not artists get treated fairly by the MPAA/RIAA is a moot point; at least they get paid something. If they moved onto the net today, they'd never get a penny.

  • Obviously there are tons of reasons for us to not comlain and hopes this whole thing goes away, but it won't.

    The current situation will change, soon. As long as people keep coming up with new ideas then there's still a chance that a reasonable plan may be enacted, instead of a typical government plan.

    Personally, I think the best way may be what is happenning with napster. Not that I would pay to use that slow service... *COUGH* IRC *COUGH*...

    Ahh, but now I'm being redundant.

    Devil Ducky
  • Radio station playlists are also dictated by an independent promotion coalition traditionally known as 'The Network', functionally equivalent to payola, which comprises as much as a third of the list price of a top-40 CD. Back in 1980, Dick Asher of Columbia Records tried to break this network (because it leeched off so much money from record company profits!) using the Pink Floyd monster hit album, "The Wall". The single was "Another Brick In The Wall (pt 2)". For the duration of Dick Asher's experiment, which took place during Floyd's LA debut of their 'The Wall' concert tour, no LA Top 40 station would play Pink Floyd's new single. That's a total lockout of the top single of the #1 album of an act commencing a major tour IN THAT TOWN- zero airplay, total freezeout. Steve O'Rourke, Floyd's manager, found out and made Asher cave in- one morning soon after the LA leg of the tour ended, Asher paid off The Network. By that afternoon, "Another Brick In The Wall pt 2" was on Top 40 radio in LA, and from there it spread to Top 40 nationwide, and Asher was left pondering what he had learned.

    Which is to say: if we use the people involved with tracking and controlling radio station airplay we are so fucked. Be careful what you ask for.

  • That's the problem with this scheme: Either you take money for _any_ MB, whatever it contains, or you'l have to check whetever the data is free or money should be collected. In the former case, you can not give anything away for free (this was the scheme proposed). In the latter, the user can allways gzip/gpg/whatever-obscurity-thing-he-wants the data so the tag-searcher thing won't find it.

    There are only two possibilities:

    Either freedom wins, and you won't have any profits, or profit wins and you won't have an y freedom.
  • I dont think there's any real control involved here. Except possibly for the control that the ISP has over its customers, but that is nothing new.
  • I don't think you read the article.. it's a collection system, distributing money collected from *everyone* based on the popularity of the artist. It's like a tax.
  • Consumers have a choice of whether to eat at a restaurant that adds to the price of a meal by providing live music. What's being proposed is the equivalent of everyone who eats at any restaurant, even ones that don't provide any music, having to pay that same $4.00 surcharge so that some diners (the ones with fat pipes) can order a table-side command performance by Metallica.

    While the proposed scheme bears a superficial resemblance to other things for which people are used to paying a flat rate for access, even though they might not be getting the full benefit (e.g. most dial-up ISP and local calls, at least in the US), it fails in the crucial respect that the price cannot be set by the market. Since the marginal cost of producing extra copies of the content is zero, the clearing price ought to be zero--but the whole scheme is designed to make sure that the price is greater than that, which means that regulators will have to set the "value" of the content based on what they think that people ought to be willing to pay, and then extract that rate from people whether or not they agree to that assessment.

    Heck, under the proposal, an unscrupulous content producer with deep pockets could increase its share of the pie simply by setting up a connection to continuously download its own work; furthermore, demonstrating that it was doing so would be illegal (ISPs are forbidden to track individual account usage).

  • it's pretty simple. You get charged an extra cent per megabyte (assuming your ISP currently charges you per megabyte, otherwise just take the number of megabytes that they expect you to download, after all that's the concept behind uncapped accounts) regardless of what content you are downloading. The ISP then counts up which artist's work is being downloaded and how many times and works out the percentages. All those extra cents go to the collection agency along with the percentages and they write out the cheques.
  • Being rather blunt, this has stuff-all chance of being implemented. Lets look at why not:

    1. Unless it's 100% "fire & forget" then the ISP's will bitch & moan about setting it up (you should have heard the complaints about the absurd legislation the Australian government tried to enact enforcing site filtering at the ISP level :)

    2. Unless it's 100% easy and centralised with automation, it benefits the big boys and not the "basement recorders."

    3. Packaging the files together into a compressed archive will avoid the TAG searches (unless the ISP looks into the archives as it goes past - whups, there goes my gigbit router slowing back down to 10mbps - say, what's this privacy thing too? :)

    4. Why should I pay for some lame-o who just slurps TAG'd files? It would require some form of "pay per use" - sort of a modified RADIUS system.

    5. What about "self-promotion" - I produce a TAG'd file and stick it up somewhere. I then go to what-ever places I can and start d/l'ing the file. It costs me stuff-all (free if I can "borrow" other people's accounts, etc) but it drives up the amount I get paid. Of course, it will also drive my file up the "frequently downloaded" lists and may induce others to download it, snowballing things and leading to lots of juicy $$$ for me.

    So that's just 5 things that we can easily find which will cause problems. If something relies too much on the "goodness in our hearts" then it's doomed. Most people may be cool, but there are greedy, opportunistic, lazy, I-want-it-all-for-free types who will always be there to rort the system.

    Of course, a fully draconian solution could be implemented, but that would require hardware & software level controls, etc throughout the end-to-end system (from record to host to grab to play, etc). We've all seen what's happening with the whole "Copy Protection on Hard Disks" thing...

    Thus we are left here with yet another payment system that doesn't quite cut it. Bummer. So, what can we do to balance the need of content vs staying alive/profit?

    As someone who has a family to support and rather intensely rich desires (Ferrari, business class travel, geek-toys, etc etc etc) I am not about to take on the role of "unpaid producer of content" etc - the tragically-hip suffering artistic type is just tragic, not hip :)

    So, here's the basic model for the content sites & similar things that I'm working on at present:

    1. I've got a real job (plus some paying consultancy gigs on the side). This keeps my family alive, well and getting as many international holidays as we can (admittedly via economy class - not quite there yet :)

    2. I'm consulting & advising friends/associates in their business ideas (both at conception and during their operation). I'm doing this on a (mostly) stock option basis (eg: swapping shares for cash). Many of these will go no-where, some will pay off. I'm careful to give my time mostly to the ones I think will pay off.

    3. The content related sites I'm working on at present have the following in common:

    A) Topical theme that's just starting to gain public awareness.

    B) Good content producer(s) - who also have regular paying jobs :) Many of them are writing articles on behalf of their companies, etc.

    C) Sponsors who are aware that they will likely not make any direct money out of this but will get their names "out there" in a beneficial manner (this public service supported by :)

    D) Simple site designs and a dynamic database engine that's already been produced once so we're not reinventing the wheel. Looks good, loads fast, no crap "style over substance" crap.

    E) All content is loaded dynamically - so long as the server is running, the tech crew are not required

    F) Cheap (but good) hosting service - site is available, served quickly and (thanks to lots of clients) not too expensive to host.

    G) Syndication of content around the planet with some $$$ coming in but mostly trading content.

    As a result of all this, it's cheap to set up & runs on a shoe string, the sponsors don't have to shell out too much and the content producers are getting their names out in their industry (good advertising for them and/or their companies). Those of us on the core team are all shareholders (some more than others) and if the thing ever goes ballistic, we're happy. If it doesn't - who cares - it's paying for itself and we're getting a good reputation in our industries.

    Just keep saying the magic mantra:

    "If it worked for Slashdot - it can work for me!"


    PS Yes, I'm cheating by ensuring that everyone has a "real" income stream - I've gone out on the limb once and it's not my idea of fun. I'd rather take slightly longer to get it happening than do that again :)
  • Because you are paying per megabyte regardless of what content you are downloading. If you remove the tags from the files you are merely giving the money you have to pay anyway to some other artist (as opposed to the ones you like). So go ahead and encrypt you're file sharing, but you are only doing yourself harm (and your favourite artist).
  • and I know the americans hate that. You're talking about the tragic of the commons and yes, you can do it.
  • From the article:

    For the consumer, it won?t matter if he downloads 50 megabytes of garbage or 50 megabytes of the latest Garbage album - he?ll pay the same amount.

    Suddenly, the era of the "Epic Ballad" (Rush's 2112, for example) are dead.

    "Why download 2112 -- that'll cost me $X. Prime Mover is a great song, I'll get that instead, and it'll only cost me $X/2!"

    The idea has merit conceptually, but just changes the problems. (Oh, you can also kiss goodbye Wagner's Ring Cycle (which, actually, is okay with me). It takes 4 days to perform.)

    My complicated and difficult solution is to let the market decide, i.e. let the bands and artists and symphonies and video producers decide how they want to protect their work (or not, as the case may be), but not forcing a single standard down our throats. In a couple of years, a winner will shake out.

  • by KevinMS ( 209602 ) on Monday January 08, 2001 @04:18AM (#524145)

    Stephen King ONLY made $120,000??? Thats a real shame considering how much quality probably went into "the plant". Let me guess, its about a plant that becomes powerful and evil after a comet passes close to the earth.

    How many times have you paid good money for music, magazines or books, taken them home and realized they are pure crap. I figure that a lot of money is made out in the brick and mortar world just because people are too lazy to bring it back, or cant. With the internet, we know right away things are crap.

    Sucessful musicians are going to have to eventually get used to living very comfortably, rather than like royality. Its just a confluence of circumstances that let them earn so much money new, while aids researchers and the like dont.

    Advertising does work on the internet, just not as well as tv or radio, just dont have hundreds of people working on one site and expect advertising income to pay for them all.

    The internet is for the poor man to talk to the world, if we lost, ebay and whatever things will be fine.

    As soon as I press submit I'm sure I'll think of something else to say.
  • Isn't it equally possible that all the media/software companies will just bomb and die as everyone happily takes their product and makes infinite copies? Could we not even call upon the old standby Occum's Razor and say that this is the simplest thing that could happen and probably will? If so, I hardly think it is the end of the world. So people wont make money off media and software or at least not as much as they do now.
  • Great idea here folks:

    (Who uses their serial port, anyway?? ;))

    We design a coin-op box that plugs in to EVERY desktop computer. It accepts ONLY American currency (no one else matters, right?) (BTW, I'm a Canuck). So, every time you want to download something, you put some change into the box, and voila! You may now proceed with download! For a really authentic coin op, it can be programmed to "eat" every 10, 15, 55th coin!! Amazing!!

    How do we collect all the money?? WEll, we gather up all the people of average intelligence - 1 sd above and below mean), give them orange shirts, and have them run around and collect all the money!!! We'll give them guns too, just in case people complain that their coin-op ate 1.50$.

    THen, we can pay their wages out of money collected, and the copyright holders can get their fair share of the loot!! Brilliant!

  • by Seeka ( 258435 )
    Nothing will ever free the internet from Open Source short of putting corporate discipline into all of its users -- The idea that no-one wants to see happen. Charging more for internet access based on files they transfer is rediculous. Do we really need a stronger call back to BBS's? We could interconnect them all, and call it the "Binternet". Just as democracy isn't a totally flawless belief, the internet won't be either.

    Somebody should probably tell these people that it will never happen. It's already too late. What are they going to do, collapse the internet? I seriously doubt that, the internet is already too much of a big-money venture even with open source losses.

  • DeCSS doesn't break anything, it fixes. It is also completely legal just about anywhere except the US of A. This is just another control mechanism that has no basis in law, which I will be completely free to defeat and/or reverse engineer.

  • Bullshit. I get so sick of this arguement...its exactly what I expect from someone that has never written a line of code or played anything but covers on someone else guitar.

    If I take your radio, and give it away to a group of underpriveledged folks that had never listened to music, or someone robbed your bank so they could feed their family, I guess one would assume that both of these events are moral simply because you are eliciting the greater good, not some rich college kid who's mommy is going to buy them an other radio anyways.

    We are all about doing whats the best for society aren't we??? Isn't that what the GPL is about? The GPL more or less says we don't trust that you will keep this open and think we know more than you about your morality. A truely free license will allow someone to release closed source software if you want to be a complete asshole and profit off others works. No Morality.

    Having said this, I hope this doesn't come across as a Troll (I got enough Karma if it does)...I release software in GPL format when it is appropriate, though its my choice. I wouldn't care if someone took my music and put it online and others downloaded it. Thats my choice. If someone takes something that someone didn't want distributed, yes, they have lost something. They lost what ever value that they may have gained in selling it. They may gain more by giving it away, but again, its their choice.

    Sorry to rant about this...I just get pissed off at +2 posters that have no clue.

  • Agree completely. The Street Performer Protocol is the only system I've seen that both ensures that creators get paid and doesn't depend on anti-consumer "trusted" (i.e. crippled) hardware. Stephen King came close to the SPP, but failed because the payments weren't held in escrow and because his criteria was the percentage of readers who paid, not the total payment amount.
  • "To be short" - it's a tax.
  • I certainly don't want to pay for a portion of what the other users at my ISP are looking at. If I'm reading web sites for various Linux distros,, slashdot, and sourceforge and none of them are charging anything, why should I pay for someone's reading habits at various predigested news sites.

    Separating the payment from the use, especially spreading it around, encourages overuse. It is a large part of the problem with the cost of medical care in the US. If you don't have to bear the costs, why not have the best and use as much of it as you want.

    David Friedman talks about Information as a Public Good [] in his book Price Theory []. Follow the link and search for "Information as a Public Good".
  • Web content in and of itself is primarily advertising. Information about a company and its products, music samples, and even warez and the like, are all, in a nutshell, advertising: showing us what they've got that we might want to see, use, maybe even [gasp] buy.

    Good summary - I gotta learn to stop writing so late at night :)

    You're point is valid, however I didn't make clear that the "advertising" side of things is secondary. I'm not sure what you think of some of the articles in computer/technical journals written by consultants/staff of companies such as CISCO. In these, they write about concepts such as networking, future routers, etc etc etc. Generally, this stuff isn't blatant advertising but does add to the general knowledge of the reader. My limited market research (I asked some friends & associates :) has indicated that these articles are generally informative (especially if written like a submission to a scientific journal) and help raise the reader's impression of the author and/or their company. If it becomes blatant advertising, most people "tune out." Here in Australia, most of the blatant stuff gets "advertorial" stamped on it somewhere :)

    You're right about the nasty side of advertising in web-content. It's a fine line that we have to walk - I feel if our content is too blatant, we'll lose readership.
  • I love the way you use health care as an argument against public goods. Everyone on this forum who lives in a country with health care is shaking his head at your inhumanity.
  • What system were you reading? He gets charged per byte that he downloads!
  • >So think twice the next time you download that Metallica mp3, how would you like it if Dave Mustaine came round your house and stole your stereo ?

    quite bad.. then again.. when I download a metallica mp3 (yeah.. right..) Dave Mustaine hasn't lost anything, where in the other case, I have lost my stereo. you can't compare intellectual and real property: intellectual property is copied. nobody looses anything, everyone wins.

  • Very smart concept. When search engines check sites they end up paying an awful lot just to make limited indexes! No good. If you make exceptions for search engines you suddenly realize how easy it is to say you're someone else and all the sudden everyone is pretending to be a search-engine. If you grant special permissions to search engines from specific domains you're excluding virtually every startup there is. In total: great idea, has lots of issues.
  • The cost of producing pr0n or Dr Dre is just the same whether you look at it or not. When you pay your electricity bill, you pay more for using more units, because those units cost money to produce. But with information, the only cost is a one-off to produce the information, there are no marginal costs (apart from bandwidth, which can be charged for separately). So there is no automatic case for per-unit charging.

    It may well be that charging according to usage is the best way of extracting money from consumers and giving incentives to producers, but then it may not be. If someone decides not to download some information because it has a per-unit charge, nobody benefits. The user doesn't get the information, and the producer doesn't get any money. But it would have been possible for the user to get the information without any cost to the producer.

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain