If you are like most everybody else, you keep music on your computer, be it in MP3 or some other format. Then, most likely, not all of that music got to your hard drive in ways approved by the recording industry. You feel bad for that, don’t you? You probably don’t care about rewarding the record company, but you feel that the artist would deserve at least what they get if you buy their CD. What to do? Send them money on Paypal, saying, “whoops, I copied your music, but no hard feelings—here’s a dollar to ease your pain?” Doesn’t sound good, does it? Some have suggested a culture flat rate, a government-administered fund that pays content creators. But why involve the government in something that it knows nothing about? How would the fund distribute the money? Unsolved problems that, IMHO, prevent this from being viable. So there’s a problem here: You want music. The artist wants to give it to you. But he needs to eat, too.
Actually, it’s worse than that. Movies, music, texts, software, all this can generally be seen as content. Much of today’s content is put out by an industry dedicated to its creation. There’s the movie industry, the software industry, the publishing industry and the recording industry, which, despite some differences, are all suffering from similar problems these days.
The purpose of this essay is to propose a solution to this problem, and the key term will be a “college of creators.” But before I go into any detail about that, I would like to state some truths about creation and dissemination of content that I think are invariable:
- Copying, legitimate or not, of content is here to stay, and cannot be prevented. The industry’s Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology will be both expensive and ineffective. Corny and dated as it may sound, “information wants to be free.”
- The widest possible dissemination of content is not only inevitable, it is socially desirable. The public domain should be as large as possible.
- If a creator desires to be rewarded for (or even make a living off) his creations, there should a way for him to receive a tangible (i.e. monetary) reward for a substantial contribution to the public domain.
- Publicity is unnecessary, word-of-mouth is sufficient. Advertisements only serve to skew the public opinion to further business interests. Diversity is better.
- The cost of publishing is rapidly going down—Internet
- There is too much content on earth.