Senate May Ram Ludicrous Copyright Bill

From the Truly-Ludicrous-Department, the Senate may attempt to ram through a horribly shortsighted and backwards copyright bill. This bill would, among other things, eliminate centuries of fair-use precedent, make skipping commercials on digital recording devices a crime, and would make many uses of p2p networks, digital music players, digital sampling, and other forms of fair-use, crimes. The effect of this bill, if it passes, will simply be to force even more of the US technology and online services industry offshore; it will reduce the size of the US Market for emerging media devices; it will reduce our international competitiveness as a technology-leading nation; it will stunt innovation in next-generation media and online services; and it won’t stop anyone from filesharing anyway. What a waste of legislative energy.

Can someone please make a really good, free, open-source, cross-platform tool for making "darknets" for private, secure filesharing with trusted groups of friends? If such a tool were created (and designed to be really secure so that only invited parties can see into it), then that would pretty much end all these silly attempts to prevent filesharing.

The world has changed, but instead of accepting this fact and adapting laws and business models to fit it, the lawyers and legislators are trying to make even more restrictive laws in a futile attempt to turn back the tides of technological and social innovation. It’s never worked in the past and it won’t work this time either. In the age of information, information business models must evolve. You cannot limit information or control it effectively once it is digitized. Instead, business models should be developed that leverage the fact that "information wants to move freely" — the fact that digital information tends to spread faster and more widely than printed or analogue data is a blessing, not a curse. The problems of marketing and distribution are no longer obstacles or cost-centers because people are empowered to transmit information they like to others who might like it too.

So where will the money be made? Instead of charging for information licenses content providers should start to focus on making money from the "halo" around each information object. For example, from related services and transactions around the information.

For example, instead of charging a license fee to download and own a musical recording, why not charge a fee for a service that supplies high-quality recommendations for music to listen to that you are likely to like; or a fee for a service that aggregates all the music and video you are likely to like and makes it available to you on-demand from anywhere via high-bandwidth streaming to your devices? Instead of paying per-item, users would simply pay for access to the library, and/or for use of bandwidth.

Superdistribution, which I have written about elsewhere, is another way to make money from filesharing. Contrary to preventing filesharing, it actually encourages it, because sometimes people downstream will end up buying things as a result. For example, suppose you could download and listen to any song for free, for the earlier of a certain number of times played or a certain number of days. After that date you either must pay or lose your license. However, the price you pay gets lower and lower as the number of further people you pass the music on to increases, and the number of people they pass it on to increases, and so on. And it gets even lower if some of them eventually pay to license the song. In other words, if you spend your labor to market a song you could get a discount or get it for free, or even make a profit. Now that is empowering customers to be product evangelists!

Or another example of a business model: why not start simply asking for optional "tips," payable in micropayment denominations from people when they listen to music they like — people are not averse to supporting bands they really enjoy, just look at how they put money in the cup when listening to a good street musician — as long as they know the money actually goes at least in part to the bands!

Or for example, instead of forcing TV viewers to watch commercials they don’t want to see, why not provide optional commercials that target different types of interests and enable users to opt-in to get them during a TV show, or after it. For example, when watching a sitcom, perhaps a viewer might want to know where to get the clothing, music, furniture, or gadgets featured in the episode. These are just a few ideas for "next business models" that are based on empowering content consumers and allowing information to be unconstrained.