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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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« Tooting My Own Horn - MPAA vs The People | Main | Future of Music Coalition Events (Fall 2008) »

August 5, 2008

People Want to Pay - Sort Of

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Kevin Kelly - who a few months ago put out the notion of "true fan" - has another interesting assertion in his blog: people want to pay for stuff.

Why, then, is copying - and not paying - so prevalent? Kelly says that people want to pay if they perceive that the exchange is fair, if it's easy enough, and if they understand some sort of benefit that comes from the paying.

Just stating a benefit (enabling creators to be paid) isn't enough. Conversely, just threatening a negative (lawsuits) isn't enough. Kelly refers to a survey of UK youth in which the surveyed indicated a desire for a monthly-fee unlimited use music service. More or less the way television is delivered to them now.

I'm more or less on-board with this notion. It's essentially what Copyfight has been arguing for years: the experience matters, new business models are needed, etc. The place where I differ is when Kelly asserts that what we want is a relationship, and that paying is a form of/part of that.

I'm sorry, but I really don't want to have a relationship with iTunes, or NBC, or even a hip Web 2.0 technology like Flikr. Paying for these things doesn't make me feel differently in respect to them. I want to have a relationship with people, whether it's a Big Name creator like Joss Whedon or other fans. If Whedon makes his creations available on iTunes or NBC then I might pay those entities as a necessary component of being a fanboy, or if other fans share images on Flikr that's part of a relationship. Paying is just incidental, which is why I think Kelly isn't paying enough attention to his own hints that the payment process has to be so easy (seamless) that it fades into the background.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Big Thoughts


1. Nathan Jones on August 5, 2008 10:30 PM writes...

If only the music industry better understood the need to make buying easy.

I like to buy albums. Not frequently, mind you, but I'll typically find something I want to buy every month or two. And sometimes it's easy, but often it's not.

In my opinion, every artist should have their work available for immediate purchase on their own website, as well as on their label's site, plus other distribution channels like iTunes, Amazon MP3, etc. A record company that cares about online sales for artists (and not getting cannabilised by Apple) should have:

1. A label-wide online store where people could browse and buy.

2. A simple process for integrating that purchase capability directly into an artist's web site. That way, when I discover a new artist and visit their site to find out more and get excited about them, I can buy on impulse, without needing to go somewhere else or load different software.

The reality today:

- DRM. Already been burnt by that (technically, I still have activations left, but it's a pain, and I want more control, simplicity and reliability), so I won't touch it now.

- Artists might have music available through an online store (typically not on their site), but don't promote it. I have to go look for it myself - eg. visit iTunes, search, see whether it has DRM or not...

- Much music is still not available online to buy for download (at least in DRM-free formats). I could order a CD online, but having to pay for shipping often puts me off. Especially since I only want the music file on my computers and iPod, not the disc itself.

- I can go to a physical store and buy a CD without paying shipping, but by the time I make the effort to get there, I might have lost interest.

Why is it so hard?

Permalink to Comment

2. drwex on August 6, 2008 5:18 AM writes...

I agree with all of your points. I feel like this is a case of "the perfect is the enemy of the good" as the record industry wanted a perfect solution. Perfect control over copying, perfect payment for every copy made. Since a perfect solution could not be devised, we got nothing or the present mess.

One of the things that made iTunes DRM acceptable to many people was that it wasn't perfect. Probably some people rip off some iTunes music. But I'd bet good money that nearly all of it is paid for. A solution that would be good, here and now, would help a lot.

Instead, I feel the Copyright Wars have become a sort of trench warfare, with 'progress' measured in inches, and lots of casualties on all sides.

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