In the early days of my ongoing work with Freenet back in 2000-2001, I was dragged into the heated debate about copyright, the Internet, and how artists can be rewarded in a world without copyright.
While for a while I was rather bemused by this, Freenet was about freedom of communication, not copyright, and the whole discussion seemed like a non-sequitur, but eventually it got me thinking.
The result was a design for a system called FairShare entitled “Rewarding artists without Copyright”. It was essentially voluntary payment, but with a self-interest component mixed in. Here is an extract from the introduction:
With advances in communication technology, such as the Internet, and systems like Freenet, comes the realization that copyright law is increasingly unenforceable without seriously curtailing people’s freedom to communicate. It has also raised questions about the validity of copyright law itself, and the ideas upon which it is founded, particularly the idea that information is property.
This raises the obvious question of how to enable people to earn a living from the creation of useful information in the absence of copyright law. One obvious solution is to allow those who value a creative work to voluntarily contribute to its creator. The Internet makes such a solution much more likely to be effective, given the ease with which an artist can receive contributions through companies such as PayPal and Amazon. Many people, however, do not believe that such a mechanism will be effective since it relies on people having a wider sense of self interest (if they don’t contribute to the artist, then it is less likely that the artist will continue to create). While my personal belief is that this simple voluntary payment approach can work, there are also ways that it can be enhanced to answer this criticism.
– Ian Clarke, 29th March, 2001 “FairShare: Rewarding artists without copyright“
Well, it seems that, while nobody has yet implemented my full “FairShare” proposal, my ideas about voluntary payment has finally been tested by Radiohead with their new album “In Rainbows”, and according to early reports, its been a resounding success.