Free Culture

Paying For Teh Frees. How’s That Working Out?

Five years and several Wiki restores ago I wrote a sketch of an article called “How To Get Paid For Copyleft Art“. My opinion at the time was that cultural projects (or artistic careers) could be structured to make money using copyleft, but I was very wary of recommending any particular services for digital media.

Crosbie Fitch has been working on this sort of thing for a while. And recently some other projects that support different ways of funding projects have started gaining in popularity.

Kickstarter is best known in free culture and free software circles for funding Diaspora, but there are lots of other projects on there (I contributed towards the Mondo 2000 History Project for example). It’s an escrow or street performer protocol system where people promise to create or do something if contributors promise the right amount of funding.

Flattr is a micropayments service that allows you to add a donation button to blogs and other social media. I’ve started seeing this on blogs I read. There’s a flattr plugin for Android apps that might be a good way of getting funding from users of published free software.

VoDo is a peer-to-peer movie sharing
network (using Bittorrent) that allows you to sponsor the creators of
the work shared over the network.

And even good old PayPal buttons are increasingly being used to accept contributions in exchange for downloads. I just paid for a download of the “Jolly Roger” comic in this way.

These systems all offer ways of getting money in
exchange for artistic labour that are sorely needed. But they are all proprietary systems run by for-profit companies, so the
revolution will be monetized.

One reply on “Paying For Teh Frees. How’s That Working Out?”

Thanks for the mention Rob. 🙂
While there will indeed be a transitory phase of proprietary crowdfunding systems, the future is distributed, i.e. peer-to-peer. Just as BitTorrent is a decentralised means of sharing files, so there will be decentralised means of exchanging money for work (or work for work). And by work, I mean publicly visible and measurable work (or outcomes, achievements, etc.).
The thing is, unless the likes of governments (or Google in a moment of supreme altruism) fund such decentralised systems it’s going to have to be the people themselves. And I think we can safely say that like publishing corporations, governments aren’t exactly keen to disintermediate themselves. That means we’re going to need the proprietary crowdfunding systems to enable the people to fund the distributed systems. This is after all, why I started down this road in the first place: I realised there needed to be a means of funding a distributed systems based cyberspace (Web scale 3D virtual world).
So treat the proprietary crowdfunding businesses as necessary stepping stones.
That said, there are some projects missing out that proprietary step. See RepliCounts and EmanciPay.

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