Your Broken Business Model Is Not My Problem

Bounty Markets for Open-Access eBooks. Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom (2010-10-25):

From “go to hellman” Bounty Markets for Open-Access eBooks In January 1773, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart placed advertisements asking patrons to “subscribe” to the three piano concertos he was writing. If he received enough support, the concertos would be finished by April, and subscribers would receive beautifully copied manuscripts. More importantly,...

Q: Without intellectual protectionism to sustain a massive system of corporate marketing, record companies, and advances for artists, how will creators ever be able to support their work? In a freed market with freed copying and freed exchange, how would we ever marshal the resources we need to sustain a flourishing musical culture?

A: Let's ask a minor musician of the past few centuries -- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart -- how he did it.

A broken, top-heavy, capital-intensive business model in music has nothing to do with the needs of a flourishing free culture. It has everything to do with grants of monopoly privilege, by the state, to entrenched incumbent firms, and the systematic distortion and deformation of the whole network of musical commerce around the gravity-well of those coerced monopoly profits. The monopolists' broken business model is not our problem, and should not be forced on the rest of us. Music will do fine without it -- just ask Mozart.

4 replies to Your Broken Business Model Is Not My Problem Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Crosbie Fitch

    What’s even more remarkable is that Mozart did it without the Internet!

    This is the problem when suggesting subscription/patronage today. People assume they must not only do without the Internet, but must also be world class AND win the attention and favour of a few wealthy patrons.

    Fortunately the Internet enables each artist in the long tail to have a good chance of reaching most of their peculiar audience. Pennies from a thousand fans can match a few grand from a few patrons.

    All that remains is the development of a mechanism to enable artist and fans to exchange art and money.

    To that end, a few wealthy patrons would certainly help…

  2. Shawn P. Wilbur

    The various tools for funding creative work are promising, and we need much more concrete work on how to compensate intellectual workers for their labor. Unfortunately, the models advocated by “anti-IP” folks all seem to be gussied up versions of a tip cup. Vague phrases like “intellectual protectionism” make it hard to know what you think is broken in the business model. The approach at C4SIF, and the most common approach at C4SS, seems to be to treat the brokenness of the book and record industries as a problem of intellectual property, rather than just another example of the injustices and stupidities of capitalist centralization and a broken system of property. And calls for “one big market” seem to ignore the ways in which the “network” revolution of the last few decades has been just another facet of the neoliberal assault on local, distributed markets.

  3. Rad Geek

    Shawn,

    Vague phrases like “intellectual protectionism” make it hard to know what you think is broken in the business model.

    Well, intellectual protectionism is not intended to say something about the business model; it’s intended to say something about the legal privileges used to prop the business model up, and specifically about the kind of arguments that are used in order to defend those legal privileges. What’s wrong with the business model varies with the business — I think the underlying problems with record companies heavily dependent on the enforcement of transferred copyrights and the collection of royalties for performance are rather different from the underlying problems with, say, technology companies dependent on blocking competitors through the use of patents, which in turn have somewhat different problems with the business model of, e.g., patent-dependent pharmaceutical companies. (Since patents and copyrights represent rather different bundles of rights, pharma companies typically use them for different purposes from technology companies, etc.) The common thread in all of these cases are that IP advocates believe they have some reason for saying that, with free copying, there wouldn’t be enough returns to creative or intellectual workers, or the middle-men acting on their behalf. (Where enough either means what they deserve for their work or enough to produce the right amount of the intellectual or creative product. Of course, the latter creates a second problem of figuring out how to spell out what amount is the right amount, and at what cost.) Hence, they propose erecting competitive barriers in order to protect the producer or distributor beleaguered by lower-cost competitors. Hence, the comparison to the protectionist tariff and the mercantile monopoly. The details of what’s broken about the business model, however, are as various as the details of what would have brankrupted the British East India Company, U.S. Steel, General Motors, Con-Agra, et al. in markets free of protectionist privileges.

    Unfortunately, the models advocated by “anti-IP” folks all seem to be gussied up versions of a tip cup.

    Well, maybe, but doing work on subscription, as described above, isn’t a tip cup; tip cups depend on gratuities given after the fact, whereas subscription models are based on collecting before delivery. In practice, there’s often also a lot of room for varying up the details of the models, or combining them. (A lot of my monthly income currently comes from a combination of a tip cup and subscriptions for modifications or customizations to an open-source software project that I give away for free.)

    Of course, all of those models have plenty of limitations, and work much better for some people than they do for others. (Obviously, Mozart was in a position — as far as established reputation and access to wealthy subscribers goes — that many others are not in. On the other hand, in the age of instantaneous global communication, Kickstarter, etc. — a lot of us have some pretty substantial advantages that even Mozart didn’t.) In any case, every strategy for making a living has limitations and work better for some people than for others; but it’s intended as only one example of what people might do when free to experiment (an experiment which does have the advantage of having been successfully implemented in the past), not as a detailed discussion of every possibility. I think the latter is likely to show mainly how little we can know about what will emerge from social experimentation until we are actually engaged in the experiments.

    The approach at C4SIF, and the most common approach at C4SS, seems to be to treat the brokenness of the book and record industries as a problem of intellectual property, rather than just another example of the injustices and stupidities of capitalist centralization and a broken system of property.

    I’m not sure what the rather than just another example is supposed to be doing here. If intellectual property monopolies are one of the specific mechanisms by which capitalist centralization is carried out, and one of the specific aspects in which the system of property is broken, then it doesn’t seem like this is a matter of rather than. And if IP claims are especially central to maintaining the capitalist centralization and the broken system of property, then I don’t think it’s a matter of just another, either. Of course, there are other mechanisms by which the concentration happens, which would continue to function with or without IP, and the problems with the book and record industry have something to do with those, too, but I don’t think it’s at all obvious that capitalist concentration and a broken system of property would stand up just as well if the IP pillar, in particular, were knocked out from under them. In fact, I would argue that capitalism as a whole has become progressively more dependent on IP monopolies over time (basically, in order to ward of the disruptive effects of accumulated small-scale capital and technical knowledge), and that this is the primary explanation for the massive growth in the prominence, extensiveness, invasiveness, and global reach of IP restrictions over the past century. Which may provide some reason for singling it out for special focus, while recognizing that it is an example of a more general problem (and closely entangled with other examples of the same problem).

    As for the approaches at other outlets, well, C4SIF is Kinsella’s project, so I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for him to treat IP as analogous to, and (what I think is rather a more important point) structurally entangled with all the other injustices and stupidities of capitalist centralization. That’s too bad, but I’d need to know what specific misunderstandings or misstatements or omissions it’s causing, in a given piece, before I have much in the way of a specific complaint about it.

    I don’t know about C4SS; I think it depends a lot on the writer.

    And calls for “one big market” seem to ignore the ways in which the “network” revolution of the last few decades has been just another facet of the neoliberal assault on local, distributed markets.

    Maybe, but I’d need to know what you intend by the network revolution of the last few decades here, as well as local, distributed markets. In the case of the former, it seems to me that if we’re talking about, say, the emergence of the Internet as an economic force, there’s several different revolutions and reactions going on simultaneously there that need to be pieced out one from the other. And when it’s a question of local, distributed markets, I’m much more interested in the second adjective than the first — there are plenty of local capitalists, local middle-men, and local concentrations of wealth and power, and if neoliberalism weakens their position, I’m not going to get too choked up about that; I’m much more concerned about its effect on distributed and informal players than on local players per se. Sometimes local scope serves as a proxy for that; sometimes it doesn’t. And, where some of the revolutions going on within the network revolution of the last few decades has opened up a significant new space for non-local markets that are nevertheless distributed or informal, I consider that to be one of the chief merits and most important developments.

  4. Crosbie Fitch

    Shawn, I don’t recognise charity or donation as a business model. It can certainly help, and in some cases it can keep a venture afloat. Indeed, facilities for tipping or rewarding artists (http://Kachingle.com, http://Flattr.com, etc.) are being developed and are becoming popular.

    However, for business or commerce you must have exchange, a free market agreement between two parties to exchange work for money at an equitable price. http://Kickstarter.com is enabling the more obvious transactions, e.g. “I’ll produce and/or supply intellectual work X for $Y”. One party being the producer, the other being those interested in the commission.

    Ultimately, you can decompose this and similar transactions into a set of micro-transactions or micro-contracts between each micro-commissioner and the commissioned producer or supplier. Each micro-contract is a payment contingent upon a publicly observable event (such as the publication of a work). I’ve thus developed the http://contingencymarket.com as a back-end to facilitate the expression and processing of such bargains or deals (between an intellectual worker and those who would pay them to work).

    One of the simpler examples I’m working on to demonstrate it is http://1p2u.com where a blogger invites subscribers or sponsors to offer a penny in exchange for production of the next article. It’s not a donation because the blogger only gets paid if they do the work. Hence the exchange of intellectual work for money - and a business model that doesn’t depend upon copyright.

Post a reply

By:
Your e-mail address will not be published.
You can register for an account and sign in to verify your identity and avoid spam traps.
Reply

Use Markdown syntax for formatting. *emphasis* = emphasis, **strong** = strong, [link](http://xyz.com) = link,
> block quote to quote blocks of text.

This form is for public comments. Consult About: Comments for policies and copyright details.