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A Digital Constitution

A site intended to propose the fundamental principles that should underlie the exchange and intercourse of digital art, especially within free societies.

It is currently being formulated on an external site here

The Digital Art Auction

An auction of undefined duration specifically designed for digitally reproducible works (recordings, software, drug formulae), which determines an equivalent retail price to the work being sold as printed copies.

Bidders openly submit their bids (which may be adjusted or withdrawn at any time). The seller may review the bids and close with a price of their choosing at any time—the successful bidders that pay this price are those whose bid meets or exceeds it, and these are the only bidders who receive a copy of the item.


An online record label specifically constructed to support the sale of copyleft music.

It is a highly simplified form of The Digital Art Auction that operates on the basis of a fixed price of £1 per released work.

A musician’s fans may pledge towards the release of a new work, and the musician can choose the moment at which to release, whereupon pledges held in escrow are exchanged for copies.

A musician’s fans may also purchase a copy of an already released work, whereupon the exchange is performed immediately.

The Contingency Market

A general purpose trading system enabling financial exchanges contingent upon public events, e.g. the collective purchase of a music recording contingent upon the event of its public release.

It is to form the engine behind the Digital Art Auction and QuidMusic sites.

The Contingency Market is exposed as a web service, currently in development here: www.contingencymarket.com

A demonstration site, 1p2U, that uses the contingency market is also currently in development.

Micropayment vs Microcharging · Monday March 30, 2009 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 3797 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.

Version 0.6 of PHP client library now released · Friday September 19, 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

The 0.5 version of the PHP API client library has now been completely superseded by a 0.6 incarnation embodied within a MediaWiki extension, that enables demonstrations of the API to occur as part of its documentation.

See contingencymarket.com/Client_APIs for download details.

For example the web page that documents the GetEvent() function also displays the result of a call to it when the page is displayed. See contingencymarket.com/GetEvent.

Music is Expensive, Copies are Free · Wednesday July 30, 2008 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 4145 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 4145 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 · Monday June 30, 2008 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 4154 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.

Publicly Funded Digital Productions · Monday June 09, 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

Remember The Digital Art Auction? Perhaps you even remember The Street Performer Protocol? Related, but distinct ideas that no doubt sprang into many people’s minds at the peak of Napster’s popularity. Not all of the people with these ideas bothered to write up and publish them. Some of us even tried implementing them – some of us are picking up business, some of us are still tinkering in the workshop.

These ideas arise from a perceived necessity to enable the sale of digital art without relying upon a monopoly on the manufacturing of copies (copyright), and adopt the solution of collecting of a fund from the interested public in order to commission the production and/or purchase the publication of a digital artwork. The Digital Art Auction arrives at a single price paid by all covering bidders, whereas the Street Performer Protocol simply collects all pledges, large or small, should the total prove agreeable.

There are many variations already out there, e.g. microPledge is an implementation of the Street Performer Protocol, and PropagateLtd [now LiberateIP.com] is an implementation of the Digital Art Auction. See Fund and release for more information and links to other implementations.

As for myself, I’m currently working on the Contingency Market, a commission free exchange that is designed to enable anyone to roll their own website that relies upon large numbers of users exchanging money contingent upon the outcome of future, public events (such as the publication of a digital artwork).

So, have no doubt that sales of digital art are possible even without copyright.

Kort E Patterson in his recent article Copyright History and How to Escape It provides further discussion of this area.

Art for Money, Money for Art · Wednesday June 04, 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

Lucas Gonze raises some great points concerning the paradigm shifting upheaval and changing roles in the music market, particularly with regard to record labels.

What I think we’re seeing is a market inversion1, that we’re currently bang smack in the midst of.

When this inversion is complete, instead of a label acting as an artist’s promotional agent maximising the sale of their music to their audience, we’ll have an audience’s discoveral agent maximising the discovery and commissioning of the music they like.

A label in this case will be just like 4AD, but instead of representing a common je ne sais quoi character of the signed bands, will represent a common undefinable taste of the represented audience members.

The audience will subscribe to the discoveral agent and this agent will then patronise/commission those musicians it believes can deliver what will most please and swell its audience/subscriber base. Members of an artist’s audience can of course also patronise/commission their favourite musicians directly.

It’s all very similar, it’s just inverted.

But, don’t worry, the musicians still get paid! (although it will be a bumpy ride through the transition)

See Doc Searls’ ProjectVRM to find others who have already twigged about this inversion.

1 The inversion is actually a reversion to nature – due to IP reverting from its unnatural inversion by copyright, and also helped by the fact that individuals are once again able to participate as first class citizens in the market place (instead of passive consumers to mass producers).

Gaming a Copyleft Market · Wednesday May 28, 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

Someone recently asked me a couple of questions relating to how collective commissions to artists by companies or audiences could work without copyright, e.g. of GPL software via digital art auctions:

1) “So why should a company spend money on a commission when instead they could just wait and get it for free?”

For the same reason the people most interested in specific GPL software (enhancements, bug fixes, etc.) don’t wait for it to be eventually released when more people are more interested. Believe it or not, but big businesses do commission the development of GPL software (rather than wait for someone else to do it and get it for free).

In a digital art auction, if you need something sooner rather than later you can say how much it’s worth to you sooner, even if it’s just a penny. If you don’t need it sooner and it isn’t even worth a penny to you, then yes, wait and get it for free.

Bear in mind though, an artist isn’t going to part with their hard labour if the compensation isn’t equitable. So, as in any market, if there’s no demand for your work (sooner rather than later), you won’t necessarily be able to sell it at the price you’d like (so keep it under wraps until the market’s right).

2) “Why should a company spend money on a commission for something that their competition will then get for free?”

Many people purchase games consoles in the knowledge that they may be purchased by neighbours at half-price a few months later.

It would be strange to adjust one’s valuation in a bargain today in consideration of the price a competitor may obtain in a later bargain. It’s a matter of balancing the value of obtaining something at a higher price sooner rather than a lower price later. Sometimes it’s more competitive to save money, sometimes to save time.

In line with what I said before, if today something is worth $10 to Fred and a penny to Bob, what does it matter if next month it is sold by Fred for a penny to Bob – or even given to him as a gesture of goodwill? As long as the artist and their commissioners are happy with their exchange, why do they care what exchanges anyone else makes later on?

Perhaps it is worth $10 to Bob today, but he doesn’t have the money to spare? Such are the vagaries of a market.

However, if Bob does have $10 to spare, does think it’s worth $10, and wants it sooner rather than later, why would he only offer a penny?

What Bob offers is precisely how much additional incentive he wishes to offer the artist to complete and deliver the work thus commissioned. If Bob feels the artist is sufficiently incentivised for an imminent acceptance of the offer, he may well opt to wait and obtain a copy of the work at a cheaper price in the secondary market (soon reducing to zero in proportion to diffusion). But, Bob has thus exchanged sooner/higher for later/lower (valuing the interval as $9.99) no matter how little influence or affect this has.

Perhaps you wonder if the audience could collude to bring the price down by deliberately undervaluing it?

Firstly, the artist won’t sell if they don’t feel the compensation is equitable, and whilst this state of affairs continues the work’s delivery and sale are delayed. Secondly, it’s unlikely that the necessary and mendacious solidarity can be achieved let alone sustained across what is likely to be a large, enthusiastic, loyal audience.

An audience offering a commission to an artist is invariably interested in paying what they and the artist consider is an equitable amount of money to persuade the artist to produce good work in exchange, sooner rather than later.

Beginnings of an RSS Widget form · Friday May 23, 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

You can see the beginnings of a form for blog authors to create a 1p2U.com subscription widget here

I had to go through umpteen XML/RSS PHP libraries before I could find moderately stable functionality for the following:

  1. Find RSS feeds on a web page
  2. Validate an RSS feed
  3. Interpret an RSS feed

To find feeds on a page I found Find_RSS_Links by Ivan Melgrati at MT-Soft (apparently based on RSS auto-discovery by Keith Devens).

To validate an RSS feed I used the Pear PHP library class XML_RSS and to interpret it I used XML_Feed_Parser.

The Pear libraries are a bit cumbersome for a MediaWiki extension, so I’ll drop those and put the equivalent RSS functionality into the Contingency Market instead.

I think I’ll be dividing contingent events into three distinct trees: normal, system, automatic.

  • Normal – Events created and administered via the Contingency Market API.
  • System – Events internal to the Contingency Market and intrinsically authoritative.
  • Automatic – Special events relating to external online activity (continuously monitored).

RSS feeds will be created as automatic events. The frequency of their monitoring may increase if any dependent contingencies exist.

Working on a Widget · Tuesday May 20, 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

I’m currently creating a ‘special page’ MediaWiki extension that will enable users to enter the URL of a web page and then select one of their RSS feeds on it that they’d like a widget generated for.

The code for the widget is then generated and they can copy it to then paste on their website. Their readers can then click on it to subscribe (wishing to pay a penny per post). Remember, no commission is charged.

It’d be good to get this special page using Ajax, but to save time I’ll probably leave its form based interaction operating via http post. Once I’ve published the source code to the first version of this MediaWiki extension, I guess others might even fancy producing an Ajax version.

Authentication cont'd. 2 · Thursday May 01, 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

I have now created an administrative queue for the Contingency Market to process new registrations (among other things). Thus, new registrants will be e-mailed a URL key which can be used to confirm their e-mail address.

The ironic thing is that this sort of thing should be supportable by the Contingency Market itself (by defining a system event of new registrant, and the ability for contingencies to do more than transact funds, e.g. process custom code), however, I considered I’d do an ad hoc queue first and make the market more sophisticated another day.

So, if you were to register as a new user on 1p2u.com you’d now get an e-mail asking you to confirm your e-mail address (well, when I let the queue run from time to time).




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