The Street Performer Protocol

from the welcome-to-the-new-economy dept

Jon Acheson writes “I first saw this on SlashDot. The Street Performer Protocol is a new payment scheme to allow us to cope with “the imminent death of copyright.” In this scheme, people voluntarily pay money into a savings account which pays off to the artist when the work is released into the public domain.” While I generally hesitate to repost Slashdot material if I can help it (making the assumption that a good number of folks who read us also read Slashdot), this one is especially interesting, and worth linking to. It’s an interesting read. I can think of a huge number of reasons why it would never work though. I just checked out the article on Slashdot, and for once, I’d say that the commentary there is worth the read.

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Comments on “The Street Performer Protocol”

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Jon Acheson says:

Imminent Death of Copyright?

I’ve seen this saying bandied about, and I’m not sure I agree with it. Yes, it is getting easier to copy certain types of works, especially digital versions of music, and to a lesser extent, movies. But just because it is easier, it does not necessarily follow that it will become impossible to enforce copyrights.

What really makes piracy flourish (aside from conditions where noone enforces the law) is a situation where only piracy is able to supply goods at a reasonable price. For instance, back in the late ’80’s, the only way to get japanese anime was from pirates, or to buy laserdiscs from Japan, and getting them from Japan was like a dark art. Plus, the laserdiscs were often $100 each even if you knew where to buy them legally. So I had no compulsions about buying from piratesL: it seemed like it was that or nothing. Now, anime is available professionally translated in every Suncoast store in the nation, and prices are reasonable. I wouldn’t touch a pirate tape with a ten-foot pole, and my guilty conscience makes me buy things I had pirates of when they hit the market.

CDs are not unreasonably priced, and I predict that prices will fall because of competition with and among Internet retailers. Movies are not unreasonably priced, for the most part. Both are widely available in convenient formats. If there is a reason why people aren’t buying more CDs, it’s probably that they’re not hearing anything good on the radio.

It’s been possible to make photocopies of books that were every bit as good as the originals for decades now. Seen any black market photocopied books for sale lately?

I guess this has been a fairly unsupported set of assertions on my part, but am I wrong?


Mike (profile) says:

Re: Imminent Death of Copyright?

For the most part I agree. But, it will depend on how things shape up. As a “collector” of sorts, I actually enjoy buying a CD that I’ve been looking for and getting all the material that comes along with it, as well as it’s easily portable nature. I really haven’t gotten into the whole MP3 thing, and I’m willing to watch it and see what happens. As it stands now, the only value I personally would get is in being able to test out and hear bands that I would otherwise not be willing to risk shelling out $12 on a CD for.

This could change, though, if the playback devices become more readily available, means of copying and obtaining MP3s are more readily available and maybe a few other things fall into place. But, I believe in this situation, I would probably be willing to pay for the music I get as well, though I’m not completely positive on that one. But, once again, as I said I am a collector of music, and as such I like to have something to show for my purchases.

As for copying of books, it is still a fairly expensive proposition to photocopy an entire book, and really not worth it from an economic standpoint of pirates. Copying CD’s however, is much cheaper, and has much higher margins.

I doubt very much that copyright is dead, but I think it may need to change with the times to be a little more reasonable. Not to get started into rabid frothing open source land, but I think there are some valuable lessons to come out of the GNU/Copyleft movement. Let people make copies, so long as they cite the originator, and make it clear what they’ve added. It is certainly still possible to make money off of copylefted materials, and the trick is doing something better or different with it. I realize there are plenty of issues that this brings up, but it’s worth looking at.

One last note on piracy, and I’ve applied this to old debates I used to have about bootlegging concerts (from my *distant* past) as well as to pirating software. If the folks who are pirating those goods would not pay for the original copy in the first place than who is losing out? It is, in some sense, a more efficient economic market where there is now a two-tiered pricing structure. A sliding scale is best, but a two-tier is probably better than a single price, and the trick then is to make sure that the incentive is for people to really buy the full priced version, and it kinda works. People do like to own the official versions of things. For expensive software products, companies or people who really use them for business will buy the software, while others will pirate it… but income isn’t lost by the copyright owner, because if it were enforced the “offending” party would never have bought the good in the first place…

Does this make sense or am I babbling again?

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