This is one idea I feel strongly about. I would genuinely love for someone to steal my idea here, because if not I think I’m almost sure to do it myself sometime. I’m not passionate about the process I’d have to go through, so I’d much rather someone better suited to the task did it.
Note that there is potential for good money earning here. I’d much rather you earnt that money because I’d prefer to spend my time writing and speaking, which I’m good at. Hopefully I won’t starve.
Pirate & Donate
So the idea of this initiative is simple – you make a website which allows people to donate to – anyone. For instance, if I have a singer I really like, I can go to this website and send them 10€ as a thankyou for their great work – and hopefully support them to create more.
You, as the website creator, would take it upon yourself to find the mailing addresses for cheques to each and every creator anyone could possibly want to donate to. Then, you process the money transfers. People send you money, and you send that money onto the artists. You make it possible for the process of donating to creators to be very simple, very fast, and very easy.
I also thought that this service could come in the form of a downloadable program which attaches itself to pirating software. Then, you can choose to (semi-)automatically make a donation after downloading something via P2P networks, or be reminded to make a donation after X time after downloading something. (This latter feature lets people work out how much value they got out of a creation, and how much they want to send back).
I think this service would be a significant step towards a gift economy.
The value of this is that pirating – as we all know – costs the creator nothing. You just copy a file, and nothing is lost.
So, it’s not like doing a gift economy setup for supermarket goods. For sure, it’s understandable that you would be reticent about making a donation-based supermarket. Someone selfish could walk in, take everything, and then sell it somewhere else.
But there’s nothing to take with data-based creations. There’s no way someone can take it all for themselves. There are always more copies to be made, instantly. With P2P technology there isn’t even a server cost for the creator.
So, we can take advantage of that to let people receive freely and give freely, with no obligation.
The cool thing is, people are already taking freely, many of them disillusioned with the current system of selling data products but not having any better alternative. A lot of them would be happy to make a habit of giving freely in return, if they could.
And people who still want to buy products through publishers, still can. Basically, creators will start to earn from the section of people who used P2P programs, who didn’t previously give them any money.
But that would just be the start.
Soon publishing via P2P and the Pirate & Donate system will start being seen as a viable option for creators.
Some creators will voluntarily publish through the system. You can feature these people on your website, allowing them to get extra exposure.
The effect will be to cut out the middle(wo)man – publishers, who took a large cut for work that is becoming less and less necessary in the digital world, will be removed from the process, and all the money will go to the authors.
Because of this, content creation will become more democratised, as people power starts floating or sinking the good and the bad creations respectively. It will be easier for new creators to get noticed, and for real variety to seep in. There will be no more Brittney Spears-es, mass marketed fluff that’s no better than the thousands of other creators who weren’t lucky enough to be used by the publishing industry in its attempts to tell people what to like.
What’s more, more value will be delivered to people. Because they don’t have to pay for it, people can download lots of stuff and see whether they like it or not. At least 50% of what someone pirates they don’t end up using much, but that’s okay, because you don’t need to pay for it. Just consider it a really easy, comfortable free trial. Then, when you find something you really get value out of, you can support it.
And, people who don’t have so much money can download too. (This is the sort of thing we’d be looking for in a full gift economy – freedom of all value to go to all people). They might not be able to donate as much, but that’s okay – they are not taking from anyone. And who knows, maybe one day their finances will pick up, and they can pay off their backlog of value received. (I certainly want to do this someday).
Who knows, perhaps finally Pirate & Donate will be become Share & Donate*. Maybe one day there will be no more stuff you can pirate. Perhaps it will all be on the P2P and other places for free, and everyone will be supporting it via donations. Perhaps government will pass a law to that effect. Or perhaps people will simply evolve out of the need for anything else.
*OK, maybe that is a better name for the service already. Actually, definitely it is. Don’t call it “Pirate & Donate”. “Share & Donate” sounds much better.
Try to make it look and sound as legitimate for all people as possible. Market it as a legitimate alternative to the standard model. Don’t “officially” condone piracy, focusing your public image on the creators who put themselves put themselves out there for free – but of course allow and even gently encourage people to use it for both pirated and freely shared material.
Monetising Share & Donate
OK, phew. So that’s the whole philosophy of this new system. But – I mentioned in the beginning that it could earn you a lot of money. How so?
Well, if this service became popular, a lot of people would be using it. And, they would all be the sort of people who like to give back when something they are using is good to them.
You can just have a discreet button somewhere allowing people to donate to Share & Donate. Or, you can even give people the option to give a percentage of all of their donations to S&D. You could add a tickbox next to every donation anyone’s about to make, letting people do this with with one click. In their personal settings, they can adjust the percentage they like to do and whether the tickbox is opt in (click the box to donate) or opt out (click the box to not donate).
I think it would be a good idea to disclose the costs of running the company, perhaps as a frequently-updated percentage of average costs-per-donation. That way people could choose to cover the company’s costs with each donation, or add more to it. I think it could be fair for paying the company’s costs to be opt-out, even. Most people could see the sense in doing that, especially if the costs are low (which they probably would be relative to each donation made).
So, that’s all I have to say about this idea. Someone please make it happen!