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Properly Handling Subscriptions · Monday October 11, 2010 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 2490 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 2490 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.



 

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