Posts Tagged ‘intellectual property

“We could learn a lot from the music industry, and the rather terrible ways the music industry has tried to combat piracy”…. Rovio sees it as “futile” to pursue pirates through the courts, except in cases where it feels the products they are selling are harmful to the Angry Birds brand, or ripping off its fans. When that’s not the case, Rovio sees it as a way to attract more fans, even if it is not making money from the products. “Piracy may not be a bad thing: it can get us more business at the end of the day.”

Mikael Hed via  Stuart Dredge

Property is something that can be taken from me. If I don’t have it, somebody else does. Expression is not like that. The notion that expression is like that is entirely a consequence of taking a system of expression and transporting it around, which was necessary before there was the Internet, which has the capacity to do this infinitely at almost no cost.

John Perry Barlow

Note: #eg8 refers to the current e-g8 Forum taking place in Paris, a pre-cursor to the g8, where world leaders and assorted invitees are discussing the future of the Internet

Twitter users are accustomed to freely quoting other’s tweets (particularly when re-tweeting). But where does the law lie on tweets being published in a book?

Extanz document the case of the US travel site zipsetgo, where tweeters became angry when they realised their tweets were to be used in this way.

Apparently this is a grey area where legality is yet to be shaped… it is a question of the book as aggregator – should authors be able to profit from collecting other’s words together? How different is this from Google making money from advertising around collecting words from multiple sites?

All creative expressions are a collection of others’ work in some way; books quoting others without permission is common practice: unauthorised biographies, for example, rely on doing this.

But should there be new laws for publicly accessible social media commentary hitting print? I’d say no – but, as ZipSetGo found out, whether or not it’s legal, community norms may mean developing such compilations without member buy-in is, commercially, a very bad idea.

Whose words are they, anyway? Like in the non-virtual world, fights and squabbles are a part of online communities. After all, bloggers and tweeps are groups of like-minded people who have all congregated together in the vast space of the Web.  As with any group, there is bound to be friction and tension as people interact and connect.  We’ve seen before how bloggers will fiercely defend one of their own against a larger entity, and while bloggers will occasionally pick fight … Read More

via – Integrated New Media Agency

This video features Yochai Benkler discussing his incredibly important work on ‘the memetic economy.’ Key points:

The ‘memetic economy’ is an emerging technological-economic condition – a new stage of  ‘the information economy’ whose two defining characteristics are:

  • An increased role for non-market production
  • Radically decentralised production of information

A meme in this sense is a unit of cultural transmission: covering all information, knowledge, culture. The memetic economy indicates the production of cultural units shifting to individuals – replicating more closely the diverse mechanisms in society more generally – reversing the control focus of the industrial information economy.

In the industrial information economy people have been constrained to consuming products from managerially determined, heavily advertised finished goods – but it is highly valuble to democracy, autonomy and social justice for individuals acting outside markets to determine information relevance and drive cultural content and wider production.

The emerging techno-economic situation where substantial components of information production is owned by end-users means productivity can be sustained with non-proprietary and non-market production – leading to radical decentralised information production, and intelligence at the edges of a network whose core is relatively quite stupid.

Efficiency of non-market production does vary from industry to industry, but in addition to non-market production, market-based indirect appropriation of revenue not reliant on information as property is also possible (e.g. the Spotify Freemium model).

It is of great social value for individuals to participate in direct discourse instead of relying on proxies for political conversation, and centralised and commercialised control structures determining what information they see. The ‘memetic economy’ means the opportunity for a radical shift in the extent to which people can participate in forming the cultural meaning of their society through talking to eachother.

There is / will be a battle over the institutional ecology of information (the giants of the industrial age will not go quietly) but it would be disastorous to allow the winners of yesterday’s economy to dictate the terms of tomorrow’s.

Information non-rivalry is the principle reason the web is a game-changer for media.

Here I break down and illustrate the concept – summarising and re-working chapter 2 from Yochai Benkler’s Wealth of Networks (entitled Some Basic Economics of Information Production and Innovation).

What is non-rivalry?

  • A good is non-rivalrous when your consumption of it does not prevent someone else from consuming it
    • In contrast, if you eat an apple, I cannot then eat it. An apple is therefore a rivalrous good
    • When the guy above is wearing the binary scarf I cannot wear it, therefore it is a rivalrous good
  • Non-rivalry means I do not need to compete with you, in order to consume something
  • When a non-rivalrous good is produced, no more social resources need be invested to create more of it to satisfy the next consumer; this means producing one more of a non-rivalrous good has a marginal cost of zero

Why is information non-rivalrous?

  • Once a scientist has established a fact, or once Tolstoy has written War and Peace, neither the scientist nor Tolstoy need spend a single second more producing additional War and Peace manuscripts or studies of what they wrote for the one-hundredth, one-thousandth, or one-millionth user
  • Economists call such goods “public” because a market will not produce them if priced at their marginal cost—zero

What about the paper it is printed on?

  • The physical paper for a book or journal costs something, but the information itself need only be created once  

So how does the established information economy work?

  • People make money over and above the price of paper, because of copyright
  • In order to provide Tolstoy or the scientist with income, we regulate publishing: We pass laws that enable their publishers to prevent competitors from entering the market
  • Because no competitors are permitted into the market for copies of War and Peace, the publishers can price the contents of the book or journal at above their actual marginal cost of zero. They can then turn some of that excess revenue over to Tolstoy

Sounds fair, why don’t we just carry on doing that online?

  • Because copyright, or ‘intellectual property’ is bad for the further development of human knowledge
  • And the web provides us with other options

Why is intellectual property bad for knowledge development?

  • Preventing people from sharing information freely slows down the development of human knowledge: it restricts us from ‘standing on the shoulders’ of the intellectual giants that went before us
  • Even if copyright laws are necessary to create incentives for information production, the market that develops based on them is systematically inefficient
  • As Kenneth Arrow put it in 1962, “precisely to the extent that [property] is effective, there is underutilization of the information”1
  • Using copyright, then, means we are not utilising the full potential of the information that exists

So is there an alternative?

  • Because welfare economics defines a market as producing a good efficiently only when it is pricing the good at its marginal cost, a good like information which can never be sold both at a positive (greater than zero) price and at its marginal cost, is fundamentally a candidate for substantial nonmarket production

And what is nonmarket production?

  • Production that does not result in a straight swap: access to information in exchange for money
  • This doesn’t mean no money can exchange hands in relation to information production
  • What it means is we do not demand money in return for information, data, the fact, the story

If ‘nonmarket’ production is best, how can writers make money?

  • Information production can be funded by a mixture of:
  • Obviously Rupert Murdoch has other ideas on how to make money from information online, but for society to optimise information production and usage, pay walls are clearly not the answer


For more read the whole chapter online or buy the book

Picture of binary scarf guy by jarrodlombardo

The best business model for media today combines high quality content production, expert filtering of content from other sources and community loyalty. However, hybrid models are complicated to administer, particularly for dinosaurs with insitutional ways of working more suited to the days of fewer channels and higher barriers of entry to the media market. Thus instead of adapting to the idea of a new networked economy some organisations and individuals are trying to wrestle the internet into a shape that suits their old revenue models.

Mike Butcher over at Techcrunch reports on a meeting that took place between Microsoft/Bing and some big newspapers in Europe, regarding ACAP (the Automated Content Access Protocol), which aims to give publishers control over how search engines access their content.

“This is the more granular version of the robots.txt protocol which has been proposed by publishers to enable them to have a more sophisticated response to search engine crawlers….  “Some call it the “DRM of newspaper web sites”. That said some 1,600 traditional publishers have signed up to using ACAP.”

Badda Bing! Microsoft woos newspapers by funding their stick to beat Google 


Basically ACAP will assist publishers who want to charge a premium for their content and control if and how search engines can index it. This development seems to be a lose-lose for all involved:

  • The publisher: The publisher is restricting the ability for people online to learn about the existence of their content. This will likely impact an important stage of the ‘user flow’ I describe below, awareness.
  • The user: The user of the web will not know that a website has some content she wants. This user may actually have been willing to pay for the content, if they only knew it were out there. Or, the user may have been inclined to read the content for free, but could have been persuaded towards paying in some way, given the understanding that doing so will be of benefit to the publisher.
  • The search engine: By producing results manipulated by ‘big media’ the chances are web users will simply go elsewhere. If I notice 5 out of 10 search results I get from Bing are taking me to content I cannot read in full, or I learn it is not even indexing a lot of the content I want, I doubt it will be very long before I give up on it. As pointed out by a commenter below Mike’s article, with only 3.25% (Sept 2009) of market share, this is an even bigger risk for Microsoft’s Bing than it would be for Google, who thankfully are not currently being so evil.

Consider the users

So how can a publisher producing quality content, but seeing falling ad-revenue, move towards win-win?

They could do much worse than consider the users.

Note, I said users (plural). Where once we considered how ‘the user‘ interacts with our website, now we must consider how ‘the users‘ interact with us, our website, and eachother.

Be social

What is different about today’s media is the proliferation of many-to-many interaction opportunities. A capacity to feedback on a product / interest area, to have a conversation around it, and to influence it, is what people now expect and want. Users may not utilise the ability a website provides them to comment (see the 90-9-1 rule), but having that line open encourages trust in the content, product or service on offer.

Media organisations need sustainable business models that work with current market conditions: and part of that means being social.

Turning community loyalty into revenue

In my post on Community user flow: attending to every stage I looked at how social websites can succeed by paying attention to every potential step of a user’s relationship with them: awareness, visit, repeat visit, membership and active membership (participant).

Further to this a website needs to consider how to generate revenue, and hows its efforts to tend to user flow can translate into revenue.

If the organisation is not-for-profit, this might be as simple as generating funding via sponsorship, and proving to its funders that its online publishing activities are attracting a sufficient audience. However, most websites will need to adopt a model which draws revenue from many sources, including individual purchases or donations. In this case attending to the user flow and building community loyalty can generate revenue from many sources:

Website Revenue

In conclusion, publishers spending their time looking into ACAP might well be wise to consider how the portion of their revenue that comes from premium content might be protected. However, they need to view this revenue alongside other potential sources of income. They also need to be cognizant that making money in one way can cut off another, in this case impacting on traffic and loyalty, resulting in an overall net loss of revenue.

This blog is about utilizing and optimizing the social web for business, pleasure and social change

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