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Setup for The Contingency Market - part 1 · 734 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

This is the first of many short articles going through the step by step process of setting up the development and runtime environment of The Contingency Market. The GPL source code to the latter will be provided in the respective article.

The first step in setting up the development environment for the Contingency Market is to set up the computer and operating system to run it on. I recommend a PC running Windows 2000 and IIS 5.0 onwards. I will use Windows 2003 Server & IIS 6.0.

Connect it to the Internet and ensure that it has the latest updates.

The Contingency Market is an ASP.NET web service (SOAP) written in C# so ensure the PC is set up with IIS. I will use IIS 6.0 (supplied with XP64 or 2003 Server).

It is of course preferable to have two PCs, one for the development environment and one to run the IIS web server plus web services. However, to keep the description of the set up process simpler I will use a single PC.

drew Roberts said 697 days ago :

Honestly Crosbie, this is a fail. Or should I say a fail.net

Crosbie Fitch said 697 days ago :

Don’t worry Drew, I’ll find the odd mo to carry on.

Liberty to Fork · 1094 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

I have decided to split off all articles concerning cultural liberty onto a dedicated domain at CulturalLiberty.org/blog. My apologies for any glitches, such as in RSS feeds, that occur due to this split. I hope I’ve redirected all old links properly. Don’t hesitate to add a comment if you notice any problems.

The CulturalLiberty.org site currently defaults to a wiki – to which I will add a link to the blog.

I’m going to leave this Digital Productions blog dedicated to the development of facilities for cultural exchange (that don’t depend upon copyright).

Having run out of funding to complete the 1p2U.com demo of the ContingencyMarket.com I’ll soon write a series of articles documenting the process of their installation, operation and current state of development, with source available for download (GPL).

Properly Handling Subscriptions · 1287 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

Recap

Let’s recap where I am with 1p2U.com.

The point of 1p2U is to demonstrate The Contingency Market and give an example of a simple facility that enables interested members of an artist’s audience to sponsor the artist’s work, i.e. on the assumption that there’s no market for digital copies given everyone can make their own (and the 18th century privilege of copyright that’s supposed to prevent them is now the brown sludge of an ex-chocolate teapot).

It’s important to note that the key feature in models supported by the Contingency Market is that they are about exchanges, not donations, i.e. commerce rather than charity. All payment for work is based on this contingent exchange: “If you do the work you get paid, if you don’t you don’t”. Moreover, you can only sell your work to those who value it enough to want to pay you to do it.

The exchange of work or goods is what happens in a free market, not manufacturers being able charge someone for the value they extract from a product. If a weaver sees someone other than the purchaser of their basket borrowing it (even to make a copy), they have no right to demand payment from them for the value they infer has been obtained. The vendor may well wish to maximise the value to them of what they accept in exchange for their work, but that’s a marketing problem. It’s the vendor’s task to find the set of customers who value their work the most, to maximise the sale price. Just because they may fail to obtain a theoretical maximum, that’s no reason to be granted a monopoly so similar works can be sold over and over again (given no-one else is at liberty to make copies more cheaply). A state granted monopoly is lucrative, but it’s very expensive to the rest of society. Aside from a monopoly inflated price it has an extreme hidden cost, albeit one shared by all.

Thus 1p2U’s proposition is “If you have umpteen readers willing to sponsor your intellectual work at a penny per article, then 1p2U can facilitate that bargain and exchange”. But, obviously, once the intellectual work is published, and copyable by all at zero cost, then it shouldn’t be, and can’t be, sold again (though some will insist it can be, monopoly or not).

How things work now

So, how does 1p2U work via The Contingency Market at the moment?

The blogger registers their blog’s RSS feed, and this is recorded as the following hierarchical event:

There are child events to the feed, e.g. that the feed’s description Is Known (has a value).

The key child events concern the publication of each feed item, e.g. that an item is published after a certain date (item>4/10/10 11:10am, which has a child event that its guid Is Known), and the event of that specific item (item=“tag:www.digitalproductions.co.uk,2010-10-04:3cda7fd03d8b973d9485efa5190df763/4529ab446a2822060dafe306865788e9” which also has its own child events, e.g. pubDate Is Known).

Thus a subscription is a deal based upon a matched pair of offers: the blogger’s offer to publish their blog (the contingency that the feed is published) and a subscriber’s offer to pay a penny (contingent upon the event an item is published after a certain date).

Renewal

However, that’s just the sponsorship for the next article. A subscription is also a continuously renewed sponsorship, and moderating the renewal process is the next significant piece of coding I have to do.

I shall create a new event which is that there is a specific subscriber to the feed:

Subscriber exists/Agent is subscribing

  • ID:Subscriber=AgentID: Subscriber with this ID is observed to be subscribing

I’ll then create two child events:

Subscription renewal rate

  • N:Rate=Unknown/0: If renewing, resubscribe to next article
  • N:Rate>0: If renewing, resubscribe to next article published after ‘Rate’ seconds

Subscription renewal limit

  • N:Limit=Unknown: Unlimited – renew automatically
  • N:Limit>0: Do not renew if ‘Limit’ is exceeded by number of articles published since start of last subscription period (last observed to be subscribing)

These two events should give 1p2U subscribers sufficient control, e.g. to start and stop subscribing, to limit their sponsorship to a particular publication rate, and to cap the amount payable. These values can of course be adjusted as often as the subscriber wishes, though it is expected that they will be changed rarely. I will probably set the default Rate at 60 second renewal and Limit at 2,000.

I may also create another event one day to set the subscription payment, e.g.

Subscription payment

  • C:Payment=Unknown: Offer 1p in exchange for publication of the next article
  • C:Payment>=0: Offer ‘Payment’ in exchange for publication of the next article

James Wakefield said 1277 days ago :

1p2U is a really good idea, and I wish you all the best with your endevours. I would however like you to take in to consideration the “pay per copy problem” which current copyright law also contains. This is that avant guard — the artists that inspire the artists; the experimenters and those that are simply before their time, will continue to not be paid under a pay per subscription system, with only the ones that distill the ideas into more popular digestible forms being the beneficiaries, even if they only manage to make one important, nay, popular work. Further more, this continues, albeit in a much friendlier form, the idea of ownership of information for the consumer, and possibly limits the amount of consumption of culture as people will continue to believe that it is something that you have to, or should, pay for if you want to consume it.

I have been thinking much about this problem, just like yourself, and have come up with a little system that if you wouldn’t mind I could explain to you.

A cultural production society could be created where members pay to receive nothing but a membership card, and pay the appropriate price for their circumstance. However, I imagine special events will be held where only members are invited, discounts on various items will be given to members by businesses that want to encourage arts and journalism. If a creator wants to withdraw the money that has accrued to them then they will also have to become a member. They should however still accrue money in an account even if they are not members.

Many different ways of distribution could be formulated. It is most important for an absolute libertarian approach be established for what type of work is entitled to receive funds, for the risk of censorship is far greater then the risk of rewarding “undesirable” content or even having to decide what is undesirable. I suspect things like smart phones could periodically sample the environment of the user (and deliberately uploaded by that user after he or she has gone through and removed the things he or she doesn’t like or didn’t actually want to consume). Ideally such a system would be run by Google who already have immense amounts of relevant data. Systems could be established to ensure new artists and writers are paid more, and a cap is placed on how much a creator can receive for each item.

My system while feeling somewhat like a charity, rewards creators whose products are consumed. The concrete item of the membership card gives a benefit to consumers. Derivative works would be recognised with all contributors of the work being rewarded. Ownership is not involved — culture stays in society with potential benefit of creators actually encouraging people to create derivatives. The membership cards could be given as gifts. I would also like each member being able to choose how, or at least part of, their contributions are distributed. I’m not sure what is an appropriate price point for membership would be.

I intend on creating a blog soon, I hope to work together with fellow like minded copyright abolitionists.

Crosbie Fitch said 1277 days ago :

Thanks James.

I don’t see any “pay per copy problem” except that people are indoctrinated by copyright to believe that the author has some right to be paid each time someone copies or performs their work.

People should be paid for their work, not for someone else’s work in copying it, performing it, or selecting it. When a DJ selects a record to play he does some work, which he is paid for, but that work has nothing to do with the work involved in producing the record, or the copy of it. Thus there’s no reason why any of the DJ’s wages should be deducted and diverted to the record label. If the DJ’s audience likes the music they hear there’s nothing stopping them seeking out the musicians to commission them to produce more.

So, it should be clear that if you pay a blogger a penny for each article, who does nothing more than republish other bloggers’ articles, you are paying that penny because you believe the work they do in selecting articles is worth a penny in exchange. So, it’s up to you to decide whose work you want to commission. Do you want to sponsor a writer, a journalist, a reviewer, or a collator? You pay people for the work you want them to do, not for the work others have done (and have been paid by others to do).

The idea of consuming intellectual work is quite unnatural and spawned entirely by copyright. It’s certainly a lucrative illusion to instil in one’s customers, that each time they obtain value from your work they should pay you for it, but this is anathema to the natural laws of free market exchange. Either you rent an object or you purchase it. In both cases you pay the market price roughly equivalent to the expected cumulative value of temporary or permanent possession and use. With respect to intellectual work, unlike fuel or food it cannot be consumed, but if you can fool someone into believing it can be, well, you can fool them into paying for their ‘consumption’. Though such trickery is not ethical.

There have been some ideas suggested where such gullible people can salve their guilt (at having consumed intellectual work without reimbursing the worker), by repaying them after the event.

As for ‘entitlement’, there is no entitlement or right to compensation for doing work. Again, it’s lucrative if you can persuade people of this, but it’s not natural. In a free market, you exchange your services to whoever wants them if you can both agree to an equitable exchange. You don’t chalk the Mona Lisa on a paving slab and then mug passers by for the price you’ve set for your work – whether they like it or not – on the basis of entitlement, however hard you’ve worked. Your art is a promotion of your talents. You invite sponsorship/patronage from anyone who would see you continue, to produce further work.

Others, and perhaps you too, disagree with me on the business of intellectual work being about exchange. Some say that paying artists is all about conscientiously rewarding them for what they’ve done, even that people should be obliged to do so. Or, alternatively, that it's about paying for 'consumption' - notional value received. Here are some links to the reward/recompense oriented:

If the system you have in mind is about rewarding creators whose products are consumed then I suspect you may have more affinity with these three, than with the principle of equitable exchange that I espouse.

Either way, at least we both recognise that copyright has finally come to an end in all but repeal – and presumably agree that it should have been abolished along with slavery. The task that remains is to facilitate commerce in intellectual work without the privilege of a state granted monopoly. To make an ethical incentive: money for art, liberty for people.

Busker Label, I've Been Expecting You · 1294 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

I read on Indie Music Tech today about BuskerLabel: crowd funding platform for artists to distribute their music for free.

BuskerLabel is very similar to my site QuidMusic of 2004. I’d started it’s development earlier still, expecting to call it MusicPatrons.com. That, in turn, was based on The Digital Art Auction (which I thought up in 2000), but I figured that sponsoring the production and publication of a music track at a fixed price of a pound was a simpler proposition (T’DAA! was far too complicated/advanced – something for a decade hence).

As it turned out, the QuidMusic prototype both convinced me this model was the future and in particular, made me realise that I wasn’t necessarily going to pick the best value proposition to start with. QuidMusic would still only now just be beginning to gain credibility, primarily because it is only now that enough people are sufficiently disillusioned with copyright and the traditional record label deal that both artist and audience are open to a new, more direct and libertarian deal. Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans article of 2008 has helped too, along with Fundable.com and now KickStarter.com.

I knew that if I continued with QuidMusic I’d eventually end up as just another ‘also-ran’ with umpteen varieties of the same model sharing the market. I figured that I should therefore focus on my strength, building a back-end that would support all manner of similar sites.

And this is where I am today, still plodding along, working on that back-end, The Contingency Market and a simple demonstrator, 1p2U, just as the hare is catching its breath before the final straight…

The Flower of Free Culture · 1480 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

Let a billion flowers bloom, let a billion intellects abound – it is cultural liberty, not its constraint that promotes progress in science, technology, and the arts.
(cf “bǎi huā qífàng, bǎi jiā zhēngmíng”)

Let all of us who would expedite the restoration of our cultural liberty mark our works of free culture with a logo of liberation instead of a symbol of constraint.

There cannot be a free culture license because a license is an intrinsic impediment to cultural freedom (being a submission to copyright, let alone fraught with incompatibility and re-licensing issues), so it would be counter-productive and, despite the best of intentions, hypocritical to promote licenses as a means of achieving cultural emancipation.

A free culture is not a culture in which people must scrupulously analyse and adhere to licenses, perform due diligence with regard to exploring every work’s provenance for copyright clearance purposes, and generally remain alert to consequent copyright risks in all their cultural engagements. A free culture is one in which everyone is free to share and build upon any work they see, hear or receive – all mankind’s published art and knowledge – that which by natural right already belongs to the public, the people.

Unlike a license, a logo is a lightweight means of asserting that a work is to be considered free culture and that it is endorsed as such by an adherent of free culture. It can be used like a ‘peace’ sticker (’☮’), so it doesn’t matter if it appears or is omitted. It is an affirmative rejection of the current cultural antagonism that one should consider issues of copyright and its potential legal repercussions when engaging in what is perfectly natural cultural intercourse and exchange: the sharing and creating of works of art.

A free culture logo must therefore be license agnostic. It does not recognise copyright, and consequently cannot recognise any license. If a logo is required to identify a copyright license that is sympathetic to free culture, then the logos at freedomdefined.org can be used. The free culture flower logo is simply used to mark a work of free culture. One is for lawyers and those in fear of them, the other is for libertarians and those who refuse to live in fear.

In accord with cultural freedom (and against trademark law’s descent into propertisation of words and symbols), we don’t need to define a single free culture logo. As with road signs, we can instead specify a simple set of rules that should make a free culture logo recognisable and hopefully ideogrammatic. Naturally, everyone is free to copy, improve, transform, and combine any logos to come up with their own. The logo I’ve created is simply to start the ball rolling. The logo is itself a work of free culture.

The symbol:

  • It is akin to the copyright symbol, but is to serve as its antithesis.
  • It must be recognisable as an encircled flower accompanied by a literal expression that denotes ‘free culture’.

The flower:

  • The flower is alive and healthy, wild or cultivated, and in full bloom.
  • A yellow, five petalled, water buttercup is suggested as a suitable flower, but anything readily recognisable as a flower will do (culturally appropriate).
  • Flowers connoting aspects of promiscuity, fecundity, and abundance, are to be preferred over others, e.g. better a garden daisy than a rare orchid.
  • Multiple flowers may signify a collection of works, or a work of multiple authors.

The circle:

  • The circle may be dashed or discontinuous to indicate a lack of enclosure (and appropriation readiness viz. ‘cut along dotted line’).
  • If not monochrome, the circle should be blue to symbolise planet Earth as mankind’s cultural domain (contrasting with the cultural stagnancy of copyright’s black circle).

The letters:

  • In English the abbreviation (or ligature) should be ‘fc’ for ‘free culture’, but in other languages an equivalent abbreviation of the translations of ‘free culture’, ‘cultural liberty’, or ‘artistic freedom’ may be used.
  • Script or lowercase lettering should be preferred for its caressing and diminutive tone, i.e. that cultural liberty is the natural state to be rediscovered, not something to be imposed through capital conquest, pressed metal, or stone chiselled domination.

The alphanumeric version:

  • If a graphic symbol is not possible in a given context, then a literal equivalent can serve, e.g. ‘(f*c)’ in place of ‘(C)’. The asterisk can denote a flower.

Description of the Logo

This logo is usually added to an intellectual work (or collection) to indicate to potential recipients that it has been produced or provided by one or more free culturalists (adherents of free culture). The logo may also be used by individuals and organisations to identify themselves as free culturalists, e.g. as a badge.

Producers of free culture are paid directly, and so their exchanged works may be subsequently communicated, reproduced, or distributed without royalty or license fee. Once a work of free culture has been received by you (whether as a gift or purchase) you or anyone you authorise can freely enjoy, reproduce, perform, communicate, or otherwise exploit it. Everyone who enjoys it is invited to commission the respective artists involved in its production to produce further works.

There may be a ‘copyleft’ or copyright neutralising license available for some works of free culture, but it is not required or indicated by this logo.

Some free culturalists do not provide copyright licenses to their work because they do not recognise the validity of that 18th century privilege, either attaching to their original work or to the original works they may incorporate, copy, derive from, or be inspired by.

The Logo as a Statement

Whether a license is provided or not, no assurances can be made concerning whether a work of free culture (or copy) is wholly or partly original, authorised, ‘protected’ by copyright, or an intrinsic copyright infringement.

These are a few of the assurances that can be made by free culturalists concerning works to which a free culture logo is attached:

  1. No litigation will ever be initiated by a free culturalist against any individual for an act of copyright infringement concerning this work, any derivatives, or any works it derives from.
  2. Any copyright a free culturalist holds to this work will not be voluntarily assigned or transferred to any other individual or organisation that is not also an adherent of free culture.
  3. All elements of this work are implicitly attributed to their respective authors, and if explicit attribution is provided it may vary in level of detail (and provenance). Any unwitting explicit or implicit misattribution will be remedied as far as is practicable, and as soon as possible upon notice.
  4. No use is knowingly made of work obtained through unauthorised access.

The Website

Domain name: fclogo.org

The fclogo.org domain name has been registered at which a wiki is hosted for people to upload their own versions of a free culture logo, and to provide further documentation.

It is suggested that free culture logos are hyperlinks to fclogo.org, i.e. http://www.fclogo.org

HTML:

The HTML code for the free culture logo should look something like this:

<a href="http://www.fclogo.org">
<img src="/MyURL/MyFreeCultureLogo.png" alt="Free Culture Logo" />
</a>

Remember: you’re free to copy any free culture logo or make a derivative or even an original. Host your own logo and link to that. Don’t link to someone else’s logo – that’s a bad habit encouraged by copyright. If you want to use a logo hosted elsewhere then copy it!

The FAQ

Why a flower?

If you have authorised access to a work of free culture then, like a flower, it can be naturally and freely:

  • admired and enjoyed by the senses for pleasure or inspiration
  • used in whole or part as an ingredient in other works
  • reproduced indefinitely
  • collected into necklaces for commercial exploitation (without royalty)
  • harvested for its pollen to fertilise the flowering of other works
  • compressed and dried for archival
  • pulped, fermented, remixed, or otherwise processed

What is free culture?

Free culture describes the natural state of intellectual works, that they should be unencumbered by privilege (of Copyright, established 1710), and is also the aspiration that all mankind’s culture should once again be so unencumbered. Being unencumbered, it would not suspend or derogate from the liberty of any individual (in audience or receipt), e.g. to publicly perform or make copies. Unfortunately, over 99% of all intellectual works in existence today are encumbered by privilege. However, it is possible to somewhat neutralise the privilege via license, e.g. via The Free Software Foundation’s General Public License (GPL) or Creative Commons’ Share Alike license. NB Accuracy in attribution is a moral right and not something to be compelled on threat of copyright’s severe penalty. Nor should anyone ever attempt to waive or alienate themselves from any of their natural rights (as CC0 aspires to).

Why is it called ‘free’?

Free culture is called ‘free’ because it comprises the set of published intellectual works that the public is free to do with ‘that which copyright excludes them from doing’, e.g. copying. NB It is not as per the aphorism, that ‘information wants to be free’, but that ‘people must be free to communicate’ – the former is simply an anthropomorphic epiphenomenon of the latter.

Joss Winn said 1479 days ago :

Why not just advocate putting work in the Public Domain?

Crosbie Fitch said 1479 days ago :

Joss, if only ‘twere so simple!

To publish a work is to place it in the public domain.

If you mean “Why not just advocate removing a work from copyright’s protection?”, then yes, this is what is attempted by copyleft licenses. Unfortunately, while a copyleft license is something a software engineer can accommodate, it is not particularly amenable to use by the laity.

We need a simple badge. Stick it on and it says “Fuck copyright. This is free culture. I will not sue!”

Reviewing the Situation · 1532 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

Ten years on I think it’s about time I reviewed the situation, especially progress with respect to my latest projects: The Contingency Market and 1p2U.

Digital Productions

Digital Productions is the umbrella name of my projects researching and developing non-copyright based business models.

I entered this field at the beginning of the new millennium having realised that when digital copies are free, it is the production of the original work that is valuable, and the work rather than copies of it that should be exchanged for money. It was while writing an article on cyberspace, how to engineer massive multiplayer games using p2p technology, that I realised I had eliminated the impossible and should pursue the solution (no matter how improbable).

The Digital Art Auction is the title of the essay I wrote that described such a possible exchange mechanism – between an artist and those interested in exchanging their money for the artist’s work.

Although I developed a prototype website for the Digital Art Auction (now offline), I figured I needed to keep things far simpler. I then developed QuidMusic – still semi-operational. While indeed simpler, this helped me realise that for exchanges to occur there needs to be a sizeable marketplace of buyers and sellers, and it’s more important to build up the market with small, even trivial transactions than it is to focus on enabling lucrative transactions. QuidMusic satisfied me that the idea was worth pursuing, but also persuaded me that I needed an application that required a far lower priced transaction.

I therefore concluded I needed a general purpose back-end to support this third project (that would also support the previous two as well as umpteen others I or anyone else might think up). So, I have the Contingency Market as a robust and application independent back-end, and 1p2U as a demonstration of how it can be used to enable readers to exchange their pennies for the words of the bloggers they would thus encourage to write.

In parallel with these software engineering projects, I’ve also researched the law that underlies the traditional business model concerning intellectual work, i.e. copyright. In the process I’ve discovered that it is the law that is an unethical, 18th century privilege, and that far from being incorrigibly immoral the file-sharers who infringe it are simply enjoying their natural liberty (qv natural rights ). In other words, the prospect is not that infringers can be ‘reformed’ to abide by an immoral law, but that the law is an inhumane and ineffective anachronism destined for abolition, and the business of intellectual work must migrate to a non-monopoly based model, i.e. a free market.

So, not only is there a need for business models that do not rely on a inherently unviable monopoly, there is also a need for such business models to demonstrate that there is no need to resort to ever more draconian measures to persuade the public to respect the publishers’ anachronistic privilege of copyright. It would also counter claims that a compulsory license fee (aka Internet/ISP tax) is the only alternative in the event that the publishers’ monopoly of copyright is recognised to be unviable. A tax may well keep publishers going, but if publishers are made redundant by the Internet, then state support via taxation simply funds a dead weight. The need is for artists and their customers to exchange their work and money, not to preserve archaic agencies that promote, manufacture, distribute, and retail copies of the artists’ work.

Alongside the process of producing websites, and researching law applying to intellectual work, I’ve also been blogging about it (since 2006). Indeed, Digital Productions the website is primarily a blogging platform (TextPattern).

The unfunded and non-trading UK limited company ‘Digital Productions’ was registered in March 2001, and the domain digitalproductions.co.uk in November 2003.

But, that’s Digital Productions, what about me, the person behind it?

Crosbie Fitch

I have always been into computers (from mechanical reckoners and programmable calculators onwards). My earliest explorations began with with 2D graphics on the Commodore Pet, BBC Micro, and Archimedes (music score editing), and then graphs and diagramming software on the PC. Between 1995 and 2003 I have been a R&D software engineer in the field of 3D modelling (computer games, film special effects, animation, networking). Since that time, in which C/C++ was my tool of choice for over a dozen years, I’ve been more focussed on C#, PHP and data driven web based systems (on MSSQL and MySQL).

I’m far more oriented toward the solution of problems that intrigue and fascinate me, researching and developing any knowledge or skills necessary, than simply seeking well paid work that matches my experience and skill set.

Problems I have been fascinated by, and feel I have an insight into the solutions thereof, include: artificial intelligence, distributed large scale virtual environments, and non-copyright based business models. I’m currently focussed on the latter, but would love to return to either of the former two interests of mine.

Like any self-employed entrepreneur I have to balance the need to pay the bills (doing occasional freelance work), further eroding savings, and the need to continue unpaid development of the Contingency Market and 1p2U.

Where have I got so far on the Contingency Market?

The Contingency Market

What it is

The Contingency Market is an online exchange that enables deals to be made between pairs of agents who agree amounts of funds to be transferred between them depending upon the outcome of future public events (encouraged by the deals contingent upon them).

Thus a thousand users of a software package can make a thousand deals with the developer that they’ll pay them a dollar in the event a particular feature is implemented and published.

The Contingency Market is thus far more appropriate for the sale of digital work than conventional online payment mechanisms intended for the sale of material goods. This is because it exchanges money for the publication of the work rather than a discrete, material good or copy (protected from further copying by copyright). If the copy is worthless (copyright being ineffective) then you have to sell the work instead.

How it works

The Contingency Market is not expected to be used by people directly, but is a web service to be used by websites such as 1p2U or QuidMusic that use it on their behalf.

An agent (user, artist, fan, website) is registered with the site and has an account that keeps track of payments: money deposited and withdrawn, and that paid to, or received from, other agents via deals.

A deal is a match between two agents’ compatible offers that both agents agree to – a ‘microcontract’ if you like.

Each agent’s offer specifies a contingency and funds to be transferred depending upon its outcome.

A contingency typically specifies a single public event. However, it could specify a complex combination of events that must occur or not, possibly in a particular order.

An event specifies something that may be publicly observed in the world, e.g. the publication of a blog article. Events can either be observed by agents, administrators, or by the Contingency Market’s automatic monitoring system, e.g. as used to monitor RSS feeds for the publication of articles.

So, if you’re producing a website that needs to enable an arbitrary number of people to deal with one or more others, such that money is exchanged in the event of a publication (or other public act), you ensure the people are registered (and are informed as to how to pay their dues, or collect their receipts) as agents, specify the event of publication, and register the appropriate offers and deals on everyone’s behalf. When the event is observed, the contingency market will execute the necessary transactions.

Stage of Development

The core code of the Contingency Market currently comprises about 100 C# source files in 600Kb interacting with an MSSQL database (of 22 tables and a similar number of stored procedures). There are two continuously running modules (monitoring of the web and updating the contingency market), and a web based administration facility. There’s also a separate system for handling online payments, which has its own database and updating service.

There is a PHP API to the contingency market for PHP based web apps. This is used by 1p2U.

At the moment the Contingency Market is largely operational except for the handling of deposits and withdrawals, and the fulfilment of any due payments from deposits. Dues are already raised upon the completion of deals, but those dues are as yet unfulfilled by movement of funds.

The general purpose payment system, to handle online/automated deposits from money handlers (PayPal, etc.), also needs some further testing.

Further work

Once the Contingency Market is properly tested in all respects apart from handling actual money, then I will consider it ready to proceed to start handling it (testing with sandbox/private funds prior to launch). I will write the code necessary to fulfil due payments from each agent’s available funds.

There are some enhancements I’ve already planned to make, but these can wait until such time as applications need them.

1p2U

What it is

1p2U is a website that enables a blogger’s readers to encourage the blogger to write, by letting them subscribe to the blogger (via RSS feed) at the rate of a penny (1p sterling) per article published thereafter. 1p2U is also a demonstration application of the Contingency Market.

1p2U is a MediaWiki website (PHP+MySQL) with an extension that provides a Contingency Market API and a second extension that uses it to create deals on the Contingency Market between readers of a blog who want to be subscribers and the author of that blog (who invites readers to become subscribers).

The Contingency Market API is 36 PHP files totalling 180Kb (plus MediaWiki glue in 20 files in 100Kb). The 1p2U extension is about 40 PHP files in 250Kb.

How it works

The blogger registers themselves and their blog, and places a ‘subscribe’ button on their blog site. Some of their readers click this button to register as subscribers. When a new article is published in the blog’s RSS feed this is recognised by the web monitoring service of the Contingency Market, and the contingent deals made by 1p2U on behalf of each subscriber (specifying the payment of a penny in such an event) are then processed.

Ultimately, the subscribers end up with accumulated dues that being significant are then economically paid with a single deposit of funds as and when each subscriber finds convenient. As those deposits are paid, the recipients are able to make withdrawals.

A blogger who published 10 articles a week who had 1,000 1p2U subscribers would thus earn £100 per week from each subscriber paying 10p per week. Obviously, it’s not every blogger whose output is so good they can attract the demand of a thousand subscribers, but 1p2U at least enables that demand however large it is to be monetarily expressed and exchanged with the blogger’s supply. And let’s not forget, readers who aren’t particularly interested in encouraging the blogger to write can read or copy the articles they publish without paying anything (and without breaking the law as a consequence).

The blogger is paid to write by those who want them to write. The blogger doesn’t charge their readers to read.

Stage of Development

1p2U certainly isn’t complete, but it is just about able to demonstrate the process of registering a blog, providing HTML for a button to put on the blog, the button enabling readers to subcribe, keeping track of who’s subscribing to what, what articles have been published, and who owes who what amount of money.

Settlement of ones dues, and withdrawal of ones earnings would be achieved via the Contingency Market (transparently linked to by 1p2U), so the remaining work in enabling that isn’t incurred in the development of 1p2U.

1p2U had started off with the objective of being extremely simple. Unfortunately, that objective isn’t so easy to achieve if performance is also to be maintained. 1p2U has undergone considerable upheaval in terms of cacheing and computing all statistics and details for web pages as a background process, i.e. not part of the production of a web page. This is not only necessary to reduce processing delays, but also to avoid the latency involved in communications with the Contingency Market via the SOAP channel.

Further work

There is still a small amount of further work in streamlining the background processes, and ensuring dependencies are fully traced.

There is also much work on the user interface and ergonomics of the 1p2U website, providing far more controls, as well as further explanation.

Next Steps

I feel my skills are best suited to developing the Contingency Market, possibly demonstrating it further by developing other sites such as QuidMusic and The Digital Art Auction. It would also be great to help other people use it in their own projects.

Therefore I would be interested in 1p2U.com ending up in more capable and dedicated hands. So if you or any one you know fancies developing 1p2U further, so I can focus on the Contingency Market, then don’t hesitate to get in touch.

I appreciate 1p2U will be more attractive the more it is used, and the finer a polish it has in terms of usability. I will thus continue developing 1p2U to that end in the interim.

I have also been considering the idea of splitting this Digital Productions website into two. A spin-off site to focus on Natural IP, leaving the main site only to document the project work.

Remaining Questions

If there is anything you feel I’ve omitted or wish I’d covered in more detail in this review please let me know (by e-mail or comment) and I will append further detail in response.

Scott Carpenter said 1531 days ago :

Thanks for the recap, Crosbie.

I’m surprised to learn you’re using MSSQL (and to a lesser extent, C#).

Crosbie Fitch said 1531 days ago :

I’m not fussy about databases (yet). MSSQL integrates well with C#/.NET.

Funnily enough I’ve just been working on catering for your redirection of your RSS feed as registered with 1p2U. Not quite there yet. :-)

Maniquí said 1528 days ago :

It was really interesting and inspiring to read about your background, your projects, your future plans and you.

I’m learning a lot here (although when I try to explain to people what I’ve learnt about copyright and the future of publishing industry, and the new opportunities and new business models for artists, I find myself that I cannot explain it clearly, and at the same time, people is already indoctrinated to the “copyright way of thinking”).

I’ll stay tunned, as I would like to get involved someday into the Contingency Market.

Best wishes for the upcoming future!

1p2U Alpha · 1685 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

The 1p2U project (to let a reader pay a blogger a penny to write another article) has now entered the alpha testing phase, i.e. where although it is incomplete I welcome the more intrepid early adopter to kick its tyres and kindly act as a guinea pig so that more bugs are revealed as it becomes used.

Incidentally, I will now be blogging a little more about 1p2U, so if you’re only interested in my blog articles about ‘Natural IP’ (Intellectual property from a natural rights perspective) then there is now a dedicated Natural IP RSS feed, i.e. http://www.digitalproductions.co.uk/index.php?rss=1&section=Natural-IP. This can be found on the front page of the DP site by some RSS feed readers.

Conversely, there is also a dedicated Projects RSS feed: http://www.digitalproductions.co.uk/index.php?rss=1&section=Projects.

Micropayment vs Microcharging · 1848 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

On the ProjectVRM list I recently suggested a few principles that might make an online revenue mechanism easy:

  1. Publish it – and they will come.
  2. If people think it’s worth paying for, let them pay. If they don’t, improve the product.
  3. Make the decision to pay easy – a token amount – a penny.
  4. Make the intention to pay easy – a click of a button – the actual payment invariably isn’t (save it up for a rainy day).
  5. Payment is voluntary, but not a donation – make the deal clear – value for money.
  6. Your customers are not your enemy, but your ambassadors.

In a response to this, Doc Searls both acknowledged these as describing PayChoice in a nutshell, and suggested the term ‘microaccounting’ might best describe the process of collecting such microtransactions into significantly sized payments.

I think microaccounting is a good term for such a process, but it doesn’t quite pin down the critical aspect.

I have been thinking that this principle of ‘decision/intention to pay’ is actually ‘micropayment’, and the misadventure that people had attempted in the past was better termed ‘microcharging’ (as in “Download/read this for $0.01”).

There are other terms too, i.e. micropledging, micropatronage, microcontracting, etc.

However, as can be observed, the obvious way to reduce the transaction cost of micropayments is to collect them and settle the bill a thousand micropayments later (hence microaccounting). A less obvious, more sophisticated method is demonstrated by PepperCoin (probabalistic distribution of $1 among a thousand payments). As PepperCoin probably discovered, the problem isn’t so much having a mechanism for handling micropayments, but having an application (and especially realising why microcharging can’t apply to published work).

I thus wholeheartedly agree with Clay Shirky on the case against micropayments and even small payments if what is really meant is microcharging or simply charging, but this subtle terminological confusion has discredited what micropayment should have been about, i.e. enabling people who WANT to pay a small amount to do so extremely easily (and that’s ‘pay’ rather than ‘be charged’).

Moreover, and this is what I think people are still missing (cf Kachingle), it’s ‘wanting to micropay’ not ‘wanting to be microcharged’ – a dominant, not a submissive act. Moreover, it’s ‘wanting to pay for work to be produced’, not ‘wanting to be microcharged for consuming content already produced’. The latter still reveals contamination by the copyright mentality, that if one benefits from or consumes another’s art one becomes indebted (a disturbingly pervasive mindset that has polluted contemporary culture).

The micropayment must be captured as close as is possible to the decision to pay, because that is precisely the moment at which the payer has sunk the cost of the decision and can absorb the minute friction of executing that decision in the form of a button click. What Shirky explains is that we cannot impose the cost of a decision upon members of an audience (microcharging). However, as I contend, this does not mean that a member of the audience will not wish to make such a decision of their own volition (micropayment).

Even so, we must remain vigilant that we don’t slip back into the misadventure of inviting people to submit themselves to microcharging, e.g. “Give us your credit card and we’ll charge you a penny per page view for consuming our premium content”. That touches on another critical aspect – are you paying for the production of the art, a copy of it, or its use?

Payment: “This is good. I want more. Heck, I’ll pay you to produce more. Where do I click?”

Charging: “I feel indebted to you each time I consume your work. Please keep track of my consumption and bill me later.”

The problem with ‘microaccounting’ is that it applies to both, i.e. the collection of micropayments or microcharges for a later lump payment. It doesn’t shed light on payment vs charge.

Anyway, the term is a minor concern. When audiences become enabled in paying artists, and then do so in large numbers, a term will arise pretty sharpish (I like micropatronage). I certainly can’t see a day when people will say “Please permit these collection societies to withdraw funds from my bank account according to my use of their members’ copyrighted works”. Unfortunately, while people still persist in believing that art is consumed and that consumers must pay for what they consume, there will be a movement that suggests that people should indeed submit themselves to be charged, and failing that, taxed – there can be no volition about it – you consume, you pay.

With the imminent demise of copyright we thus see ourselves at a crossroads: should there be a free market in art (audiences deciding who to patronise and how much), or should art be funded by taxation (appraised and costed centrally)?

Francis Davey said 1741 days ago :

Micropatronage works best for me. I think partly because it expresses the relationship well: patronage conjures in the mind historically wealthy donors funding the creation of art. It carries with it no doubt that the person who is paying is doing so not only voluntarily but entirely freely. Also I suspect the payment v charging dichotomy will be hard for people to remember of understand without further explanation.

Just a thought anyway.

Your main thesis is right though I think.

Music is Expensive, Copies are Free · 2091 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

I think the main reason people are finding it hard to figure out how much to charge for MP3 files (variable? higher? lower?) is that they shouldn’t be charged for at all.

All such revenue is being extracted from the residual momentum of the copyright based business model as it slowly grinds to a halt – as that dwindling market of copy customers gradually realise how silly it is to pay for digital copies.

The pragmatic answer to pricing is that the price of MP3 files should gradually be reduced until it reaches zero or the purchase decision/hassle cost (thus maximising revenue extraction from a shrinking market). Unfortunately, those charging for MP3 files have an assumption that there is a sweet spot price that is non-zero.

The baby elephant in the room is the natural law that digital copies of published music shouldn’t and can’t be charged for – an elephant soon to reach adulthood. Ultimately, published music has to be free of charge – because it belongs to the public. Rather than the tragedy those brought up with copyright imagine this to be, it has its benefits to musicians in the digital domain. Freely copyable music provides free reproduction, free distribution, free promotion, and thus builds up the size of the paying audience.

“Eh? ‘Paying audience‘? I thought you said music had to be free?”

No, I said PUBLISHED music has to be free. After all, why should the public pay for what they already have? Such an unnatural notion only arises from the unnatural privilege of copyright.

A musician’s audience (their customers) pay the musician to produce music. After all, the musician is who they want to pay, and the music is what they want to pay for. The audience has no need to pay the musician (or their agents) for copies, given they have clearly demonstrated they can make those quite easily all by themselves1.

So, the musician’s new slogan is effectively “Get this one free, buy the next one”.

In more words: “The recordings currently freely downloadable from my website have been paid for by my keenest fans. I invite you to join them in commissioning future recordings.”

Don’t sell copies. Sell music. The market for copies has ended. The market for music continues unabated.

1 They can’t make vinyl pressings however, so there’s still a market for those, but the musician doesn’t warrant a cut (unless you still believe there’s a future for copyright).

lucy - elemental consulting said 2089 days ago :

hey crosbie
thanks for your comments.
so is your overall vision a mass-patronage model? people make payments to a musician in order to support and finance the production of the music which the musician then makes available for free in digital fashion?
and if so, does the entire public get to receive the music for free, or is it some kind of ‘club’ where only those who financed get access to the music?

Crosbie Fitch said 2089 days ago :

I really think the idea of selling copies of digital information is like a cartoon character that’s run off a cliff and hasn’t yet realised the ground’s disappeared from beneath its feet. Only the people’s faith in tradition is keeping everyone up, but as people gradually recognise the natural law they’re violating and lose faith in the idea they can walk on air, they end up falling back to earth.

Mass patronage can take several forms (simple pledge drives or simulating retail pricing), but yes, this is what I envisage as the logical solution to payment for music (and any other digital art).

Just as the Internet makes selling copies ineffective, it now makes communicating/haggling with the public at large effective.

There are two aspects to my business strategy in exploring en masse transaction mechanisms. The first is to create a general purpose market (ContingencyMarket.com), and the second is to explore the various ways in which it can be used. Such websites that I’ll develop will inevitably be in accord with the natural rights philosophy I’ve since recognised – that explains why copyright is the sandcastle and diffusion the tide, rather than vice versa.

So, the Contingency Market is commission free, can be used by anyone, and is agnostic to any use. The websites I produce that are based upon it however, will probably stipulate that any IP sold should be copyleft, or at least public domain. It is still quite possible that the IP is only initially distributed to purchasers – one doesn’t need to oblige public availability. However, a restricted initial circulation is by no means equivalent to a ‘walled garden’ business model.

When people realise they want to pay the producer of the art rather than the copies, especially when they discover that the producer of copies gives none of their payment to the artist, they’ll want to pay the artist directly. People will only pay for copies if they add value to the art – in which case any sale must logically only accrue to the copy’s added value, and not the art.

Audiences Outnumber Individuals · 2121 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

As I observed last month in a comment on Rob Myer’s blog, if mass media didn’t have such an entrenched mindset that it was in the business of selling copies to the largest audience possible, it wouldn’t end up producing such ‘lowest common denominator’ pulp to meet such an objective.

But then this is what happens when you let mass producers determine what gets mass produced – instead of leaving things to peculiar artists in pure pursuit of art. Moreover, peculiar artists patronised by their peculiar audiences directly, rather than by populist publishers of copy-prohibited content via retail.

Now that the bottom is falling out of the market for copies, we are seeing the original market resume – the market for art. In this more natural market, copies are made by the audience – for why would they pay the artist for such an unimaginative task? The artist is rewarded for their irreproducible art, not the mass production of trivially reproducible copies.

This is not news to Vin Crosbie who has committed strikingly similar heresy that I wholeheartedly endorse. Read his keynote at the Second Annual Global Conference on Individuated Newspapers.

Plainly, for every artist and each of their works of art there is an audience (if only the artist themselves). But, whilst we are all artists and are all unique beings, our interests invariably overlap and we find ourselves members of many audiences. Indeed, there is a world of audiences, not just one – not just that like-minded planet the corporate publishers pretend to be serving. What’s more, the number of audiences in this world of audiences vastly outnumbers the population of individuals upon this Earth (see Metcalfe’s Law). Therefore, incredible as it may seem, there are many audiences out there for which no artist has yet produced art.

Big Buck Bunny is just a glimpse of the diversity of art that will prosper when the artist no longer pursues the greatest audience, but instead pursues the greatest art. All peculiar audiences then pursue their particular art and those peculiar artists who produce it – and this is the natural order of things.

At the end of our 300 year obsession with copies and their artificial sanctity, we now see the dawn of the second renaissance.

gurdonark said 2098 days ago :

The appeal of the new technology goes well beyond the IP/PD debate, of course. The use of PD or liberally licensed work among people transcends the old audience/artist distinctions. The audience may, in mail art form, be fellow artists. The audience may be an audience of one. The artist may create for an audience of 12, rather than 240,000. In analog technology this was possible, but in digital technology it is inevitable.

Lately, I enjoy creating tiny, child-like melodies for 30 second videos of birds at a feeder for a friend in Spain, to be posted on youtube. I use a CC license to avoid encumbering this sharing with undue burdens—I could easily imagine using a PD release as to my own music on this.
The goal is not to reach the world or profit from my venture—but to provide roughly 100 viewers with light enjoyment, in 30 seconds.

This renaissance is inevitable even if not one jot of current law is changed, so long as volunteers are willing to create this new media.

 

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