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The Internet The Almighty Buck

Cory Doctorow Says DIY Licensing Will Solve Piracy 189

Posted by samzenpus
from the well-that-was-easy dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The founding editor of Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow, has written a report about 'do-it-yourself' digital licensing, which he's touting as the panacea for piracy. Doctorow's solution for content creators is two-fold: get a Creative Commons license and append some basic text requiring those who re-use your work to pay you a percentage of their gross income. Doctorow refers to this as the middle ground between simply acquiring a Creative Commons license and hiring expensive lawyers for negotiations. He calls do-it-yourself licensing 'cheap and easy licensing that would turn yesterday's pirates into tomorrow's partners.'"
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Cory Doctorow Says DIY Licensing Will Solve Piracy

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  • BRILLIANT IDEA (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 14, 2009 @08:01AM (#27949533)

    If I have to pay 27% (standard royalty rate) of my gross income on the product as royalties when I make...NOTHING, I have to pay...NOTHING.

    Brilliant. Everybody's a business partner.

  • Paying pirates (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BSAtHome (455370) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @08:03AM (#27949547)

    So, you want pirates to pay royalties. I always thought that pirates we pirates because they did not want to pay the royalties. What another license makes for a difference is beyond me. If they do not want to pay, they simply will remain pirates.

  • by montyzooooma (853414) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @08:04AM (#27949553)
    AFAIK what he's suggesting is already within the scope of the CC license. But it won't stop P2P/home copying. It won't really stop people selling copies of CDs or films out of their car boots either.

    At best it will just encourage a lot of people to sell other people's media under the guise of legitimacy, while kicking back something to the creators. I can't see the MPAA/RIAA agreeing to that.

  • by noidentity (188756) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @08:07AM (#27949571)

    Works only if people are honest.

    ...and believe that an author has a right to demand something in return for making copies/derivitives of things he's written.

  • Re:BRILLIANT IDEA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mftb (1522365) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @08:07AM (#27949575) Homepage
    CC is all about free sharing. Personally, I have no objection to people using my music in free projects. I do, however, have an objection to people using it to make money without cutting me in.
  • Stone soup! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by iYk6 (1425255) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @08:07AM (#27949579)

    Get a Creative Commons license, and append some basic text requiring those who re-use your work to pay you a percentage of their gross income.

    Anybody remember stone soup? In this scenario, it appears that the CC license is the stone.

  • LOL (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 14, 2009 @08:12AM (#27949603)

    Cory Doctorow
    LOL

  • Re:Paying pirates (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erroneus (253617) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @08:13AM (#27949609) Homepage

    When he says pirates, he means people out to make money using material they have no rights to reproduce otherwise. People who download and share things freely are completely without obligation.

    I think most people are in agreement that it wouldn't catch on simply because there aren't enough teeth in it. For people to take things seriously these days, a gentleman's agreement isn't enough. We need blood, gore and violence before anything is taken seriously.

    It's a "good idea" until you realize that it would be of no interest to media publishers who are the REAL people behind all this copyright mess in the first place. The plan here is to skip around these publishers by giving everyone non-exclusive rights to publish copyrighted works. So big publishers won't go for it. Little publishers might give it a go but the distribution won't be there and neither will the marketing muscle of the big establishment. And if big publishers have anything at all to do with it, it would be in trying to block it or stop it in some way.

  • by mangu (126918) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @08:17AM (#27949625)

    Doctorow is a writer so his problem may be slightly different, but it seems to me that for much of the media industry today the problem is more of too high costs than too low income, no matter what "pirates" do.

    To make a standardized measurement, let's limit ourselves to one well-defined segment: 007. Look at this graph [wikimedia.org]. Investment in James Bond films has gone steadily up without a corresponding return in profits. The first 007 movie, "Dr. No", cost $1 million to make ïn 1962 and got $60 million in the box office, a 60:1 ratio. "Casino Royale" cost $100 million and got $600 million, ten times less.

    One could argue that James Bond jumped the shark, but in adjusted dollars "Dr. No" got about as much income as "Casino Royale", yet cost 1/16th as much adjusted for inflation. People are still paying as much to see James Bond today as they paid in 1962.

    The main problem, IMHO, is not reduced income for intellectual property owners, the problem is reduced creativity. They not only seem unable to create a character to replace 007, they also need to spend sixteen times as much to create the same level of special effects.

  • Re:Paying pirates (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rogerborg (306625) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @08:21AM (#27949657) Homepage
    Cory is projecting the ethics of his readers onto the rest of the piratsphere. It's a charming notion, but not very useful in the real world.
  • by thegreatemu (1457577) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @08:27AM (#27949683)

    Unfortunately, virii would be the plural of 'virius' (which, if it were a word, would mean something along the lines of 'manly'). =)

  • by bigstrat2003 (1058574) * on Thursday May 14, 2009 @08:33AM (#27949723)

    The main problem, IMHO, is not reduced income for intellectual property owners, the problem is reduced creativity.

    Perhaps so, but you haven't shown such a thing.

    They not only seem unable to create a character to replace 007...

    Why would they? They have a good character that people like. Not replacing him isn't "reduced creativity", it's simply giving your fans what they want to see. Only a fool replaces something for the sake of replacing it.

    ...they also need to spend sixteen times as much to create the same level of special effects.

    Blatantly false. They need to spend sixteen times as much to create a lot more special effects. Now, maybe you believe that the movies don't need that level of special effects, which is a whole different topic. It is untrue, however, that the level of special effects is the same as it was back then. The budget has grown because the amount of special effects has grown.

    Furthermore, your logic as to the success of the movies is flawed. The industry isn't necessarily interested in maximizing their profit per dollar spent (although that's always nice), they're interested in making more absolute profit. Using the inflation-adjusted figures you provided, we can see that while the industry made $59 million in profits from Dr. No, they made $500 million in profits from Casino Royale. Even though their profit-per-dollar may have been less, they still made more money overall, which is what is desired.

  • Won't work. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @08:34AM (#27949729)

    1. Most Piracy isn't a for profit business. It is just some one who downloads a bunch of pirated stuff, when he actually does buy a product he will post it online for the rest to pirate, combined with a few hackers to break any DRM to make sure what they get wont get others in trouble. But they do it to protect themselves because they don't want to pay for the software. Granted there is some people making money off of software piracy. However most of it is if any money trades hands is to cover cost.

    2. They already don't respect your license. Why would they respect this. It is like telling the wolves in the zoo if they don't eat the rabbits then they will get a good meal later, then place a bunch of rabbits in the wolf cage of hungry wolves. They have already convinced themselves that Software Piracy is good and some how they are heroes for fighting the man.

    3. After the fact enforcement, or in other words, if you don't do this and you are caught then we sue you. It is better to correct issues before it gets to that point. Though I am not a fan of DRM, DRM has probably saved a lot of people from getting sued and loosing a lot of money (on both sides) as DRM for the most part keeps the Honest honest. Sure it is a download patch away to breaking the DRM. However that is probably that one step too far that isn't worth it and they will just buy a copy. And no one bashing at the door and suing a guy for piracy of software that is stilled crippled.

  • Boing Boing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by maxume (22995) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @08:35AM (#27949735)

    Cory Doctorow is not the founding editor of Boing Boing. Mark Frauenfelder is. Wikipedia gives a decent rundown:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boing_Boing [wikipedia.org]

  • by 91degrees (207121) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @08:43AM (#27949791) Journal
    If I wanted to produce something that used two pieces of music, charged at 10% of gross each, 10 different images charged at 5% of gross each, and some animation charged at 40% of gross, I need to pay 110% of my gross to the make this.
  • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Thursday May 14, 2009 @08:48AM (#27949827) Homepage

    Reduced creativity is part of the problem, but another aspect is there is simply "too much creativity", in the sense that today, practically anyone can produce anything with very little investment. Those same eyeballs are being spread more thinly because there is so much goddamned content out there.

    There's also the disproportionate salaries in the movie industry, that were certainly nowhere near as distorted back then as they are now. Does it really "cost" 100 million to shoot a Bond movie, or does it cost more like 5 million with a bunch of greedy pseudo-thespians accounting for the remainder ? The concept of celebrity actors is nothing new, but their hyper-commercialization and glamorization seems to have sustained dizzying heights since the 90's.

    Cut out those extraneous costs, and suddenly the 60:1 margin isn't so ludicrous anymore. The cost of computer-based visual effects is at an all-time low thanks to mass availability of the tools and exploitative offshore labour, so a Bond movie could be a whole lot cheaper if they went back to their roots and focused on the characters themselves, instead of the name-brand puppets portraying them.

  • Re:BRILLIANT IDEA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by twisteddk (201366) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @08:49AM (#27949843)

    I have to agree. Current copyright laws dont work, because they do not allow "fair use". In fact licensing and patenting is getting to a point where the social benefits are not weighed in and thus otherwise profitable and usefull tools are distributed illegally.

    However, the proposal will work fine for components, patents and such. But would be disasterous for coplete products, and would require a fair-use or even free-use model to follow it.

    As someone else already pointed out, there are a ton of piriates out there who pirate to make money, and another ton who just "make a copy for the car", or even those who "make a copy for their friends". In either case the complete replication of a work is so simple that the recipient has no intrest in purchasing the original work, because the copy is "perfect", in that it's digital.
    Some countries are already starting to deal with this issue by giving out licenses for "unlimited use" of example music, while you pay a monthly fee, this fee makes you able to download pretty much any piece of music and use for any non-commercial use you want. Same thing goes for videos and books. For years you have been able to get them at the local library as often as you wanted, basically for free.

    With these great distribution models, then where's the incentive to pirate ? In the exact business model that the distribution companies are employing. Libraries and ISPs have limits in their spending policies because of wear and tear on their products, aswell as the strain on their profits due to aquisitions. But once the product becomes digital, it's just a matter of time before a purchase will last lifetimes, given that they again are subject to a decent pricing.

    You dont have to be a genious to know that the laws of supply and demand show that the higher the price, the lower the demand and vice versa. So in our day and age, you can actually distribute your products at a price close to free, if the user himself will create the physical object (CD, book, whatever) on his home printer. So with the significantly lower price on distribution, a lower prices can be charge for the product, and more people will "buy".
    The business model suggested simply states that IF the user decides to make a little dough by turning the download into for instance a karaoke thing and selling it to his friends, then he should fork over a part of his profits. I can't think of ANY artist who would normally provide his work free of charge who would object to this business model.

    Ofcourse that doesn't stop people from pirating against THIS model, or even the business from claiming they wont make money this way, but how's that different from today ?
    It's different in one major aspect: People who contribute, and people who are not profiting from other peoples work are no longer criminalized. A 6-year old who just wants to hear the latest justin timberlake song, or the co-worker who hands his collegaue a DVD and says: "hey I recorded this from the late night show, you REALLY have to see it" will no longer get treated like the taiwaneese pirate who bootlegs 60 million DVDs a month and sells them on ebay. So IF the taiwaneese pirate is willing to fork over $5 pr DVD he sells, then presumably the licensee dont give a crap if it's buena vista home entertainment or hai-fats local DVD store that made the physical copy as long as they get their end of the business.

    Even though the idea is not new, it is IMO a great way to legalize (and in a smaller way also to profit from) the "casual pirate", while offering the organized crime a way to become respectable, and at the same time holding the door open for the possibility of legal action.

  • by Andy_R (114137) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @08:50AM (#27949847) Homepage Journal

    Here's a big problem with this idea... Let's imagine you're a photographer who uses this new system, and asks for 8% of gross. I'm a printer, and I want to use your work. I have to give you 8% of gross for a birthday card made from your work, 96% of gross for a 12 month calendar using your work and 11 of your friends work, and illustrating an encyclopedia would cost me many times more than gross!

  • Re:Paying pirates (Score:4, Insightful)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday May 14, 2009 @09:05AM (#27949957)

    Besides, the "percentage of the income they make from it" would essentially be a free license for anyone to reproduce the work as much as they want without any restrictions, as long as they don't do it for profit. "Hey, post our whole feature film or piece of software to Youtube or anywhere else, just as long as you offer it for free!" would go over like a lead zeppelin with just about any content producer.

    I like Doctorow's science fiction. But he's really beyond the pale on this one. Even a science fiction writer shouldn't be THAT far removed from reality.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 14, 2009 @09:05AM (#27949965)
    I think you misunderstood: $500M is still larger than $420M. It doesn't matter that they're making less per dollar spent, they're still (a) making more money and (b) their investment is more certain to be profitable.

    Obviously it's better to make more money per dollar spent, but the $140M invested in a new James Bond movie is almost certain to make its money back several times over (>4x in this case) whereas investing $14M in ten smaller projects is much riskier -- most won't make their money back and even if you get a couple of decent hits, you're still unlikely to match the $500M net revenue of the James Bond film.
  • by east coast (590680) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @09:09AM (#27949999)
    I think part of what you're missing in the 007 example is that home viewing wasn't a reality in 1962. So fans went to the movie house. Welcome to the age to digital media in the home... I wanted to see "There will be blood" but I really don't enjoy the movie house scene too much so I waited for it to come out on DVD (and have since bought the BluRay after I got my BR player). In my case I have lowered the box office numbers by not seeing it in the theatre but have increased the overall profits by actually purchasing it.

    How many people who haven't seen the latest Bond film on the big screen will buy it at 10-20 dollars?
  • Re:Paying pirates (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chief Camel Breeder (1015017) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @09:12AM (#27950019)

    He's presuming that many commercial users of the product would pay the royalties if they could get a license without paying legal fees. They would cease to be pirates.

    I agree that this scheme has no effect on willful pirates. I don't think it's meant to address that. The Slashdot summary exaggerates that aspect.

  • by westlake (615356) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @09:15AM (#27950037)
    First of all - what gross income? The pirates just upload their work to torrent sites. The pirates are uploading the work of others. That's so much easier and cheaper than producing anything on your own.
  • Re:Paying pirates (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hijacked Public (999535) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @09:17AM (#27950053)

    You are on a short list of people who've read and understood the article. That list does not include Slashdot editors nor the AC who wrote the headline nor most of the people commenting here.

    The licensing makes sense for certain uses but I don't see much advantage over the current system apart from the 'self serve' aspect. Licensing a photograph (which is the area I'm familiar with) for non-exclusive use is pretty straight forward and nearly always I or the client has some mutually acceptable boilerplate agreement that covers everything. Exclusive uses are more difficult and usually involve an IP attorney, but I don't see where his self-serve license would grant exclusivity.

    Regardless, the biggest expense comes if you ever have to go to court to enforce a license, and that isn't changing here.

  • Re:Stone soup! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RobBebop (947356) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @09:26AM (#27950131) Homepage Journal

    Anybody remember stone soup? In this scenario, it appears that the CC license is the stone.

    Yes! I remember stone soup! It's a great story. So that means Music is the carrots, Video is the potatoes, Writing is the chicken, and the Performers are all the herbs and spices that make the end dish taste fabulous.

    Only trouble is... stone soup is meant to take input from an entire village, while the artistic creations of the world are only contributed from a reasonably modest percent of the population. The fact that *everybody* can enjoy them creates sort of an imbalance (though, I guess that's where the "percentage of revenue" comes into play).

  • by westlake (615356) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @09:28AM (#27950159)

    The terms that Doctorow proposes would suit my purpose just fine. And I would pay.

    You didn't before.

    You flew under the radar.

    Why should anyone believe you will behave any differently now?

    The geek is always puffing smoke about the "failed business model." Meaning the one in which he is expected to cough up some cash.

  • Re:BRILLIANT IDEA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by noundi (1044080) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @09:34AM (#27950193)
    Exactly, I mean come on. This is not exactly news, this is the same bullshit solution that has been around for decades. The problem is not the solution, and it's not bullshit by default. It becomes bullshit because the major corporates don't give a rats ass about you profiting or not. They seek to grab anything and everything. If possible they would even have you pay twice (Spore) for the same product. It's not about ideologies (CC, GPL, MPL), so don't try to shape it that way. It's about looking to grab every penny possible. The corporates are simply not looking for a solution, they are looking to nail everybody that ever copied anything. Thus it's a bullshit solution.
  • Re:Paying pirates (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rary (566291) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @09:51AM (#27950409)

    Besides, the "percentage of the income they make from it" would essentially be a free license for anyone to reproduce the work as much as they want without any restrictions, as long as they don't do it for profit.

    That's exactly the point. CC is intended for content creators who actually want their content to spread around. The problem that Doctorow is addressing is the hesitation that some people have to going with a CC license because they don't want people taking advantage of it to profit off the work without cutting the content creator in on the deal.

    This solution is not intended for the major Hollywood studios. This is intended for the content creators who want to reside in the middle ground between absolute free-for-all and totally restricted licensing — and avoid having to hire a lawyer.

  • Re:BRILLIANT IDEA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 14, 2009 @09:51AM (#27950413)

    CC is all about free sharing. Personally, I have no objection to people using my music in free projects. I do, however, have an objection to people using it to make money without cutting me in.

    It's not that simple. People might profit a lot without technically making money. If you make something (let's say an image good enough to be a work of art) and CC it and someone else uploads it in their ad-supported website... They don't technically earn anything from your image (at least nothing from which it would be easy to calculate royalties. And saying "pay 27% from whole site's ad revenue" would be stupid and just as unfair if someone just uploads the image once) but it helps them make money.

    Or perhaps if he uses it as art (background, load screen, etc.) in a game he lets people download for free (isn't necessarily open source or anything like that). He doesn't directly earn money from the image but it might be part of something that helps him get higher wage jobs, investor funds, etc. and earn more with those. And what if the website from which people download the game has ads?

    Those aren't all the possible cases and I am not saying that people even should be able to earn money in all those. I ask you not to nit pick about some single examples. Rather... What I am trying to say is that it is VERY difficult to divide stuff to "He profits so he should pay me 27%" and "He doesn't profit so he should pay me nothing".

  • Re:Paying pirates (Score:2, Insightful)

    by colmore (56499) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @09:53AM (#27950433) Journal

    If I was a manufacturer of, say, illegal DVDs, and I saw some Creative Commons License with a little addendum on it, I would immediately think to myself: "OK, cool, this guy can't afford even four or five hours of a lawyer's time."

    If pirates aren't going to pony up for licenses composed by corporate firms that are very capable of bringing suit, why are they going to respond to "pay me, please?"

  • Re:Paying pirates (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RiotingPacifist (1228016) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:23AM (#27951549)

    How is this better than just dual licensing CC-BY-NC-SA & then selling commercial licenses?

  • Re:Paying pirates (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms@nOspam.infamous.net> on Thursday May 14, 2009 @11:35AM (#27951711) Homepage

    Besides, the "percentage of the income they make from it" would essentially be a free license for anyone to reproduce the work as much as they want without any restrictions, as long as they don't do it for profit.

    Yes. It's just like a musician's ability to play a song all they want without paying the songwriter, as long as they're playing for free. It's only when the performance is commercial in nature that the songwriter has to be paid mechanical royalties. Dylan gets his nickel if I play "Tangled Up in Blue" during a paid gig (via ASCAP or BMI, the bar pays, not me), but not if I play it at a party at a friend's house.

    I've been advocating a system like this for years -- not a copyright, but a "royalty-right" on commercial use. Nice to see others starting to catch up. :-)

    "Hey, post our whole feature film or piece of software to Youtube or anywhere else, just as long as you offer it for free!"

    And if Youtube ever makes money from it (and they're going to have to figure out a way eventually, or they go away), they owe the creator of the film or software a cut.

  • Re:BRILLIANT IDEA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by marco.antonio.costa (937534) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @12:10PM (#27952211)

    I have to agree. Current copyright laws dont work, because they do not allow "fair use". In fact licensing and patenting is getting to a point where the social benefits are not weighed in and thus otherwise profitable and usefull tools are distributed illegally.

    Current copyright laws don't work, because due to technology, ideas can now be reproduced to infinity.

    The scarcity 'factor' that enabled publishers and recording companies to profit has now been removed. Those who cannot adapt to this new reality must go under so that the innovators may thrive.

    If a bread multiplying machine was invented would you outlaw it with the best interest of bakers in mind? No. You ( we ) would want free bread.

  • Re:BRILLIANT IDEA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Woldry (928749) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @02:01PM (#27953591) Journal
    If a bread multiplying machine was invented would you outlaw it with the best interest of bakers in mind? No. You ( we ) would want free bread. Sadly, looking at history, there would indeed be an earnest effort to halt, or at least limit, the use of such a machine, for exactly the reason you give. There would also be people decrying the machine as "untested" and demanding that it never be used till it can be proved to be 100% safe.
  • Re:BRILLIANT IDEA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Reziac (43301) * on Thursday May 14, 2009 @04:24PM (#27956241) Homepage Journal

    I had the same thought -- this model could turn existing counterfeiters into business partners, especially in markets that are presently unprofitable with a Megacorp's typical overhead. So let the counterfeiter absorb the manufacturing and distribution cost, and pay the royalty (as a percentage of their gross) as insurance against being busted/prosecuted. This amounts to free money for the content owner megacorp, with zero investment of their own in a relatively low-profit market.

    Counterfeiters would probably line up around the block if paying a small post-sale royalty would ensure they got access to clean copies of new content, thus could raise their own prices and profits (as they'd be able to offer a higher-quality product) and could operate in the open, thus attracting a larger market.

    Meanwhile, Megacorp gets a piece of the action in a market where previously they had no profit at all.

    This, of course, assumes they can turn loose of the notion that they have to *control* the entire market end-to-end.

    I doubt any of them will look seriously at it until some independent becomes wealthy using this model, tho... there's nothing so persuasive as a nicely turned out balance sheet.

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