Paying content creators with micropayments

A few years ago, I wrote about models to pay for content creators in this age where everybody wants to share content for free — except for the entertainment industry, of course, that seems to look upon 2012 as the year to come down with a legal jackhammer on top of anyone doing something that can be remotely called “piracy” or “content theft”, even if the Internet is destroyed in the process. Back then, I left the question open on how exactly to achieve that.

Two years later, I pursued this same topic, by showing how Second Life®’s economy model, based on micropayments, might provide an alternative source of income for content creators. Not because I “speculated” that it might be possible, but by just looking at the extraordinary amount of evidence from a virtual world whose economic furnace is driven by the Linden dollar, possibly one of the most successful model of micropayments ever devised. Two years ago, I challenged Linden Lab to extend the Linden dollar towards other non-SL services — not only allowing it to be used on OpenSimulator-based grids, but also to allow micropayments on webpages.

I wasn’t really expecting Linden Lab to listen, of course 🙂 Nevertheless, it didn’t come much as a surprise to me that not long after that article was written, a Swedish group (operating out of the United Kingdom) actually managed to launch that very same service. No, not an interface to Linden dollars which would work on the Web; they launched their own micropayment service. The company is known as Flattr.com and his owners include the (in)famous Swedish founder of The Pirate Bay, Peter Sunde, who joined forces with a venture capital company to launch a world-wide model of making payments to content creators.

The model is very similar to Facebook “Likes” or Google’s “+1” button, or, well, pretty much any kind of button you see these days on the bottom of blog articles, pictures, or similar media. The idea is that people are used to clicking on those buttons to show their appreciation of a certain bit of content they liked to see/read on the Internet, but with a twist: every time you click on a Flattr button, the content creator gets a bit of money. Just a few cents, but content creators can at least make something out of publishing their content for free.

“Flattring” (a deliberately misspelled, copyrighted word!) is really easy to understand as a concept. You register to their site and add some money to your “electronic wallet”. We’re talking peanuts here: €2 is about right. Then, every time you “flattr” some content, a few cents get deducted from your account and transferred to the content creators’ account. There are no complex logins and authentication services to go through like on a “donate” button (which was the closest we have had to micropayments in the past decade). Flattr.com also has a vaguely Digg-inspired frontpage where you can find more content to “flattr”, so it includes a community of content creators and their fans.

So why should you join Flattr? It’s not as if it’s “original”; many companies have tried similar approaches and failed. Flattr.com is not really a huge success yet, even though they got an agreement with Twitter that you can “flattr” fellow Twitter users even before they’ve joined. Being registered in Europe, and already having a license to deal with money transactions, this means they avoid the legal pitfalls of Linden Lab, who has to put strange “legalese” in their Terms of Service in an attempt to convince us (and eventual pursuers of lawsuits) that “the Linden dollar is a licensed token without value” (to comply with the US Constitution which forbids anyone to circulate a “currency” beyond the US$ inside its borders a possible attempt to avoid the many legal requirements of operating virtual currencies). They also support far more payment methods than the usual restricted assortment of PayPal or a credit card.

The major hurdle, of course, is to face a mentality change. People simply don’t want to pay for content they get for free on the Internet and most (except for the content creators themselves, of course) feel that it’s “alien” to pay for something they “ought” to get access for free. A Thinkers discussion on this very same subject shows how clearly the two groups are divided, and it’s not even a question of “ideology”: the split is between those that produce content (a tiny minority) and those that are merely content consumers (the vast majority). The first are supported by legal frameworks like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, embodied in most constitutions of democratic countries, which guarantee that people have the right to get paid for the work; they support some sort of payment for their work and the right to be identified to what they did (even though many agree that the current copyright model benefits the entertainment industry, that is, the distribution channels, at the expense of the content creators themselves, who get the tiniest slice of the proceeding). The second group mostly views the “right to copy” (as opposed to copyright) as belonging to the consumer; it’s just a tiny minority among those that have an ideological view about “content should be free” and justify it with solid argumentation based on the principle that “duplicating content is not stealing but sharing”. Another small group will simply argue that the analogue hole effectively allows easy content duplication, so it’s pointless to forbid what is technically impossible to enforce. The vast majority, however, doesn’t get that philosophical about the subject. Content is on the ‘net “for the grabs”. If it’s available for free, one’s entitled to copy it; why should it be otherwise? If it’s not available, it soon will be, thanks to YouTubers and freeloaders at The Pirate Bay and similar venues, so it’s a question of time until it will also be available for free. I remember a lot of friends in the early years of this century that just joined the Internet “because of all the free content there” — not because they had any other use for it, but because they saw it as a free content distribution mechanism. Put it into other words: they were used to paying a small monthly fee to watch as much TV as they could. For another small fee they could get Internet access and watch as much “free” content as they could. For them, there is no difference between both models. They have no idea how TV network channels buy content and distribute it, and never worried about how those TV shows were actually produced and licensed for distribution. It’s beyond their ability to understand or worry about — “there is too much to think, I have no time for that”. The Internet, for them, is just the same. They pay for a service, and for that service, they get YouTube — so they assume that somehow their monthly Internet fee contributes somehow to get them access to content similar to the one they get on TV.

This vast majority of Internet users will find it strange that they’d get a new mechanism on the ‘net to actually give some cents to content creators when they press a button that looks like a Facebook “Like” button. I mean, Facebook “Like” is free to use, right? Why should a “Like” button actually force a user to pay a bit — even if it’s just some cents — to watch something that is “already visible” for free? This is the biggest barrier for Flattr to become successful: it has to overcome the notion that the vast majority of Internet users are not ideologically conditioned to think in a certain way, they are not “content thieves”, and they have absolutely no clue about how content is produced, distributed, or paid for. The only thing they really worry about is how much they pay for their Internet fee every month, and assume that this fee they pay is what gives them the “right” to download whatever is on the ‘net. Because that’s the model they’re used to when they turn on the TV.

You can do that kind of experiment with your own friends, specially those that are not ideologically active and are just regular content consumers. Ask them how they think that a movie gets produced — where the money comes from, and how it gets distributed to directors, writers, and actors. If that discussion doesn’t bore them to death — it will in most cases — move to TV networks, and ask them how they think that they make money to be able to show you the TV series you like. Most will say that ads play a role in this, but if you press further and ask them why competing cable networks don’t show the same programmes, most will think it’s just because cable networks show the things they like. The whole business model is a complete mystery to them, and even the shortest explanation will make them yawn and quickly change the subject. It’s simply beyond them.

If you even try to explain how content gets into the Internet, then it will simply blow their minds. The problem here is how to model an analogy that is immediately understandable for everyone — the mainstream user with little knowledge about how the world actually works, except for having the duty to pay taxes and the right to vote. These people, specially in the pre-Internet days, were used to content sharing: you’d buy a book and give or lend it to friends for them to read. That was nothing special about it. The same applies to CDs and DVDs bought: you just get them on the shop and then you can listen or view them as much as you wish and lend them to friends, or invite friends over to listen/view with you. If you buy a sculpture or a painting, anyone entering your home can appreciate it; you can physically sell it anyone else like you’d sell a table, a chair, or even a computer. Public libraries accumulate lots of books and routinely lend them — sometimes for free — to as many people as they want. Blockbusters rent videos over and over again for a tiny fee, which you can share with anyone you wish, provided you return the physical DVD (or cassette tape) to Blockbusters after a certain period. Now this is the base assumption that the mainstream content consumer will understand: content is available for tiny fees, and once you pay them, you can pretty much do whatever you wish with it. The notion of content duplication simply didn’t exist in, say, the 1970s; but certainly the notion of content sharing was all-pervasive even by then.

That model has been around for 150 years and is so common that it’s hard to explain that it relies on the inability of people to duplicate and disseminate content to actually work. When these people, with this mindset, face the Internet, they just see it as a super-huge Blockbuster, where you pay a monthly fee for Internet access, but can actually get access to way, way more content. Like with books from libraries and DVDs from Blockbusters, you can share this content, but the cool thing about the Internet, is that there is no physical sharing. Still, from the perspective of the mainstream user, the problem is that they feel they’re actually paying something — their Internet monthly fee — and, like on all other types of content access, they feel  that this monthly Internet fee “entitles” them to copy as much content as they wish (some ISPs even used to advertise their services that way — “get 50 MBps for faster download of movies and music!”). Even the all-pervasive ads on the Internet are seen, somehow, as a way for people to make money in order to allow others to download free content; after all, isn’t that what happens on TV programmes as well?

Educating the mainstream user to explain that what actually appears to be like that is not the reality is something incredibly hard to do. And even on the non-ideological side of the discussion, most mainstream users would be baffled to understand the reality of what goes on in the Internet. It’s simply beyond their concept of how the world works. And this mentality cannot be changed overnight.

Now Flattr bases their business model on the notion that there are enough educated users that understand how content is produced and disseminated over the Internet. “Enough”, in this context, would mean something like “as many as Facebook or Google users”, for example, to give a good example. If close-to-a-billion Internet users would regularly “flattr” original content, even if just a few cents here and there, I’m pretty sure that we could replace the whole body of laws trying to restrict content distribution on the Internet, sweep it under the carpet, and forget these dark days of the early 21st century. Put into other words: a new mentality that creates a vast community of users willing to pay a few cents here and there for content they actually like and use would solve all the problems of contribution to content producers — they would certainly be able to live from that. I could even envision that ISPs, as part of their services, would add a monthly €2 “voucher” for “flattring” other people’s content: that would mostly mean that every month, €2 billion would be distributed among a vast community of content producers — which would be certainly a huge market that would solve most problems. Of course “popular” content creators would get the biggest share. Of course marketing agencies, used to promote artists to get consumers to buy the more “popular” CDs, would naturally engage in this business and try to promote their artists so that they get more “flattring”. This is a natural evolution of the model, and one that is not necessarily “bad”. And of course lots of people would not “use” their €2 voucher every month, or just spend on friends’ pages and YouTube videos, and so forth, but still, the conceptual idea is actually not a bad one, and it solves a lot of problems.

In fact, that model is the very same implemented in Second Life. Not everybody buys content, of course, but there are enough that actually pay for it to make it worthwhile for a few thousand content creators to survive — or at least to feel that the hours spent in creating content is worthwhile. Second Life residents, after a few days (weeks?) of running around the grid will soon appreciate how the business model works. Of course there is some content piracy, but it’s negligible compared to what happens on the Internet-at-large. Of course there is a lot of free content, too. But, in general, what people perceive is that there is a lot of paid content in Second Life, but it’s actually relatively cheap: just a few cents or the odd dollar or two for the privilege of getting access to high quality items. Tip jars on live concerts are not a requirement for attending, but they’re encouraged, and the model, while not perfect, is better than nothing. Again, putting it into simpler words: Second Life residents, even more mainstream ones, have been educated to understand that all the content they encounter in SL is not for free (some is, but most isn’t), but getting access to a copy of the content they wish to own is very cheap and won’t make a dent in their finances — we’re talking about cents, not hundreds of dollars.

But this will very likely be impossible to happen on the Internet-at-large, unless Flattr gets bought by either Google, Microsoft, Apple, or Facebook: the only companies that have a decent choice of creating a quasi-universal model where “almost everybody” on the Internet, beyond being content consumers, become content buyers. Nevertheless, there are a few hopes that this could, one day, become a serious consideration. If the many “anti-content-theft” laws start rolling out — there are so many initiatives right now from all legislating bodies everywhere on the Western world, some of which might not be stopped in time by eager protesters — then the ones first to be hurt will be Google and Facebook, because, far more than The Pirate Bay, RapidShare, Megaupload and similar venues, that’s where most content duplication takes place, in a very loose and careless way, and used by hundreds of millions of people every day. There are few friends of mine who, when humming a tune and noticing that they forgot the lyrics, don’t turn immediately to YouTube to watch a video for that music — because they know that YouTube has everything. There are few frieds of mine who carelessly upload whatever they can find to their Facebook Walls, because they don’t perceive this to “be wrong” (remember, they feel they’re already paying for Internet access which they believe to grant them the right to copy and share whatever content they find). When the “anti-content-theft” laws hit in full force, Google will probably have to shut down YouTube (and possibly Picasa too) or change its business model to allow only original content to be uploaded by the entertainment industry giants — turning it into a competitor of Hulu.com. Facebook might not “shut down” but they might remove the ability to upload content (videos, pictures, files) and share it, except, again, for the official pages of the entertainment industry corporations, and thus become as irrelevant as, say, Orkut, Google+, or MySpace… how will Facebook survive without that sharing ability? (Note that it’s impossible, from the perspective of a machine, to distinguish between what is a picture of someone holding their two newborn babies, and an album cover which was scanned — one being a legitimate use of an image taken by the user, the other a copyright violation. Wikipedia, and the WikiCommons, rely on Wiktators to voluntarily spend their time reviewing most of the submitted content to manually eliminate copyright violations)

So it’s actually in Google’s and Facebook’s best interests to either buy Flattr or create a similar model for their own services, e.g. associate the +1 and “Like” buttons to a small donation using micropayments. This still doesn’t solve all problems, of course: as soon as something like that is released on a massive mainstream scale without educating the public, what would immediately happen is that a lot of “clever” users would simply upload the latest Rhianna video to get “flattring” and make money from stolen content, thus aggravating the problem (but at least making it legally more clear that someone is illegitimately profiting from a content creator’s original work). There is no easy way to deal with this unless Google and Facebook employ battalions of “censors” and manually approve all content (and even so they will fail in some cases — the model employed by Wikipedia and other similar sites which have content pre- or post-approved is not 100% foolproof, even though they make a very serious attempt to come as close as possible to that).

In conclusion, the problem of the Internet is that it doesn’t work like Second Life 🙂 I’m not saying that the permission problem is perfect, because of course it’s impossible to technologically prevent the analogue hole — there will always be some content theft in Second Life. But it’s far less than people think. In general, content creators wishing to profit from their content are able to do so. In general, too, SL residents will quickly understand the underlying model and realise that most content in SL is not free, but it’s up to them — the resident — to choose to view/own only free content or spend a few cents to get some paid content. This means that SL residents are educated to understand the content creators’ legitimate right to be paid for their work if they wish to do so — content creators are able to enforce how their content gets distributed, and content consumers have the option to either pay for desired content, or to look for free alternatives when they exist. This model, if it could be implemented on the Internet, would solve the problem once and for all, leaving just the borderline cases — the few that will always exploit the analogue hole — to be under close scrutiny, but leaving the rest of us, legitimate users, in peace.

Of course that Linden Lab required to implement a lot of things to be able to “enforce” this model, but they can do it because the SL grid, even though it seems to be large enough (with I don’t know how many billions of objects for sale…), it’s actually tiny compared to the Internet-at-large, and there is a single entity — Linden Lab — that controls it all. For example, LL is able to restrict — to a degree — that only third-party viewers respecting the permission system are allowed to connect to their grid. This restriction is not 100% efficient, but it works well enough. Now imagine the same happening on the two-billion-user Internet, with dozens of millions of operators, and dozens of billions of websites. How can anyone — any organisation! — coordinate all that? In my mind, the Internet is too unruly and too uncentralised (by design!) to allow for something like that to emerge…

One could technologically imagine that certain popular Web browsers would have an embedded “permission system” — in the best interests of the companies creating them — and that the most popular Web sites would require one of the “approved” Web browsers to be used exclusively on those Web sites. Imagine an Internet Explorer that would only upload images, videos, and other types of content that had an explicit license stating the freedom of distribution (this is possible to be embedded in most media file formats), and that Facebook required all users to use IE (or any browser supporting the same content) to connect to Facebook. If that happened, there would immediately appear “cloned” browsers which would work “just like the official ones” but with the ability to strip down the licensing information on the media files and allow upload to Facebook, but present themselves as a legitimate browser. To avoid this required complex cryptographic systems where Facebook (the company) would emit special keys for Microsoft to retrieve and embed on IE, and where each Facebook user would also require a pair of keys to be allowed to connect to Facebook. This extra complexity would, of course, make Facebook users give up — it’s too complex to use! What if you buy a new computer and don’t know how to transfer your legitimate access keys between browsers and/or operating systems? And, ultimately, it would be imemdiately subverted. After all, Windows still remains one of the more pirated software in the world (not to mention expensive applications like Photoshop), even though they have complex keys and algorithms to enforce “genuine” usage — we all know how easily those get subverted by hackers every day, to the extent that sometimes installing a pirated copy of Windows is easier than a legitimate one! No, let’s face it: these mechanisms will just make the life harder for legitimate users (and legitimate websites), while still allowing illegitimate users to proliferate. In effect, the more “valuable” something seems to be, the more likely it will be subverted by hackers — i.e. if accessing content on YouTube for free using a hacked browser becomes “valuable”, then more hackers will work on the task of allowing that access in spite of any “protection”.

Perhaps like in earlier articles I will be accused of not really proposing a valid, implementable solution (because I don’t really believe there is one!) but just pointing out why existing models — legislative or technical  — simply won’t work. Second Life is an oddity that provides a model that actually does work, even though it’s not perfect (because you cannot overcome the analogue hole), but certainly is a huge step ahead of what we can actually implement on the Internet. But more importantly than the legal/technical issues, Second Life excelled in the much-neglected aspect of educating users about the issues surrounding payment of work done by content creators, and implementing a micropayment model to allow that payment not to be a huge burden on residents but still make content creation worthwhile in SL for many thousands of creators. Things like Flattr.com and similar easy-to-use micropayment systems for content creators, no matter how successful they might eventually become, are perhaps the early skeletons of a “bridge” that can cross the education barrier (even if they won’t “solve the problem”), by creating a habit of paying content creators a few cents for their hard work, and by making the general population understand that content creators have a constitutional right to be paid for their work (which overrides the illegitimate “right” of being “allowed” to copy whatever is available on the ‘net), and that what is usually viewed as “the Internet access fee” paid to operators monthly does not entitle people to copy whatever they please, because that fee — unlike the cable network fees — does not contribute towards any kind of payment to content creators.

This is for me the fundamental issue that gets so easily forgotten in these dark days of legislative wars go suppress consumer rights. In essence, legislators are side-stepping the educational issue of explaining to citizens why under the current model the rights of content creators are not being upheld; and the whole dirty business is just seen by an uneducated population as a war between the entertainment industry giants, governments, and citizens, where greed dictates laws — thus polarising the whole world against the “monsters” that wish to destroy the Internet (which is exactly what they’re doing) by giving the wrong solutions to the problem. I can only sigh and shake my head in disgust, and at least make my few meagre attempts, here and there, to try to explain what the important issue really is.

CC BY 4.0 Paying content creators with micropayments by Gwyneth Llewelyn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

About Gwyneth Llewelyn

I'm just a virtual girl in a virtual world...

  • Gwyn —

    It’s not illegal to circulate an alternative currency in the U.S. In fact, there are many alternative currencies, including Ithaca Hours (in Ithaca, NY) and Valley Dollars (in Western Mass.) Those two are fully redeemable, legal, alternative currencies, designed to jump-start local economies. 

    However, convertibility brings with it a whole set of legal and compliance issues. For example, right now, Linden Lab can cut anyone’s account off. Any money users had stored, is lost. If it was a legal currency, that would be more difficult.

  • Wow, that’s some thorough analysis. Really enjoyed your comparisons between internet economy (and Flattr) with Second Life (having never had an account there myself). You really nailed the main challenge for Flattr – how to get more users buy into the idea that good content is worth paying for even if it’s free.

    There are some positive trends – more and more users are used to small payments as popularized by iTunes, in-app payments in mobile apps etc. But it’s all a paywall solution, Flattr tries to popularize the other way round – you first “get it”, figure out if you liked it, then support it. Plenty hurdles in reaching critical mass, making it even simpler to set up and so on.

    Thanks for covering Flattr 🙂

  • SarahAndrea Royce

    Microsoft and Adobe profit from cracked copy of their products in enlarging a trained on their products userbase which make those prodcuts standardsoftware so that customers more likely to pay (as e.g. companies) buy them. But for shure they cannot encourage this kind of distribution officially.

    By the way, licence rules often am so complicated that even the softwarecompanies specialists cant always say if a certain usage is legal.

  • Thanks so much for your explanation,[email protected]:disqus ! I stand corrected — I got that from a bad reference I read somewhere, posted on a blog post which was clearly not correct. So I did a little research and posted a few links with articles and PDFs describing common pitfalls and legal issues surrounding the operation of virtual currencies. Flattr.com seems to be compliant (at least, assuming they fulfill the obligations they set up themselves on their own Terms of Services), while Linden Lab is not (but could probably be, if they wished). But I let lawyers to go through the linked documentation and make up their own conclusions!

  • My pleasure,[email protected]:disqus 🙂 There is a purpose for writing this article: shake Linden Lab up and let them adopt Flattr 😉

  • I agree… I have read well over a decade ago that Microsoft rather preferred to see people installing pirated versions of their products than using competing technology. From a very skewed perspective, that sounds actually “logic”: it’s better not to make some money than allowing your competitors to profit from it! Back then, of course, the “real” competition would be (mostly) Apple and (to a more limited scale) IBM’s OS/2, Novell’s NetWare, and a few others. With the rise of Linux — a free operating system that doesn’t really “belong” to any competitor (even though at least Red Hat and Novell sell distributions of it and profit from that) — I suspect that Microsoft begun to take “copy protection” more seriously. In fact, their approach is rather clever: you can still duplicate Windows, but it’s harder and harder to get it validated as “genuine” software on their update servers — and nobody wants to run outdated software prone to hacker attacks and computer virii, so MS’s approach is actually quite clever.

    And of course I understand that they cannot publicly encourage or even endorse the usage of illegitimately duplicated software, even if it turns out that it has at least one benefit for them — avoiding that the competition gets a hold on another user.

  • Tura Brezoianu

    There’s micropayments, and there’s tipping.  When I pay L$100, i.e. 40 cents, for a pair of virtual sandals, that’s a micropayment, but it’s also a sale — I don’t get the goods unless I pay the tokens.  That seems to work fine (copybots and hacking aside).

    But I’ve never seen how tipping is supposed to work — value given free with a suggestion of payment. I mean, how much is a concert worth? An art build? I do tip, but I always wonder what multiple of $0.004 to give. There are sims that put out tip jars to keep them running, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one announcing that the monthly rent had been covered, only a shortfall, usually large. If people don’t collectively pay enough then the cool things won’t happen so much, in SL and RL, but there’s no immediate, personal feedback like there is when something is sold.

    I’d like there to be a “valid, implementable solution”, but I don’t think anyone’s invented it yet.

  • Gwyn —

    Another thought: there is a common presumption that people, as rational beings, will always opt for the free option if it is identical (or, at least, functionally equivalent) to the paid option. 

    But there are plenty of cases where that’s not the case. For example, borrowing a DVD from the library is free, and so is borrowing a book, but many folks will still pay for the book or DVD — even if we know we’ll only read or watch it once. 

    I buy supermarket tabloids for $3 a pop even though all the same information — and more! — is available online for free. And even though I know I’ll spend a few minutes with the tabloid, and then toss it. 

    How expensive your diamond ring is, is a matter of pride for people. Even though a man-made diamond is impossible to distinguish from a “real” diamond unless you’re an expert — and even then, they’ve got all sorts of coding systems in place to “authentify” diamonds. People feel better wearing real diamonds, real Rolexes and not cheap knock-offs, real designer dresses instead of the cut-rate copies, real designer purses, real designer shoes. I only drink Diet Coke even though when I order a cola in a restaurant and don’t know what brand it is I can’t tell the difference. (When I see the brand name in front of me, though, everything but a Diet Coke tastes bad.)

    People buy iPods even though the other brands’ MP3 players might have more storage and features. Ditto for iPhones.  People buy new cars even though they lose a big chunk of their value just by being driven off the lot. Copies of Picassos and van Goghs might require scientific testing to tell them from the originals — but the originals still go up and up in price at auctions.

    We pay extra to have things immediately, conveniently, from our favorite brand, to have things that are unique by virtue of history or provenance, to have things that make us fancy, to have things that other people will respect or envy us for. Nobody will respect us for wearing Salvation Army suits — even if they still had the label in them — unless we and our friends are frugalistas — and even then, we get more points for snagging a designer label than a no-brand knockoff.

    A lot of folks who are early adopters of virtual worlds are programmers at heart, and if they’re like the programmers I know, they’re very oriented towards functionality, do not enjoy shopping for the sake of shopping, and are mystified by the allure of brand names and celebrity endorsements. 

    I think content creators should look more carefully at the impulses that make people fork over money when they don’t need to, and leverage that. Why are we willing to pay for iTunes and Neflix but not online newspaper subscriptions? To pay for iPhone apps when the same functionality is available for free from a website — accessible on the very same device? Why do people enjoy spending money, and look for things to spend money on? (Again, not the programmers I know. Other people. Well, one programmer I know used to spend a lot of his money on Magic cards — talk about a total waste of cash!)

    I think, over time, more and more content creators will find ways in which to make purchasing their products fun and appealing, and others will follow suit. It will help when the economy recovers and we all have more money burning holes in our pockets. But then, the economy is lousy right now, but I just spent $2.99 today on a supermarket tabloid. Why? Why?!? I don’t know. 

  • I switched to OpenOffice during my last round of computer upgrades to avoid the Windows Office licensing fees (it’s a recession!) but found it so easy and intuitive — and I like the interface now more than regular Office — that I won’t be going back. 

  • SarahAndrea Royce

    Same here. A lot of Microsoft Technology I have only installed because I develop for clients on MS platforms (Server, Office via Sharepoint) but privately I prefer to use OOs, partly because I never came to like the new UI of MS Office. Yet I made an error, when I designed a database with “base”. Its UI is good, but it lacks interfaces which is a pretty important feature nowadays. Similar I often prefer Gimp over an installed Photoshop because I like some features more.

    I once watched an interesting TED-Talk a while ago that said tdsfsdfhat Open Source plays an important part in braking the quasi EmonopEeols of some proprietary software which otherwise would not have any more competition and their innovation would stall otherwise.

  • Hehe I use OpenOffice too… the last version of MS Office I legally owned was in 2000 (it was the only word processor available for Mac OS X back then) and it hurt me a lot financially… but there was simply no available choice 🙁

    Since then, I personally favour Apple’s Pages (it’s dirt cheap and does the job) or Mellel for writing academic papers, but OpenOffice is always installed since (fortunately!) so many people use it that I need a way to open its files, which become more and more popular every day.

    Of course, OO was still at its early beginnings in the turn of the century… and there were not so many good choices back then, commercially or otherwise.

    Gimp, well, it’s a love-or-hate relationship: it doesn’t lack functionality. But it’s like people who prefer SL 1.X vs. SL 2/3: the interface is too awkward for someone used to two decades of Photoshop. And yes, I’ve tried the “Photoshop-like UI” of Gimp: it’s not for me.

    On the other hand, it’s absolutely clear that good Open Source software (and the truth is, most of it is really good) makes corporations think twice about their own products. It’s not a coincidence that Apple, when dumping their own proprietary OS, picked ready-available FreeBSD clone — it would do everything they wanted, and be far, far better than starting a new project from scratch. Apple, in fact, are become (in)famous for pretty much grabbing everything open source out there and stick an Apple-ish name on top of it and “pretend” it’s theirs. When that became so blatant around 2005 or so, I jokingly “predicted” that one day we’d have Microsoft doing the same, buying SuSE or Red Hat and launching “Microsoft Linux” — but obviously calling it “Windows Next Generation” or something fancy like that, and only geeks who still like to open the command-line console would notice that there was Linux under the Windows-y UI…

    It could happen. In fact, I have no clue why it hasn’t happened yet 🙂 MS is not stupid and they have a rather large Linux division…

    Another typical example: 15 years ago, all kinds of electronic gadgets would be running some kind of proprietary “operating system”. But these are costly to develop and maintain. There were a few commercial “real-time operating systems” around, and for some companies, it actually would make sense to pay a license for their devices and forget about maintenance. But around the turn of the century, this dramatically changed: now pretty much every electronic device runs Linux. Routers, set-top boxes, DVD players, tablets, and phones: the majority runs some sort of Linux distribution. It’s almost scary to see how quickly almost everything out there that we never truly think in terms of “being a small computer” is actually running Linux. This is a typical example of how Open Source software becomes ubiquitous, and the irony is that corporations where Open Source is still “forbidden” and/or are Windows-only and thus install only Microsoft products forget that their switches, routers, firewalls, ADSL/fibre modems, and possibly even their internal network storage devices are all running Linux… as well as their phones (or even their PBX!). In some markets — which are not “niche” any longer! — Open Source software completely took over, and this happened in the past decade without the anti-OS groups ever noticing what happened.

  • That’s a very good point indeed. Current copyright models not only regulate distribution, but they also allow content creators to set the price of what they expect to earn from their work; in a sense, they self-value their own work and define how much they wish to earn (of course that this is an oversimplification, since it’s actually the distributors that set the price, but you get the point).

    Tipping, by contrast, puts the attribution of value in the hands of the consumer, and, as the rules of the market tend to imply, consumers, in their best interest, tend to undervalue the price of goods (if they have a choice). So I don’t know how this model will work out in the long term.

    It’s also true that, as far as I know, tipping is just “an extra bonus” that artists get in SL: they usually charge a base price per hour to the venue holding a live concert. Their idea is that they can charge less per hour based on the expected tips they get. These days, however, tips are often split (or two jars are set up) between the artist and the venue owner, since, by tradition, venues don’t charge for attendance. Well, it’s a complex model. I know that a very few are actually successful, or used to be, but I agree with you  that the “perfect” model hasn’t been invented yet.

    But at least we’re all thinking about that, so that’s a positive start 🙂

  • I agree with you on everything except on a tiny detail:

    I think content creators should look more carefully at the impulses that make people fork over money when they don’t need to, and leverage that.

    Well, that’s where I disagree. This is actually a common concept that is spread around by the consumer crowd which wants to abolish copyrights. They place the burden of creating a new, workable business model on content creators. The fallacy of this concept is that it assumes that content creators — artists, if you wish — have good business and marketing skills: they have not. If they had, they would be salespersons and marketeers instead of artists!

    The typical counter-example, proposed by Cory Doctorow (and other people affiliated with the FSF and/or sympathisers of similar “information should be free” associations), is that there are thousands of content creators who, by chance, also have good business skills, and actually have developed a working model that works for them. They conclude, based on anecdotal evidence of a few thousand edge cases, that if these edge cases can survive in a copyright-less world by inventing new business models, so can every other content creator in the world.

    This is actually stupid and an insult to the real value that content creators provide: they create content, not business models. The more we look towards the past, the more we see how content creators are always at the mercy of people with business skills to propose a working model that works for both: it used to be State-sponsored (e.g. Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, China…), then patron-sponsored (Renaissance), and finally, royalties via copyrights. In these cases it was society, wishing to get access to a civilisational benefit — availability of artistic content — developed a means to sustain artists and content creators economically. These models actually worked, considering the level of technology available at each epoch. In our era — the Information Age — a model based on the difficulty to duplicate and the cost of distribution to pay for content creators simply doesn’t work any more, because duplication is easy and distribution is next-to-nothing. But it’s not up to the content creators to suddenly develop business skills and become “creative” about how to make money from their content: it’s up to us, the consumers, specially those among the consumers that do have business skills.

    A second fallacy is pointing to advocates of “copyright-less” content distribution systems and look how they make money. Aye, they do indeed give away their content for free. But most of them are either:
    a) university professors or working in a research lab, often with tenure;
    b) they became famous while holding a job, then were able to earn money from conferences, and thus be able to give away content for free;
    c) rich.

    So the whole model is based on completely wrong assumptions.

    No, instead we have to throw people with good marketing and business skills into a “think tank” and let them develop a successful business model where content creators can actually get a revenue from “somewhere” while still being able to give away their content for free. There are a few solutions (I’ve mentioned a few on my previous article) but most people dislike them. So we need more and better solutions. Until we can get one that actually works, we (as in “this society”) will have to provide a way to economically sustain those content creators during this transition phase to a new model…

  • I’m not saying copyright should be abolished (though I disagree with companies like Disney that keep extending it — that’s an abuse of our political system). But I do think it’s up to content creators to come up with ways to get paid for their art. Whether it’s government or charity funded (in which case, they need to learn how to write grants) or commercial (in which case, they need to learn how to sell). Or they could produce the art, while letting business partners sell it for them.

    Back when I was a local business reporter (way, way back) I had a beat where I went around interviewing local artists and business people. Local business people tended to spent a little time talking about their products — here’s my widget, here’s what makes it different from other widgets — and more time about their sales, marketing and distribution strategies. Artists tended to spend a lot of time talking about their art, and the rest of the interview complaining that nobody was buying it, and how they had to work second and third jobs supporting themselves.

    Then I met a lady making art quilts (which has got to be the least commercial of all the arts) who was successfully doing it full time. And I asked her secret, given how hard other artists were finding this, and she said that she had a business plan, and a marketing strategy, and she had work available at multiple price points — from 25-cent postcards of her quilts, to $5 potholders, to $50,000 wall-size quilts for corporate offices. She had a media strategy, was in the art magazines, in juried shows, etc…

    After I talked to her, I started asking the other artists — have you ever taken advantage of the free courses offered by local economic development groups and chambers? Did you try to get any sales or marketing training? Have you ever read a book about sales or marketing? The answer was uniformly, “No. I’m hoping I can find someone who can do that for me.” And what have they done to find someone? Nothing. I guess they were hoping that someone would magically appear and solve their problems.

    There’s no magic. There has never been any magic. If you want the Medicis to sponsor you, you have to hustle to get that sponsorship. If you want government funding, you’ve got to learn how to play the grants game. Grants are out there. But, like the Medicis, they aren’t going to magically show up and shower money on people. 

    As a result of that interview with the quilter, I eventually picked up a book, “Six-figure freelancing,” and some other marketing books for freelance writers. (I never did take a course!) I joined professional groups, changed my business strategies — and, in the end, wind up spending less time on the business side than I did before, because my business activity was more productive than before (when it was mostly random). 

    Most new businesses fail. When it comes to businesses run by artists, I’m sure the failure rates are even higher. A down economy doesn’t help.

    But I don’t think there are ever going to be any short cuts. When you first start out — whether as a painter, a musician, an actor, a writer, or a 3D designer — you will have to hustle. You’ll have to learn how to market, and how to sell. You might  find a mentor who’s successful and copy what they do, or take a class, or do some self-study, or you can wait and hope you hit on a successful strategy by luck and are aware enough to recognize it (and to change, if the strategy stops working for any reason).

    Second Life doesn’t need Flattr. Anyone who wants to can already put up a donation box to collect Lindens from the public. But museums and orchestras have long known that you can’t subsist solely on those kinds of donations — you need to go out and hold fundraisers, and you need to write grants, and you have to get sponsorships, and do all the other stuff that successful non-profits do. 

    You need to hustle. There’s no way around it. 

    People who write about artists who are successful in this new economy aren’t just presenting anecdotal evidence. They’re presenting potential new business models that artists can try and see if they work. No one model is going to work for everyone. Someone is going to give away content for free and charge for concerts (or custom development, etc…). Someone else is going to try new distribution networks (iTunes, InWorldz, self-publishing). Someone else is going to try new anti-piracy measures (say, server-side scripting in OpenSim). I’m not saying that content has to be free. But free content (and freemium content, and ad-supported content) is one possible strategy, and has been successful for many companies for years. 

  • elizabeth (16)

    i think that you onto it about how many ppl consider the cost of their connection is payment enough for their content consumption. the model currently employed by many content hosting companies conditions us to this as well. post your stuff on our site and freely share it with others, can easily lead to: if i am doing this with my stuff then i dont see why i cant do the same with other ppls stuff

    my stuff for many of us, generally being our thoughts in writing. snapshots, sometimes drawings and/or machinma, of our ourselves and our activities and those around us. and sometimes them with who we have an affinity even if we not know them personally. like writers, poets, artists, designers, popstars and celebrities. and by extension their works

    is a hard habit to break this, as you have pointed out. made even harder by the hosting companies who channel us in this way. many of these hosting channels chant freedom whenever this issue is discussed. so do their followers and those whose income depends on users conditioned in this way. is quite cynical and manipulative really. abusive even in some cases. mr ken dotcomm of megaupload being the latest example of abusive behaviour imo. he is to be extradited to the USA to face charges including wire fraud and racketeering

    +

    is a bright light at the end of this long dark tunnel tho. people like to make stuff, always have and will. some people want to make a living from their work, some happy to give away for free. either way is cool. the bright light is that legit original content is swamping the digital world. is megabuckets of the stuff and heaps more being made and uploaded every day. the cynical need to host illegitimate content to make eyeball money lessens every day

    also as well we seeing things like DAZ, and other similar companies, giving away their toolsets for $0. DAZ have worked out that the future for them and their customers is the DAZ content store, where people are already prepared to pay real world sums for digital creations. more ppl using DAZ tools, more stuff in the store for sale. linden have also recognised that content is the future, so marketplace and now direct delivery, maybe coming soon to otherworlds, maybe dont know but possible

    provide a channel for ppl to make and sell, and police it for them and they will come. apple the big pioneer in policing content on their servers. and making megabucks doing it this way. linden also changing up to this way. more and more we now seeing ripped stuff deleted and ppl getting ip_replacement notices in their inventories. that a good and healthy sign

    facebook also now that it has gone public will clamp down harder on bad behaviour on their site as well i think. they have facebook credits now and they will want to maximise that legitimately. from investment pov facebook earnings numbers not all that great compared to similar companies. so they will be wanting to correct that as soon as they can or their share price will suffer over the medium term. founding fortunes maybe wiped out completely as well even, if they miss the boat. the stock market is way way more unforgiving and brutal than any other place ever

    the key going forward for the host channels i think is to police the stuff on their own servers to gain trust. the money just rolls in with that. money for both hosts and content makers. as i mention apple and linden are the best examples of this at the moment

    +

    i actual think that if anything is a dinosaur doomed for extinction, its the upload anything you like onto our servers, including other ppls stuff, and we will try to monetarise it for ourselfs somehow model. thats doomed i think bc of the twin pressures: megabuckets of legit content from which hosting and distribution fortunes can legitimately be made; and whats about to happen to mr ken dotcomm

    if mr dotcomm gets convicted of racketeering under existing criminal law, thats going to send a massive chill thru every interwebz content hosting company boardroom. way more than any SOPA/PIP/OPEN bill will ever do. no legislature anywheres is ever going to overturn the existing criminal code. no matter how much lobby money is chucked at it. is lots of debate about digital property vs other kinds of property at the moment. for mr dotcomm to be convicted of racketeering, i think the court would first have to accept that digital property is afforded the same protections under existing criminal law as is other forms of property. if the court accepts this then its all on everywhere and the lawyers are going to have a field day. SOPA/PIP/OPEN etc will get chucked in the bin. No need for these little hammers when there is now a great big one

    if the court does not accept this then SOPA/PIP/OPEN will be chucked in the bin anyways. the legislature will move to amend the criminal code to afford protection to digital property in the same way as other property. will be way harder for anyone to lobby against. bc property rights are deeply embedded in the american pysche. the amendement will have nothing to do with censorship or control or access to the interwebz. just be a simple affirmation of the property rights enshrined in the US constitution. so end up with the big hammer either way
    +

    outside of these major channels, will always be indie peer efforts like flattr and bitcoin etc like you say. also the academic distribution model you wrote about last time. they all good as well and will be some ppl quite happy to do that way. so thats cool as well. is all good i think altogether the multi-direction we are going in. is still a bumpy road ahead for lots of us tho as we change our own personal behaviours, and will take some more years till it all sorts itself out

    as you also say, which i think is a very good point, when we faced with these kinda problems we can get lost sometimes in the myriadum maze, and take the easy way out by cast blame on others and not bother exploring what the solutions and outcomes might be. is why i like your blog bc you try to do that, and you not mind if ppl like me come along and go yes but what about something else completely different (:

    have chatted about hosts two times now. i think they the key to the solution tho. when they change then their users change. it unfortunate sometimes that channels have such a big influence on ppl, but they do bc we like to be in the same channels as everyone else

  • Ah, point taken! I think it’s one of those background things…

    Your argument is pretty much that to survive, everybody has to make an effort to acquire business and marketing skills, and there is no avoiding this. If you don’t have them, you can’t succeed — either as an artist or on any other kind of work. So artists have to learn business skills as well.

    I can agree with you that this is a very pragmatic view, and, of course, it obviously will work — for the ones able to learn those skills. In this scenario, I have also to agree that it’s up to us to propose and suggest places where they can acquire those skills and/or show them new business models and ask them to try them out.

    My own view — perhaps due to my own background — is that not everybody is able to acquire those skills, no matter how easy they are to learn, or how simple the business model is. There is just a small percentage of the overall population that can actually learn that (I know that: I’m part of the group that simply cannot understand how to learn those skills, even though I follow other people’s rules and advice and try to imitate their successful business venues). In my mind it’s even a “knack” — not really a skill in the usual sense of the word, that you can train, but a certain mindset: you either can do it, or you can’t, and in the latter case, you have no choice but to become an employee doing whatever you can do best.

    As part of my view (and again, I think it’s a question of personal background), what I see is that the best professionals are the ones who, indeed, focus their skills in a single area. That’s not to say that you cannot learn a lot of related and unrelated skills to widen your background; that’s not the point. Of course that a wide experience in doing a lot of things will help you out professionally (at least, it will open your mind to different ways of doing things in different areas) — I’m not saying we all should be narrow-focused and hyper-specialised in a single field (in fact, I have seen many cases of hyper-specialised people who, failing to get a job in that area — because, well, the market changes, and sometimes “your area” simply disappears or becomes obsolete — and clearly they were at a huge disadvantage). I’m just saying that in many areas, specialisation results in services with higher quality, and this has been a trend in the past generations: we do indeed live in a highly specialised society, where each member tends to do a single task very well.

    I’m happy to let that view be criticised, because, as said, it lends to threats and disadvantages if suddenly a specialisation isn’t required any more, and a particualr individual has no ability to be re-trained and thus has to suffer unemployment.

    In a sense, I think that’s what you’re proposing, by pointing out that in this Information Age, artists cannot continue to be merely content creators. They have to become businesspersons and marketeers — whether they want it or not. Only those willing to learn (or lucky enough to have a business mentality) will survive. While I disagree with you on the “need” for people to be “forced” to acquire business skills in order to survive (again, it’s a background thing), I have to bow to your pragmatism. If we lose millions of artists that way, so be it: the thousands that are indeed able to acquire good business skills will still survive. In fact, those are the edge cases that people like Cory Doctorow and others are pointing out as good examples on how content creators will be able to survive: these are the very few who managed to acquire a business mentality.

    But that’s not for everybody. Even in a corporate setting, only a fraction of the company are salespersons and marketeers (except perhaps for “pyramid setups”, where everybody is a salesperson — e.g. Amway, Avon, Herbalife, and so forth), and only a few people with all-around business skills (which include not only sales and marketing experience,
    but things like planning, project management, human resources management, and so forth) sit at the top of the company as manager, director, CEO, etc. Even Page & Brin opted to hire a CEO for Google (who now left, of course) because they felt their own business skills were way weaker than their computer engineering skills in managing huge arrays of servers to deal with search queries and with ad selling.

    There is obviously an alternative, which always existed in the past: agents. Agents are simply specialised business and marketing persons who understand the content creation business and are able to push their own artists and content creators to a wide audience. By doing so, they cash part of the proceedings as a fee. But that’s what led us to the current mess of intermediaries, where Disney — and not individual artists working for Disney — acts as a mega-intermediary and dictates the rules of the market. The shifting of power from the individual artist to the intermediary selling their content is at the core of the copyright laws of 150 years ago…

    But apparently this will not change. Sure, as said, a few artists and content creators will indeed learn or acquire those business skills — there is always a percentage of the population able to acquire them, and I don’t see why content creators ought to be different. The rest will have no choice but either to work through agents or, well, to abandon content creation and get a job flipping burgers or washing stairs.

    While I believe that some agents and intermediaries will certainly try to “think differently” — I think that things like iTunes, just to name a popular (and successful) example, are signs of what the future holds — most will prefer to fight for the “old laws” just because it’s a familiar model under which they operate which allows them to thrive and still pay their artists…

  • Well, I dislike the notion of legislation that allows governments to police what you do at your own home without telling people that what they currently do is wrong. For instance, we can all understand that “murder is wrong” because we were educated that way. We can also, in most cases, understand why “theft is wrong” — but here some people will immediately start making up “excuses” about the “wrongness” of stealing. I remember as a kid to travel to Germany with my high school friends, and when they came to a music shop, they would find all sorts of schemes to steal a few extra vinyl LPs under their sweaters and inside their bags (this was way before there were those magnetic sensors at the doors and security cameras everywhere). I was shocked! But they didn’t think it was “theft”. They argued (mostly to themselves) that German music shops sold so much, were so rich, that they wouldn’t really “get broken” by “missing” a handful of “unpaid” LPs. It was only “theft”, they argued, if people acutely felt the loss of something — probably the shop would, at the end of the month, label it as an accounting error, or invoke their insurance, or something like that; nobody, they said, would call the police just because a teenager “took” a handful of LPs.

    So my point here is that I was shocked because I viewed that as a moral issue first and a legal issue second. My friends just saw the legal angle; their morals were based on the “right of the individual” vs. “huge grey corporations who make tons of money anyway and are greedy” (and, by saying that, failed to see their own greed in getting access to music, no matter the risk of getting caught).

    This “new” legislation which is popping up all over the place — these days, I get an email alert practically every day telling me about some new Internet-restriction legislation coming up for discussion somewhere in the US or Europe — is to prevent people like my high school friends to find “moral justifications” to take content without paying their legitimate owners for that. Where I think that legislators are totally wrong are in this:

    1) They’re not educating the audience. Education is the basis for a moral conscience. Supression and repression can only spread terror and fear, but it will not make people understand the moral issues behind the law. They will stop using the Internet (or parts of it) for fear of being shut out of it, not because they understand why content creators have the right to be paid.
    2) They’re addressing the wrong issue. Imagine that in Second Life, instead of kicking out those who copybot content, Linden Lab would create a new policy saying: “anyone found with stolen content in their inventories will be kicked out, no questions asked, no appeal possible”. We would revolt! Most SL residents are educated to understand that content has property (permissions) and that in most cases you have to pay for it (although a lot is free). If by chance you find a shop with stolen content — how do you, the resident, know? You buy that content with good faith, and are willing to pay for it, so morally you’re doing the right thing; you were just deluded into believing that this was legitimate content, and not stolen content. Kicking you out because you are unable to distinguish stolen from legitimate content is absurd! Linden Lab, of course, does nothing of the kind — they just kick out the guilty culprits, not the innocent victims who honestly believed they were paying for legitimate content. So if even Linden Lab can understand the moral issue, why can’t governments understand that the problem are not the victims (as said, people assume they can download pirated content and believe they have a right to copy everything, because they were led to believe that paying for their Internet fee would give them the right to download anything they see) but the culprits (e.g. websites specialised in distributing stolen content and even making money from it, either from ads or subscription services).

    What legislation should be focusing on is in protecting the “victims” by educating them ( not engage in a campaign of terror — “we will kick you out of the Internet and forbid you to have access if you are unlucky enough to click on the wrong link on a website”), and give authorities more tools to deal with the real culprits: those who make a living from selling access to stolen content.

  • Becoming an employee is the standard solution. I myself don’t like being an employee, so I forced myself to learn the business side — I read a lot of books about sales and marketing, I join professional organizations, I attend seminars. It can take a few years but, to me, the investment is worth it because then you can do whatever you want to do.

    Hiring an agent or business manager is another option, usually for folks who already found some success in their field. Agents and business managers allow you to focus more of your time on your creative work — but, as any artist who’s been ripped off can tell you — you still have to keep an eye on the business side to make sure that they’re working FOR you, not against you. Any employee will get sloppy if the boss is never around and lets them do whatever they want. 🙂

    For me, changing the mindset involved changing my peer group. Journalists tend to HATE business. They want to write. They hate selling themselves, feel its humiliating, think publishers are evil, etc… And they look with extreme distrust at any journalist that tries to move over to the “dark side.” There’s a lot of peer pressure there. When I switched over to doing it as a business, I wound up spending less and less time with my writer friends, and more and more time with other business owners. And the other business owners helped in clearing out mind blocks — like I’d have no way to figure out how to solve a particular problem (because I was still thinking as a writer) and one of them would say “why don’t you just do X?” and I’d think — duh! That was so obvious!

    I’m still not all the way there. Under stress, I go back to my core strengths — writing more — instead of doing what you’re supposed to do (market more, and in different ways). But this is true of any employee who’s been promoted into a management position — eventually, you adapt, learn, and move on.

  • elizabeth (16)

    i agree that while its seen as a user problem only then not much will change

    can point to all kinds of example where people do act responsibly. like in academia and other disciplines as you mention. people credit others when they reference their work and apply fair use appropriately. is a whole educative process around this. is also consequences for students and researchers if they do not that act as deterrents

    can see on the interwebz where ppl just do this as well. iTunes the biggest commercial operator to do this. they police their own servers. not just them either. can point to appstores, news agencies, ngo and government departments, lots of schools and universities as well, all kinds in all kinds of fields

    same on lots of blogs and pure interwebz sites. on them the owners and contributors credit stuff that they do use and not include stuff they cant source any license for. is 10s of thousands of them. 100s even

    the question then is; if all these ppl can do it, then whats the problem for the others who cant seem too?

    is the answer as simple as working forward from the premise that hosts are responsible for whats on their own sites and requiring them to take reasonable precautions to ensure against this kind of behaviour? to have a duty of care?

    some people say thats impractical. but is not impractical for iTunes. is not impractical for most academic sites. its not impractical for many appstores, colleges, etc. its not impratical for countless number of bloggers and others like them

    its also not impractical for youtube to autoremove content owned by universal music from their site without having to serve youtube a separate dmca notice for every violation before youtube will act. youtube, the host, acts as an agent for universal music. if thats not an exercise in power of big ip holders over little ip holders, then i dont know what is. DMCA for the big guys? pffft! dont see any indie artists and producers having that kind of sweetheart deal with youtube. file them DMCAs you little ppl, over and over and over. each and every time

    at end of day the only people who can upload stuff to a site are the owners of the site and those that the owners allow to do so, their own users. do owners of hosting sites have a duty of care? seems many site and host owners already believe so and act accordingly

    so whats the answer for those who do believe that they have a duty of care but will only operate within the law whatever that is regardless of their own personally held view? when ppl do this then they are operating practically. needs a practical response this does. the obvious practical response is to make a duty of care law. then all this group will practice it

     just leaves those who not care at all after that, and like in academia then there will be consequences. different consequences but still deterrent